Jon M. Chu, the celebrated and super talented filmmaker behind Crazy Rich Asians and next year’s In the Heights, is set to tackle the latest in the long line of Disney live-action adaptations of their beloved animated features. Per The Hollywood Reporter, Chu has been tapped to direct a new version of modern classic Lilo & Stitch. While the report stresses that the project hasn’t been given the green light and is still very much in development, given Chu’s involvement, this seems more likely than not.
While the search for a new writer is underway to work with Chu (I’m available), the latest draft of the script is by Mike Van Waes. Dan Lin and Jonathan Eirich, who produced the $1 billion redo of 1990s Disney favorite Aladdin, are on board to produce. At this point it’s unclear whether the film will wind up on the company’s direct-to-consumer juggernaut Disney+ or will get the full theatrical rollout (the gestation period on these projects is at least two years, so they’ll have a while before they have to make a decision).
The original Lilo & Stitch, directed by Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders, was released back in 2002 and produced at Disney’s Feature Animation outpost in Orlando, Florida (part of the Disney-MGM Studios theme park, now known as Disney’s Hollywood Studios). Produced almost in secret, the low-budget feature told the story of a maroon space alien named Stitch and the little Hawaiian girl named Lilo who came to love him. It’s still a masterpiece (I rewatched it recently), full of humor and heart and odd limit moments that drew the ire of former Pixar bigwig John Lasseter, who promptly fired Sanders after Disney purchased Pixar and installed Lasseter as a creative guru. What other movie could combine surfing, aliens, and Elvis Presley songs so beautifully?
While the movie was a sleeper hit, the characters from the movie proved an unstoppable force in the consumer products field, where untold millions worth of plush are sold every year. Lilo & Stitch also spawned several direct-to-video sequels and a few animated television series. The characters also appear regularly in the Disney Parks. So you can understand why this was a priority for the company.
Chu has already committed to the upcoming Willow series on Disney+, so clearly there’s a great, committed partnership growing. And his big, pop sensibilities are perfect for the property.