Why Disney Cut Lilo & Stitch's Darkest Scene | Screen Rant

The sci-fi comedy Lilo & Stitch is a heartwarming tale of family and redemption, but Disney cut its darkest scene from the final film. Released in 2002, Disney’s 42nd animated movie received positive reviews and launched a franchise, consisting of three sequels and a TV show. Disney's Lilo & Stitch is filled with humor and quirky characters, however, the deleted scene could have significantly altered the movie’s tone.

Lilo & Stitch revolves around a mischievous young Hawaiian girl and her adoptive pet, an alien posing as a puppy. Stitch, otherwise known as Experiment 626, was created by an alien scientist but sentenced to imprisonment due to his destructive nature. Escaping to Earth, Stitch uses Lilo to evade his pursuers but gradually forms a bond with the lonely girl. Meanwhile, Lilo is raised by her older sister, Nani, who struggles to keep their family together.

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The revelation that Lilo’s parents died in a car accident provides Lilo & Stitch with a strong emotional core that aids Stitch’s development, as he learns the concept of family and protecting others. However, in a 2002 interview with IMDb (via Animated Movies), co-writer/director Dean DeBlois explained why Disney cut Lilo & Stitch’s darkest scene. The deleted story elements would have involved Stitch learning a vital lesson about death and Lilo’s parents, but its effectiveness was marred by making the rest of the film too dour.

Lilo is introduced by hurrying to her hula class, explaining that she was late because she had to feed her friend, Pudge the fish. It’s a cute moment that establishes her strange, yet endearing personality, but also contains a subtle connection to her parents’ death. This underscores how the most tragic unofficial Disney princess is Lilo. Pudge was meant to return during the second act of Lilo & Stitch, only for his character to receive a morbid fate. According to DeBlois, “[Lilo] takes Stitch to meet him and, in the process of being really irresponsible, Stitch tosses the fish out of the water and it gets attacked by a flock of seagulls and is killed.” It sounds like Stitch didn’t intentionally kill Pudge and he probably wouldn’t have understood his own actions. It’s a macabre scene that, naturally, was considered too dark when Lilo & Stitch was test screened. However, the deleted funeral scene that immediately followed would have been one of the darkest among the best Disney movies.

DeBlois explained that Stitch was supposed to follow Lilo to a cemetery, where she buries Pudge next to the graves of her parents. The director rationalized, “It was to show that there’s a real impact to your actions and that family is about protection, not carelessness.” The death of Lilo’s parents was referenced throughout Lilo & Stitch, but the details were deliberately scarce. Showing their gravestones could have been an incredibly powerful moment that deeply affects Stitch, even if it would have risked changing Lilo & Stitch’s tone. DeBlois stood by the darkest scene in terms of its narrative potential but admitted it had to be cut from the final film. He stated, “It was very effective. People got the point and they really felt bad for Stitch, but it darkened our second act so much that you couldn’t come back out of it.” This Lilo & Stitch change was perhaps for the best, as the wacky alien antics that followed might have appeared too lightweight after such a sobering funeral scene.

Lilo & Stitch already contains significant depth and including Pudge’s death and the funeral might have created a jarring tonal shift. It would have placed considerable pressure on Stitch, who was clearly unaware of the grieving process. DeBlois claimed Lilo & Stitch’s darkest scene provided the alien with an important lesson, but the third act still accomplishes this when he witnesses the consequences of his destruction and saves Lilo from Captain Gantu. 

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