Stitch & Ai

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Stitch & Ai
Stitch & Ai English title card.png
Apparently, separating Stitch from Lilo to appeal to other markets was so nice, they did it twice. No sympathy from us, Disney. You did this to yourself.
Genre: Science fantasy
Adventure
Comedy
Running Time: 22 minutes
Country: China
United States (assisting staff)
Release Date: Mandarin dub: March 27 — April 6, 2017
Original English production: February 5 — 27, 2018
U.S. release (excluding "The Phoenix"): December 1, 2018
Created by: Anhui Xinhua Media
Panimation Hwakai Media
Distributed by: Disney Media Distribution
Starring: (English cast listed)
Ben Diskin
Erica Mendez
Laura Post
Lucien Dodge
Jess Winfield
Cherami Leigh
Xanthe Huynh
Richard Epcar
Seasons: 1
Episodes: 13
Previous show: Stitch! (by release)
Lilo & Stitch: The Series (chronological order; canonically)


Stitch & Ai (Chinese: 安玲与史迪奇; pinyin: Ān líng yǔ shǐ dí qí; literally: 'An Ling and Stitch') is a Chinese animated television spin-off of Lilo & Stitch and the third television series in the Lilo & Stitch franchise, after Lilo & Stitch: The Series and Stitch!. It was produced in English with the assistance of American animators, including those from Lilo & Stitch: The Series. The thirteen-episode series features a Chinese girl named Wang Ai Ling in place of the original 2002–06 Western continuity's Lilo Pelekai and the anime's Yuna Kamihara and is set in Huangshan, Anhui.

The series first aired in China with a Mandarin Chinese dub from March 27 to April 6, 2017. The original English-language version first aired from February 5 to 27 in 2018, in Southeast Asia on that region's Disney Channel. Twelve episodes of the series later received a free digital streaming release in the United States via DisneyNow on December 1, 2018, although it was later removed from the service in June 2019. No new televised shows in the Lilo & Stitch franchise have been announced or released since this show's conclusion.

