#293. Lions

Often described as “the King of the Jungle”, lions have consistently been used as symbols of bravery, strength and power. While they have been abused in many venues, from gladiatorial coliseums to circus tents, they still remain as one of the most dangerous forces of nature (along with tigers and bears . . . oh my). In part due to their danger to humans, they are often hunted to maintain safety as much as they are for notoriety of big game hunters; sometimes to great, public outrage, as was the case with Cecil the lion. And while the lion is used in heraldry, as a constellation, and as a rank for Cub Scouts, very few films use lions as main, or even secondary, characters. It would almost seem they’re as rare in the realm of cinema as they are in the real world. This week’s two films highlight some movies that feature lions.

The Lion KingThe Lion King
Year: 1994
Rating: G
Length: 89 minutes / 1.48 hours

Part of the reason why lions aren’t more prominently featured in movies, aside from the opening credits logo for MGM, is because animals can’t talk. It’s difficult to have a main character who can’t emote through dialogue carry a story. Therefore, one of the options to give lions dialogue is through animation. One of the earliest animated lions was Kimba the White Lion, a Japanese anime that ran from 1965 to 1967. Recently, the series of CGI-animated Madagascar films have featured Ben Stiller as Alex the Lion, an animal kept in captivity in the Central Park Zoo. Most famously, the best animated film featuring lions was none other than The Lion King (1994). Even though there was some controversy around its similarity to Kimba the White Lion, The Lion King has remained popular despite this.

Mufasa (James Earl Jones) leads a pride of lions in the Pride Lands of Africa. His brother, Scar (Jeremy Irons), has been plotting to usurp the throne from him, but once Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) is born, he is now one step lower on the hierarchical ladder to become king. By using a stampede of wildebeest, Scar manages to kill Mufasa and convince Simba it was the young cub’s fault. Running away to exile himself in the jungle, Simba grows up amongst his newfound friends, Timon (Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella). Years later, with the Pride Lands in ruin, Simba (Matthew Broderick) returns to confront his uncle. Learning the truth of his father’s demise and accepting his rightful place as king, Simba defeats Scar and starts the “circle of life” over again with a child of his own.

Secondhand LionsSecondhand Lions
Year: 2003
Rating: PG
Length: 109 minutes / 1.82 hours

An interesting way to play off of stereotypes is to create characters who exhibit the opposite traits. Sure, there are plenty of lions who represent strong ideals, like Aslan from the Chronicles of Narnia series. Still, a cowardly lion, like the one found in The Wizard of Oz (1940), is much more entertaining because he doesn’t act like one would expect a lion to act. Similarly, Alex the Lion from Madagascar (2005) was given his meat to him by zoo caretakers, thus depriving him of any hunting skills. Even the rehabilitated lion from Secondhand Lions (2003) became more like a housecat than a dangerous predator. However, just because a lion doesn’t act the way we think it should, we are often initially cautious because of the warnings about lions we have heard time and again over the years.

Brothers Hub (Robert Duvall) and Garth (Michael Caine) McCann were content living out the rest of their remaining days shooting at travelling salesmen and performing risky stunts. Unfortunately, their niece dropped her son, Walter Caldwell (Haley Joel Osment), off at their country home. As the teenage boy and his great uncles get to know each other, they eventually grow close. After Hub orders a retired lion from a circus, he’s disappointed to learn the lioness is tame, since he wanted to hunt the beast and mount its head on his wall. Escaping from her cage, the lioness adapts to the cornfield and makes it her territory. While Walter learns that the rumors of his great uncles’ wealth and adventures are true, his mother arrives to try and claim the fortune. It’s at this point when the old lioness steps in to protect Walter, giving him the ability to separate himself from his lyin’ mother for good.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 likeable lions

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#292. Animated Classic Literature

Anyone who grew up during the late 1990’s is probably familiar with the PBS show, Wishbone. As a child soon to be headed into junior high, I enjoyed the show at face value, but deep down in my subconscious I was learning about classic literature. For years, these episodes were my only exposure to famous pieces of literature, and thus my only knowledge of their plots until I read some of them many decades later. Disney has also done a pretty good job of adapting many classic tales to the big screen. Through their animation studio, many fairy tales were memorably created and still remain almost as the de-facto versions of their source material. That being said, some of the adaptations weren’t as obvious as others. This week’s two films look at some classic literature in an animated format.

