The chances are you’ll already know that there are many films set in Hawaii, especially if you’ve been following our film blog. And there are animated films too, like Disney’s 2002 classic Lilo & Stitch. But just because it’s animated, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any Lilo & Stitch filming locations out there for you to find.
Lilo & Stitch focuses on troubled young Lilo and her older sister Nani, following the tragic death of their parents. When Nani takes Lilo to a local dog shelter to pick a new pet, they end up bringing home a highly-destructive alien creature. But “Stitch” is also an intergalactic fugitive – or rather a rogue illegal experiment – on the run from the Galactic Federation Headquarters.
One Lilo & Stitch Filming Location is Kauai
The film technically takes place on Kauai, however, the creators “rearranged” the geography to create a Hawaiian “melting pot” of sorts. This meant they were free to celebrate Hawaii in its entirety, from its landscape to its culture and all things in between. The film’s soundtrack is even adorned with Elvis classics. Now, let’s try and “stitch” together the pieces of this puzzle!
For starters, Stitch lands near what looks like the Na Pali Coast at the beginning of the film. In a later scene when he steals a bike, Kilauea Lighthouse, further east along the North Shore, appears in the background. The lighthouse even plays a role in both Stitch! The Movie and Lilo & Stitch: The Series, making it a perfect location to visit if you’re a fan of the franchise.
It has since been confirmed that the film is set in the fictional town of Kokaua. This town was actually based on both Hanalei and Hanapepe, the former found on the northern shore and the latter on the southern. This isn’t confirmed in the film, though – it’s Lilo & Stitch: The Series that would later name its sleepy on-screen town.
Throughout the film, the backdrop – whose overall essence and mood is captured perfectly with the ambiance of watercolor – is clearly that of an island that’s scarcely populated, and one that remains quite literally in touch with its Hawaiian roots. In fact, Lilo even says to Stitch, “It’s nice to live on an island with no large cities” – something Kauai prides itself upon.
For the third act’s explosive spaceship chase, a gorgeous, CG-rendered 3D sequence takes us beyond some sun-draped sloping cliffs that once again look very much like those of the Na Pali Coast. Luckily for you, you can experience this journey yourself with Kauai Island Helicopters (minus the alien spacecraft, of course).
Another Location is the Big Island
When one of the aliens in pursuit of Stitch orders his on-board computer to “Locate Experiment 626” (Stitch’s original name) during the same chase sequence, the screen’s cursor lands on what is undoubtedly the Big Island. The action then takes us to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which is indeed found on said-island, near Hilo.
The Hilo-based Merrie Monarch Festival, which takes place after Easter each year, features at the end of the film. And finally, the Duke Kahanamoku statue (the legendary Hawaiian surfer) is also seen moments before the credits roll, which can be found on Waikiki Beach on Oahu. However, it’s possible that Lilo and her “ohana” are actually exploring the other islands here.
As far as Disney’s animated films go, Lilo & Stitch is among the most advanced, offering up several 3D and CG shots. But it’s also one of the most charming, and its family themes have resonated deeply with audiences over the years. Add to that a concoction of Hawaii locations and Elvis classics, and it’s hard not to want to buy your own pet alien and move to Kauai.
Disney recently confirmed that a live-action adaptation is in the works, which will follow this year’s The Lion King and Aladdin. So what will Stitch look like in CGI? Will the new Lilo & Stitch filming locations mirror those of the original? And will Elvis decorate the soundtrack again? Whatever happens with the new film, I “can’t help falling in love” with this one on each viewing.
This article comes with a few extras of its own, just like the DVD and Blu-ray (Disney Classics edition)!
You’ll find “Hawaii: The Islands of Aloha” under the DVD and Blu-ray’s “Bonus Features”, where you can learn all about the Big Island, Oahu, Molokai, Kauai, Maui and Lanai. It’s a fun and educational extra, and further proves that this film really is a love letter to Hawaii.
You can also see a “Hidden Mickey” during the scene where the Big Island shows up on a computer screen. In fact, there are lots of Hidden Mickeys littered throughout this film for you to discover – a perfect reason to relive the adventure again and again.
There’s even an Easter egg in the form of the “Mulan” Wok Restaurant at the start of the film. So whether you’re looking out for references to other Disney films, Hidden Mickeys or Hawaii locations, to say that this film has the repeat-viewing factor is an understatement.
Why not set out and explore some of those places for yourself? You never know – you may end up visiting future Lilo & Stitch filming locations for the yet-to-be-filmed live-action version. Either way, it’s an out-of-this-world adventure just waiting to happen…
Dan is a freelance writer from the UK who works for a number of online publications. He’s also working on a science fiction novel, and believes the impression Jurassic Park made on him as a child – both the Spielberg film and the book by Michael Crichton – to be the source of his passion to write. He previously critiqued theatrical releases for his local radio station, while his blog ‘Curious Rookie’ remains his platform for sharing film, travel and book reviews. Dan has also visited some of the most iconic film locations around the world, and his favorite destination is the island of Kauai in Hawaii.