Why It's Not 'Ohana Anymore

  1. For the second time, Disney produced a work separating Stitch from Lilo Pelekai and puts him in another country for the sake of using him to enter other animation markets where the work is set. So despite the unpopularity of Stitch!, they continue to abuse Stitch anyway by making more unnecessary Lilo-free spin-offs.
  2. Some of the new human characters are bland carbon copies of the ones in the previous canonical works.
    • Wang Ai Ling, the titular human protagonist, is basically Lilo Pelekai, with the only differences from Lilo being the fact that she is Chinese and has different interests (e.g. Ai loves Chinese drums, like how Lilo loves hula), but has almost none of the character flaws or internal conflicts that make Lilo so charming and relatable. Even Yuna Kamihara at least had a distinct personality from Lilo.
      • The show's production team tries too hard to make Ai as likable and sympathetic as possible:
        • The first episode ("Hello - Goodbye") almost immediately tries to get us to empathize with her just about a minute after we first meet her (outside of the cold open).
        • Her new friendship with Stitch feels forced and rushed, not being properly developed, especially since some of Stitch's prior character development was erased to try to make it work (e.g. he ruins Ai's drumming practice in one episode after stealing a pancake from a restaurant, bursting through Ai's drum in the process).
        • Her breakdown in "The Scroll"—when Jumba and Pleakley finally capture Stitch to rescue him on behalf of the United Galactic Federation, a whole process beginning from "Gotcha!" that deliberately and aggravatingly made them as foolish as possible just to make Ai more sympathetic—and Jeijei's argument against the Kweltikwan-Plorgonarian duo that relies more on an appeal to pity fall flat.
        • Unlike Lilo, Ai actually gets a brief reunion with her deceased parents as spirits (in "Dream On"), who we even hear speak to her, whereas Lilo only "reunited" with her late parents in a dream (in the Lilo & Stitch: The Series episode "Remmy").
        • And she even kisses Stitch twice in the show just so the production team can prove just how much of a great friend she is to Stitch.
    • Ai's older sister, Wang Jiejie, is basically Nani Pelekai, but a bit more of a pushover.
    • Jiejie's boyfriend Qian Dahu is basically David Kawena, Nani's fiancé, but with an element of Moses Puloki (Lilo's kumu hula, or hula teacher), since he teaches Ai's drumming class.
  3. Daiyu, one of the few more "original" characters made for the show, is your stereotypical typical snooty, uptight, socialite character with a mysophobic streak.
  4. Cheap pandering to fans of the original Lilo & Stitch continuity with cheeky references to elements and characters in past works, such as the Ice Cream Man, a frog that narrowly avoids danger, Stitch pulling his eyelids in frustration (which wasn't even accompanied with a growl, but with a brief, ill-fitting unenthused sound), and even the intro of this series features bars where the characters run in like in the intro for Lilo & Stitch: The Series. They are frequent enough that they're more distracting than charming and only serve to remind several fans of how much better the franchise was in the past.
  5. The animation, while not terrible thanks to the show having American Disney animators on hand in its production, is rather sub-par compared to the original films and first series, as it replaces the frame-by-frame animation of the original with Toon Boom Harmony-like motion tweening in most episodes. (Not all episodes, however; see Good Qualities below.) It even uses 3D models for characters at times instead of only keeping it to the vehicles, and these instances can be blatantly obvious (such as when Stitch floats down to Ai on Earth after having re-entered the atmosphere in the first episode, itself a bizarre scene).
  6. The voice acting is not as good as in the originals.
    • Ben Diskin and Jess Winfield reprise their roles from the English dub of Stitch! as Stitch and Dr. Jumba Jookiba, respectively.
      • Diskin, while still otherwise a great voice actor elsewhere, tries too hard in trying to better replicate Stitch's earlier pre-anime speech (e.g. taking a little too long even for Stitch's flawed English speech to say lines like "We... are... family."), coming across as forced and monotonous for the most part and still lacking much of the charm that Chris Sanders brought to the character. Even his laugh doesn't sound quite right. Also, those with a decent ear can hear Diskin's natural lower-pitched register in his performance, which makes Stitch almost sound like a different character, thus possibly taking audiences out of the show and wanting Stitch to actually shut up. In all, Diskin actually sounds worse in this show compared to the Stitch! anime, since at least he puts on a more energetic performance for Stitch in that show that, while not a great performance in itself, at least sounds better and fits Stitch's hyperactive personality.
      • While Winfield has made some improvements in his Jumba voice, he still needs a lot of work done there to be a proper suitable replacement for the late David Ogden Stiers, especially has Winfield still is too hammy and uses a too high pitch to sound more like Jumba.
    • Erica Mendez comes across as too whiny, high-pitched, and overly childish sounding for Ai, and as a result, it's obvious the character is not voiced by an actual child.
    • Despite having a decent replacement voice in the Stitch! anime's English dub in Ted Biaselli, Pleakley's English voice actor was changed again, this time to Lucien Dodge. Sadly, Dodge's portrayal is the worst of Pleakley's portrayals, and he sounds very different from Kevin McDonald and Biaselli, sounding much more stereotypically and generically nerdy while having almost none of the effeminate and somewhat hammy qualities that make Pleakley charming and likable. (Although that's likely a side effect of this show's visual portrayal of the character, whose feminine qualities are mostly downplayed in this show, likely to appease the Chinese and their cultural differences.)
  7. Bad sound mixing; several scenes are missing some expected vocal effects like noise from long-distance transmission (like when the characters make video calls) or have the volume of the vocals set too quiet (thus making it hard to discern the characters' dialogue), among other problems.
  8. None of the first 625 genetic experiments, not even franchise mainstay Reuben (X-625) or fan-favorite Angel (X-624), make any appearances at all in this show.
  9. The new experiments, which are mostly just straight-up recreations of Chinese mythological creatures here and are made during the events of this show, don't really look like they fit in with the classic experiments for the most part. Several of them look like they're (and pretty much are) just various mythological and real-life creatures come to life; one of them is basically a recreated rhino. And those that do resemble the classic experiments a bit better look over-designed.
    • Dim Long, a small orange dragon-like experiment who flies without wings by using qi and is the show's only recurring experiment besides Stitch, is mostly just there just to be a cute pet for the aliens, much like with BooGoo from the Stitch! anime. The only time he factors into an episode's plot is in "Dragon Parade" when Jumba temporarily enlarges him to replace the burned dragon puppet, and that's it.