Treasure PlanetTreasure Planet
Year: 2002
Rating: PG
Length: 95 minutes / 1.58 hours

Up until the 21st Century, Disney had animated many well-known stories from various sources. From fairy tales to short stories to novels, much of their source material was in the public domain. Once the new millennium came around, they started to create some original stories like The Emperor’s New Groove (2000), Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) and Lilo & Stitch (2002). While this trend has mostly continued, there were a few films animated during this timeframe that held to the formula of adapting classic literature. While being thinly veiled as something different, Treasure Planet (2002) was an almost-direct adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson novel, Treasure Island, merely with sci-fi trappings available via new, 3-D animation techniques (with traditional, 2-D animation being interposed on top of it).

Just like any other teenager, Jim Hawkins (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has a longing for adventure. While Alponian solar cruising works for the time being, when he is given a map by the pilot of a crashed spaceship, he sets out to find where it leads. Despite the final words of the pilot warning Jim to “beware the cyborg”, one of the friends he makes while aboard the RLS Legacy is none other than half-robot cook, John Silver (Brian Murray). After taking control of the ship during a mutiny he planned, Silver lets Jim and some ousted leaders of the ship escape to Treasure Planet. Once on the planet, the original crew finds a robot by the name of B.E.N. (Martin Short) who has literally lost his memory. In searching for the robot’s missing piece, Jim discovers that the map is also able to open portals, including to the center of the planet where the treasure is stored. Unfortunately, this triggers the planet to explode, forcing them to abandon the treasure.

The Lion KingThe Lion King
Year: 1994
Rating: G
Length: 89 minutes / 1.48 hours

Most kids who go to see an animated film won’t necessarily pick up on the source material like their parents will. Even famous films like The Great Escape (1963) and Seven Samurai (1954) have received the animated treatment in Chicken Run (2000) and A Bug’s Life (1998), respectively. While I enjoyed these animated films as a child, it wasn’t until I was older that I realized I’d seen these plots somewhere else before. Unlike Treasure Planet (2002), it took me some time to realize The Lion King (1994) was William Shakespeare’s Hamlet in disguise. Even though it’s not a direct adaptation, many of the main characters are there. Simba is Hamlet, Scar is Claudius, and even Timon and Pumbaa are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Obviously, some of the more violent and dramatic moments from the play were toned down in the animation, but the main thrust of Hamlet still lies there in the African plains.

Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) is the male cub born to Mufasa (James Earl Jones), the leader of a pride of African lions. Because Simba is now next in line to the throne, Scar (Jeremy Irons) sets about trying to kill both Mufasa and Simba so he can become king. While his plan to use a wildebeest stampede to kill them both only kills Mufasa, Scar convinces Simba it’s the cub’s fault and forces him into exile. Simba (Matthew Broderick), having now grown up in the jungle with his friends Timon (Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella), returns to the Pride Lands to confront his uncle Scar. Along the way, he is visited by the ghost of Mufasa, who tells him he is the rightful king of the land. Once back home, with the help of the lionesses, Simba fights Scar and eventually wins, sending him into exile. Unfortunately, Scar’s hyena henchmen have different plans, as they overheard him betray them to everyone.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 different Disney adaptations

#291. Treasure Island

Like many of the classics of literature created over the centuries, Treasure Island has seen a number of different film adaptations over the years. This adventure, written by Robert Louis Stevenson in the late 19th Century, is the basis of much of our fictional understanding of pirates. We likely wouldn’t have X-marked treasure maps or one-legged sailors with parrots were it not for this novel. What’s interesting is the differing variety of film adaptations of this work. They have come in many varieties and interpretations including animated films, films with puppets, and science fiction retellings. The story itself has also transcended international boundaries, having been adapted in Russian, Japanese, French, and Italian. This week’s two films look at some unique adaptations of the classic tale of Treasure Island.

Muppet Treasure IslandMuppet Treasure Island
Year: 1996
Rating: G
Length: 99 minutes / 1.65 hours

Those who are familiar with the Muppets know that these comedic puppets often represent real animals. From Fozzie Bear to Kermit the Frog to Miss Piggy, each of these animals has their own personality and characterizations. However, Muppet Treasure Island (1996) was not the first adaptation of this story to feature animals as some of the characters. The Japanese animated film, Animal Treasure Island (1971) pre-dates the Muppet film by a few decades. They can’t even claim a mixture of live-action and another medium (like puppetry or animation), because the two-part Russian version of Treasure Island (1988) interspersed live-action sequences with animated ones (albeit, not as well as other films have done) to tell the tale of mutiny on the high seas. Still, having a version of the story done by the Muppets gives a comedic look at this treasure-hunting adventure.

