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By Kevin Carr | December 18, 2003

In many ways, the original “Lilo & Stitch” saved the Disney animation from uncertain death following flops like “Atlantis” and “The Emperor’s New Groove.” Of course, its next film “Treasure Planet” pretty much knocked out any memory of success. (I, of course, thought “Treasure Planet” got a bum rap and considered it one of the best animated films in years.)

But the good folks at Disney didn’t forget about the little Hawaiian girl and her alien “dog.” They put together the standard direct-to-video sequel film about the continuing adventures of Lilo and Stitch. Anyone who has seen this sequel will immediately recognize that it is nothing more than a feature-length pilot for a television series, currently running on ABC Kids and the Disney Channel.

Fans of the original “Lilo & Stitch” will know that Stitch is actually the 626th experiment by aliens to create a creature to wreak havoc on enemy worlds. After being deserted on Earth, Stitch befriends a young Hawaiian girl, learns he’s not all that bad and sticks around. The series follows the two’s adventures as they try to gather up the 625 other experiments that are making their way to Earth.

Yes, I know. Sounds suspiciously like Pokemon. Take heart, though. It is different. Sure, there’s the ancillary marketing potential built in to have unlimited trading cards and action figures. But there is one major difference. “Lilo & Stitch” makes sense. Pokemon doesn’t. (After all, have you tried to watch either the TV show or the series? It’s incomprehensible to anyone over the age of six!)

The DVD box says, “More than a DVD – An Entertainment Experience!” Now, I wouldn’t go that far, but this little digital disc is pretty cool.

With a DVD box almost as thick as the new Harry Potter book, “Lilo & Stitch’s Island of Adventures” contains more than just a DVD. It also includes a game board, game pieces and a free poster. Most of the contents actually go to this interactive game. In fact, the two episodes of “Lilo & Stitch: The Series” also contained on the disc are pretty much throw-away items and aren’t the focus of the game itself.

For parents, it’s a neat novelty. The appeal to the game is that there are no stacks of cards to lose or dry instruction booklets. Pretty much anything that is replaced by the DVD is a standard piece of a board game, but having it on the TV gives a fresh perspective. Plus, there are extra treats that you can do with the DVD you could never do with a deck of cards – like throwing the players in a Disney on-screen sing-a-long that awards each singing player with a prize.

Parents should also get a kick out of some higher-brow humor that will go over the kids’ heads but smack adults right between the eyes. Similar to Ving Rhames’ character from the original film being a knock-off of Marsellus Wallace from “Pulp Fiction,” there are other pop culture references in the “Lilo & Stitch” series. My favorite is the character of Dr. Hamsterviel (Jeff Bennett), who is basically a clean version of John Cleese’s famous French soldier in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”

I’ll admit the premise to the series is a little thin, but the writing is pretty punchy and fun. The animation is simple but charming and the characters have the same heart that they had in the original film. It probably won’t live down in TV lore as the greatest kids show known to man, but at least it isn’t an abomination like the Pokemon series – and it’s not going to induce an epileptic fit in your kids the way “Spongebob Squarepants” or “The Powerpuff Girls” are likely to do.

Specifications: 1.33:1 full frame; Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound; English language track.

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