  10. Stitch's "Metamorphosis Program" and his giant monstrous transformation are by far the worst new abilities introduced to Stitch in the franchise, worse than the "Neo-PowerChip" of Stitch! ~Best Friends Forever~ (the third season of Stitch!). In this show, Stitch can apparently actually mutate himself with various abilities, which include having quills (that look similar to his retractable spines) sprout around his neck, growing out patagium that allow him to glide through the air as if he were a flying squirrel, and most significantly, the ability to grow into a giant, kaiju-like beast with four laser-firing tentacles sprouting from his back. Although they do technically fit him in that Stitch is supposed to be the "ultimate destructive monster", they are rather pointless as we already know how destructive Stitch is (to which the answer is a resounding "yes"), yet apparently he isn't destructive enough in his normal form. The abilities themselves are also rather stupid-looking, gimmicky, needless, superficial, and revisionist additions that add no substance to the character or personality of Stitch. In fact, they are a betrayal of the spirit of Stitch and how his creator Chris Sanders envisioned his iconic creation.
    • Tony Craig, the director of the show and also one of the executive producers of Lilo & Stitch: The Series and co-director of Stitch! The Movie and Leroy & Stitch, claimed that the monstrous form is what Stitch was supposed to become the entire time, but it's just that Lilo and Ai's love "suppressed" it up to that point. But this reasoning is weak and false, considering that neither Craig nor the writer of this series, Marc Handler (a veteran of Asian TV animation, who was new to the Lilo & Stitch franchise at the time of the show's production), had a hand in the character's creation, and that the original opening scene of Lilo & Stitch showed the then-Experiment 626 having already caused chaos and destruction in a city populated by aliens, all while still in his familiar small, true alien form, proving that Sanders never envisioned Stitch having the ability to grow into a beast.
    • Moreso, in the Lilo & Stitch: The Series episode "Short Stuff" (or "Shortstuff" like how Experiment 297's name is spelled), when Stitch became a giant in that show (via one of Jumba's devices), he was a lot clumsier compared to his normal small size. In fact, when Jumba shows up near the end with his size-changing ray after the gigantic Stitch couldn't defeat the gigantic Shortstuff, he specifically says that Stitch was "made to operate at peak efficiency only at exact original size." So for this show—directed by one of the first TV series's executive producers, no less—to come along and say otherwise is a huge slap in the face to the franchise's continuity (flawed as it was, to begin with).
    • Additionally, this is the third television series in a row where Stitch expands his size. Even if the method of growth is different from the previous two shows, the premise of a macro Stitch is now overused and has worn out its welcome.
    • The explanation as to why Stitch has the size-changing Metamorphosis Program in the first place is also weak. Before the events of this show, the Galactic Federation's analysts concluded that Stitch was "too small" at his normal size to destroy a city. But we've seen more just how capable he is thanks to his strength, durability, agility, stamina, and cunning, and even if he never destroyed a city in the original continuity as released, the aforementioned deleted scene directly contradicts the explanation by just showing that size does not matter when it comes to his destructive capabilities.
  11. Apart from the Metamorphosis Program, Stitch also shows two new abilities that he's never shown before in the Western continuity; "The Lock" shows that he can sprout retractable quills that look like his back spines around his head, giving an appearance of a lion's mane, to make himself look "scarier", and "The Phoenix" shows that he grow a retractable membrane to glide through the air. Not only are these new abilities stupid, but they were also each used only once for nothing more than padding as they have absolutely no effect on the plot; they're just there to give brief moments of Stitch fooling around or having fun.
  12. The United States release of Stitch & Ai excluded the ninth episode ("The Phoenix") from legal release, meaning that American audiences got an incomplete release of this show. Even worse, it's not a filler episode—the events of this episode do factor into the events of the last four episodes—and it's one of the three hand-drawn digital ink and paint episodes. Additionally, the show has since been removed from DisneyNow, meaning that Americans no longer have a legal means of watching it, whether or not they want to do so.
  13. Much of the show's intended emotional and heartwarming scenes come across as forced, especially the scenes that try too hard to prove that Stitch is meant to be with the Wangs. This especially includes Ai's aforementioned breakdown in "The Scroll" and the very last scene of the show, in which Stitch cries because, as he says in his stilted speech, "Stitch has family." That scene makes it seem that his original family (the Pelekais) didn't matter as much to him as the Wangs, thus making the whole show feel like a bigger violation of ʻohana than how the Stitch! anime handled the original duo's separation, since in that show at least he not only remembers Lilo (whereas this show makes his memories of her vague) but even after he split from her, he still values his old-time and friendship with her and had a touching reunion, whereas that one scene makes it seem like only just then and there does he realize how "grateful" he is to have a family with his (and Jumba and Pleakley's) new family.
  14. The explanation as to why Stitch forgot Lilo is quite ridiculous and comes out of nowhere, being explained by Ai in the cold open of the sixth episode that Stitch lost his memory when "special qi energy" surrounded and protected him when he "fell from the sky" (i.e. re-entered Earth's atmosphere) in the debut episode. It does explain the weird aura and floating, but it still doesn't justify that bizarre scene in question, especially since Stitch is fireproof (and thus presumably highly heat-resistant) and extremely durable (remember that he bounced off mountains in the original Lilo & Stitch film), and he's also an alien made by a mad scientist alien who was running away from evil warring aliens, not a magical creature who was specifically sent to a little girl by some deity or spirit to give her a friend.
  15. All episodes use the same closing credits in English, especially for the voices of only the main characters, even if they did not appear in every episode (e.g. Meiying). Several other characters who have names don't have their voices explicitly credited; in fact, the only reason we know that Richard Epcar voices Captain Gantu and Cobra Bubbles despite not being credited for those roles is due to his very distinctive voice being blatantly obvious in those roles. (Epcar is only credited for voicing Commander Wombat of the Jaboodies.)