Upon receiving a treasure map from his friend, Billy Bones (Billy Connolly), Jim Hawkins (Kevin Bishop) and his friends Gonzo and Rizzo set out to find the treasure. Unfortunately, once they are able to board a ship that will take them there, a mutiny breaks out amongst the pirates of the crew. Bones had warned Jim of a man named “Long John Silver” (Tim Curry), who was the cook of the ship until he took over as captain during the mutiny. Silver and Jim had already developed some semblance of a friendship, so his treachery makes Jim unable to trust the former cook. Once on the island, the pirates finally discover the hiding place of the treasure using the map, only to learn that the locals, led by Benjamina Gunn (Miss Piggy) have taken the treasure somewhere else. With the crew able to defeat the pirates and re-commandeer the ship, Silver is left alone on a desert island while Jim becomes a naval captain.

Treasure PlanetTreasure Planet
Year: 2002
Rating: PG
Length: 95 minutes / 1.58 hours

Disney has been no stranger to the story of Treasure Island. In fact, their very first, completely live-action film was none other than Treasure Island (1950). This version even holds the distinction of being the first adaptation of the story made in color. If we include the aforementioned Muppet version of Treasure Island with this 1950 version, Disney has done three different adaptations of the same story. While the genre-crossing, sci-fi adaptation of Treasure Planet (2002) is certainly a new way of telling Robert Louis Stevenson’s story, it wasn’t even the first time it had been done. Treasure Island in Outer Space (1987) (or Il Pianeta Del Tesoro in its original Italian) sets the classic tale in the year 2300 in outer space. While this Italian version had Anthony Quinn portraying Long John Silver, something about the unlimited capability of animation made Treasure Planet much more the visual spectacle.

As a child, Jim Hawkins (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) was inspired by the tales of Captain Flint, a pirate who was rumored to arrive and depart almost instantaneously from the ships he ransacked. Now a teenager being raised by his single mother, Jim finds a crashed spaceship near their inn and is given a holo-orb by the pilot of the ship, Billy Bones (Patrick McGoohan), along with a warning to watch out for a cyborg. Recognizing the orb is a map to Flint’s “Treasure Planet”, Jim boards the RLS Legacy and is sent to work in the galley with the half-robot cook, John Silver (Brian Murray). Silver is revealed to be the “cyborg” mentioned earlier by Bones as he leads the crew to mutiny. This forces Jim to use the orb, which is revealed to open portals to anywhere in the universe, including the center of Treasure Planet, where the booby-trapped treasure horde is now set to explode.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Treasure Island tales

#261. Brad Bird

Have you ever had a dream job as a child? Many kids will look around and determine that they want to be firemen, police officers, astronauts, and doctors as their dream profession. Of course, once many of them realize the kind of work required to obtain these dream jobs, most children give up on these dreams to obtain employment in something more practical. That being said, there are those special few kids who work hard at obtaining their dream job. Brad Bird is one of the examples of someone who made it into his dream profession. As a child, he set out to become an animator, which brought him attention and scholarships from Disney (he was even mentored by one of Disney’s best animators). The proof of his success in animation is in the films he has directed. This week’s two films highlight some of the animated and non-animated films Brad Bird has directed.

The IncrediblesThe Incredibles
Year: 2004
Rating: PG
Length: 115 minutes / 1.92 hours

After Bird had completed his education at Cal Arts (along with classmates John Lasseter and Tim Burton), he dove into the animation world. Working The Simpsons for its early seasons, Bird eventually directed his first full-length animated film: The Iron Giant (1999). Despite the film not performing well in the box office, many consider it to be an animated classic. Due to his connection with John Lasseter, Bird approached Pixar and was able to create The Incredibles (2004). This film earned him his first Oscar for Best Animated Feature. Three years later, Bird would be tapped to direct Ratatouille (2007), thus earning him another Best Animated Feature Oscar. While this was the last animated feature that Brad Bird directed, he is slated to direct the sequel to The Incredibles in 2019, perhaps earning him another Oscar in the process.

Bob Parr (Craig T. Nelson) is tired of his suburban life. Trapped in a thankless job where he can’t help anyone, Bob longs for the past where he could live up to his potential as a superhero. At home, he and his wife, Helen (Holly Hunter) try to keep their identities hidden, since superheroes are now outlawed. After getting fired from his job, Bob receives an invitation to don the suit of Mr. Incredible again to assist in defeating a rampaging robot on Nomanisan Island. This change in lifestyle reinvigorates Bob, which causes Helen to suspect he is having an affair. Investigating further, she accidentally puts herself and her children in danger as they fly to the mysterious island. Once there, they must fight their way back to civilization to save the citizens of Metroville from another rampaging robot.

Mission Impossible: Ghost ProtocolMission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
Year: 2011
Rating: PG-13
Length: 133 minutes / 2.22 hours

While Brad Bird has focused on animation for a lot of his career, he has breached the realm of live-action films. Despite the somewhat limited abilities of live-action when compared to animation, Bird has had mixed success in the medium. His most recent foray into live-action, Tomorrowland (2015), was not very well received by critics or audiences. However, his addition to the Mission: Impossible franchise, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011), not only revitalized the franchise, but also set a record as the most successful film in the franchise to date. With only a few films in total under Brad Bird’s belt, I would be interested to see if another live-action film were to follow in the Tomorrowland footsteps or in the more successful footsteps of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.

After breaking Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) out of a Moscow prison, the IMF team then proceeds to infiltrate the Kremlin in order to find information on someone named “Cobalt”. Unfortunately, the Kremlin is destroyed in such a way that Ethan and his team are suspected to be the perpetrators. After this incident, the “Ghost Protocol” is enacted, which means that the United States will disavow any secret agents while also providing them with latitude to go after the mastermind behind the attack. Now the IMF team has tracked Cobalt to Dubai, where he plans to attack the U.S. with Russian nuclear missiles in order to instigate both sides into an all-out war. While Cobalt succeeds in launching a missile from a submarine, Ethan and his team are quickly working to disable the warhead before it destroys San Francisco.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 of the best by Brad Bird

Bacon #: 2 (The Incredibles / Holly Hunter -> End of the Line / Kevin Bacon)

#260. Pixar

When it comes to cutting-edge computer animation, one name stands high above the rest: Pixar. With each film that they release, they perfect their techniques to create realistic environments and characters through the use of computers. While Dreamworks has had some limited success against the powerhouse that is Pixar, each and every time a Pixar film is released, they up the “wow” factor of the visuals they are able to create. While there was a time when Pixar was starting to lack in the plot department (something they usually emphasized), they seem to have fixed whatever their issues were and are now creating quality material once again. And even though they have started to rely on their own franchises to create new material (via sequels), they do occasionally have a new, brilliant idea. This week’s two films highlight some of the best that Pixar has to offer.

Finding NemoFinding Nemo
Year: 2003
Rating: G
Length: 100 minutes / 1.67 hours

It is somewhat unfortunate that the Animated Feature Oscar was not introduced until the 21st century, because some of Pixar’s early works would certainly have won. While Toy Story (1995) took home a Special Achievement Oscar for being the first, full-length computer animated film, it wasn’t until Finding Nemo (2003) when Pixar would take home the coveted gold statuette. From that point until 2012, they have taken home most of the Best Animated Feature Oscars for the years they have released a film (the exceptions of course being for Cars (2006) and Cars 2 (2011)). Two of Pixar’s films have even gone so far as to have been nominated for Best Picture: Up (2009) and Toy Story 3 (2010). Time will tell if this year’s Finding Dory (2016) will follow in its predecessor’s footsteps and snag another Oscar for Pixar.

After Nemo (Alexander Gould) is stolen by a scuba diver during a field trip, his father, Marlin (Albert Brooks), sets out to rescue him. Marlin’s urge to protect his son is strong due to an incident with a barracuda that killed his wife and almost every unborn child the two of them were going to have. Along the way, Marlin befriends a ditzy fish by the name of Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) who helps him along the journey from the Great Barrier Reef into Sydney, Australia. Despite the setbacks of the deep of the ocean, a minefield, a collection of recovering sharks, and a swarm of deadly jellyfish, the two manage to safely get to their destination. Meanwhile, Nemo has been integrated into the society of fish occupying a dentist’s aquarium. Through their help, they eventually get him out of the dentist office and back into the sea. Once there, it still takes some luck to rejoin the father and son.

The IncrediblesThe Incredibles
Year: 2004
Rating: PG
Length: 115 minutes / 1.92 hours

Early on in Pixar’s films, it was clear they didn’t want to animate people. I don’t blame them, since the “uncanny valley” is a difficult gap to cross. With main characters being toys, bugs, monsters, fish, and cars, The Incredibles (2004) was their first foray into having people as main characters. While these films are rare for them, they are gradually getting better at it. Ratatouille (2007), WALL-E (2008), Up (2009), Brave (2012), Inside Out (2015), and The Good Dinosaur (2015) all have humans in main roles, but the way they’ve been able to keep these characters from falling into the uncanny valley is to render them to look more cartoonish than realistic. While they might seem out of place in the hyper-realistic settings, these humans aren’t rejected by our brains. I look forward to what the characters from The Incredibles will look like in their 2019 sequel.

Even though the “Glory Years” of superheroes are long gone, Robert Parr (Craig T. Nelson), the super formerly known as Mr. Incredible, longs to continue crime-fighting. His entire family struggles with having superior abilities, but being unable to use them in public. When Bob is contacted by the mysterious Mirage (Elizabeth Peña) with an opportunity to test out battle droids on Nomanisan Island, he jumps at the opportunity. Unfortunately, the purpose of the droids is much more sinister, since their creator, Syndrome (Jason Lee), wants to create a world where he alone can make normal people “super”. Suspicious of her husband’s activities, Helen Parr (Holly Hunter), aka Elastigirl, follows him to the island. When she finds her children are with her, the entire family teams up to take down Syndrome and stop his nefarious plans.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 perfect Pixar pieces

 

#257. Aliens as Pets

We’ve all likely had a pet growing up. Depending on a variety of factors, including the living space of your family, allergies, and personal preferences, you probably had an animal that required some amount of responsibility. Birds, fish, dogs, cats, reptiles, and rodents are all common pets for children. The challenge with some children is the animals that they bring home to claim as their pets. The age-old cry of “can we keep him?” is all too familiar to parents who are unsure of the ability of the child to care for such a creature. But what happens when said creature is an alien from another world? There have been numerous books about raising the common pets, but keeping an alien as a pet is quite the challenge. This week’s two films highlight what it’s like when an alien is brought home as a pet.

Lilo & StitchLilo & Stitch
Year: 2002
Rating: PG
Length: 85 minutes / 1.42 hours

One of the challenges with some pets is understanding their past. If they were found by animal control and brought to a shelter, there’s no telling what that pet has experienced before being adopted by a family. Past owners may have abused the pet, or never disciplined it properly, or just happened to lose it. While there are a lot of common pasts for pets with unknown origins, alien pets are usually a lot more complicated. Sometimes there are rules involved with their care that are a little out of the ordinary (like in Gremlins (1984)). However, nothing is worse than bringing a pet home from the shelter to only find that its original owner wants it back. In terms of alien pets, this is likely, more often than not, the case. But what if you were able to convince this alien owner that the pet is better off with you?

Lilo (Daveigh Chase) is excited to go to the animal shelter on Kauai where her sister is allowing her to get a pet. Almost immediately, Lilo is drawn to an odd-looking blue “dog” and takes the animal home. This creature was hit by a car and brought into the shelter with no understanding of his origins. Naming the creature “Stitch”, Lilo introduces him to the Hawaiian society where she lives. From Elvis Presley to surfing, Stitch is educated on how to behave, since he has been continually ornery since coming home. Stitch’s behavior, and the fact that he’s a fugitive alien who is being chased by galactic authorities, gets Lilo and her older sister in trouble with social services. When the truth is revealed to Lilo about Stitch, she pleads her case on his behalf. As a result, she gets custody of the prisoner and the family is able to patch things up to remain together.

E.T. – The Extra-TerrestrialE.T. - The Extra Terrestrial
Year: 1982
Rating: PG
Length: 115 minutes / 1.92 hours

How often have we seen children find an animal outside and secretly bring it home to make a pet out of it? Most of the time, these animals are harmless. Insects, small lizards, and amphibians often find their way into our homes by the children who still want to play with them. However, the feral cats and dogs that are found and brought home end up being a little more troublesome. Children can often sense when they’re doing something wrong by bringing home a pet. They will do their best to hide the pet in their room and provide it with the care it needs until the parents are ready to accept the child’s hidden responsibility. Of course, things get a little trickier when an alien is involved. Hiding an alien can be difficult, but once it is found out, then a lot more people than just the parents will get involved.

In the backyard of his California home, Elliot (Henry Thomas) is surprised to find a strange creature in his family’s tool shed. Luring it inside with some candy, Elliot spends the next day home from school by faking being sick so he can interact with the creature. After his older brother Michael (Robert MacNaughton) and younger sister Gertie (Drew Barrymore) are introduced to the creature, all three of them decide to keep it a secret from their mother. Because of Elliot’s initial interaction with the alien, he develops a link with it that causes him to act strangely. Unfortunately, this also means that, when E.T. (the name Elliot gave the alien) becomes ill, Elliot does as well. E.T. determines that his only hope is to contact his kind, which he manages through a unique contraption he created. By now, the authorities are involved and it takes a bit of luck to escape and get E.T. to the landing zone so he can go home.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 amiable aliens

#256. Hawaii

The Hawaiian Islands are often lauded for their natural beauty. Because of this, they regularly fill in for a variety of tropical paradises for Television and movies. While Hawaii often represents some deserted island, sometimes it takes center stage as the setting. Many unique attributes of Hawaii have made it a prime location for film. From volcanoes (a la 2012 (2009)) to surfing (a la Blue Crush (2002) and Soul Surfer (2011)), to Pearl Harbor (a la From Here to Eternity (1953) and Pearl Harbor (2001)), to just the Hawaiian culture (a la Aloha (2015)), there are a lot of things that are interesting topics to base a plot around. And while there haven’t been many films set in Hawaii, that doesn’t mean there weren’t any good ones (although these are also relatively rare). This week’s two films highlight some of the better movies set in Hawaii.

The DescendantsThe Descendants
Year: 2011
Rating: R
Length: 115 minutes / 1.92 hours

Land is a premium resource in Hawaii. Each of the individual islands are not very large. Even the “big island” is only about the size of Connecticut. Consequently, because there is not a lot of land being created and much of the land that is already there can be difficult to manipulate, anyone who owns land in Hawaii holds a lot of power. Because of the islands’ volcanic origins, the land can be used for a variety of natural resources, such as macadamia nuts, coffee, pineapples, and cattle ranching. Depending on its location, it can also be used for building resorts. The beauty of an oceanfront property can come at a high price, not only for the landowner, but for the tenants of said resorts. This is why many who are connected to the native owners of the land have a difficult choice to make: keep the land sacred or become rich by selling it?

The King family has a decision to make in regards to their land on Kauai. Time is running out for them to keep the land because of the rule against perpetuities. Some resort developers have expressed interest and most of the family wants to sell the 25,000 acres to the resort. Most, with the exception of Matt King (George Clooney). Partly because he doesn’t need the money due to wise financial decisions, whereas his cousins are constantly strapped for cash, Matt is the sole person in charge of making the decision on whether or not to sell. At the same time, Matt learns that his now comatose wife was having an affair with a married man who could stand to make a large commission on the sale of the land. As Matt lets her go, he forgives her and everyone else involved. Deciding to keep the land with the family, he then sets out to find a way to do so despite legal threats from his cousins.

Lilo & StitchLilo & Stitch
Year: 2002
Rating: PG
Length: 85 minutes / 1.42 hours

Not only are films set in Hawaii quite rare, but animated films set on these islands is nigh unheard of. This may be partly due to the fact that many animated films, especially those from Disney, are set within the confines of a well-known fairy tale. This constraint limits most of the settings of these animated films to be European in nature. While Lilo & Stitch (2002) was unique for its time, it took nearly 14 more years for Disney to release another animated film set in the Pacific islands. Moana (2016) was released only days ago, but time will tell if it will be as successful as other Disney films before it. Still, Lilo & Stitch remains the precedent for animated films set in Hawaii and, despite the beautiful scenery of the area, might remain one of the few animated films set there for many more years to come.

In outer space, the genetic experiment known only as “626” is imprisoned on an asteroid where he is to remain, exiled from the rest of the galaxy due to his chaotic nature. Unfortunately, he is able to escape and manages to hijack a spaceship that inevitably lands on Earth. While galactic agents are sent out to recapture 626, the blue alien is knocked unconscious upon his arrival in Kauai and is taken to an animal shelter. Meanwhile, Nani Pelekai (Tia Carrere), in an attempt to show she has the ability to take care of her younger sister, takes Lilo (Daveigh Chase) to the animal shelter where she finds 626 impersonating a dog. Lilo immediately takes a liking to 626, whom she names “Stitch”. However, while Nani keeps trying to obtain employment, Stitch seems to ruin everything. Eventually, everything comes to a head with Lilo potentially being taken to a foster family and Stitch sent back into exile. Can they be together?

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Hawaiian backdrops