Redeeming Qualities

  1. The art style and backgrounds in the show legitimately look gorgeous, thanks to American Disney animators assisting in the show's production and successfully reusing the earlier traditional cel-animation style, bringing out the beauty of the famous Huangshan mountains.
  2. Three episodes—"The Lock", "The Phoenix" and "Nuo Opera" (a.k.a. "Creatures" in the American release)—actually use hand-drawn, frame-by-frame animation using digital ink and paint, making the animation quality of those shows on par with Lilo & Stitch: The Series. (Of course, this begs the question as to why they couldn't use such throughout the whole show.)
  3. Unlike Stitch!, the character designs of the humans and non-experiment aliens are actually faithful to the original continuity, even if the show is more of an alternate continuity.
  4. This mo (dream eater or baku) experiment is actually a good design for an experiment and looks like it fits in with the classic experiments.
  5. The show features a nice, respectful portrayal of local Chinese culture, even if the show definitely had to appease the strict Chinese censors as much as possible in their portrayal here.
  6. Cobra Bubbles makes his first appearance in over a decade.
  7. Meiying, this show's Mertle Edmonds, is an actual likable character compared to Mertle from the original continuity and the Stitch! anime's Penny and Jessica. Stitch & Ai shows that, while she can be stuck up, she actually doesn't mind being Ai's friend, but her peers (her and Ai's fellow drumming classmates who are this show's version of Mertle's posse) as well as her own mother, aunt, and grandmother don't like Ai and pressure Meiying to not be affiliated with her. Not only that, in "Dragon Parade", when she and the drum girls accidentally burn the dragon puppet, the drum girls decide to lie and put the blame on Stitch (who actually put out the flames), but Meiying decides not to go through with their plan, telling Ai and Stitch that she would tell the truth (though she ultimately doesn't confess or blame anything since Ai then comes up with the idea to replace the puppet with Dim Long). This proves to Ai, Stitch, and the audience that she is a good person, even though she "denies" it.
  8. Although it is a bit disappointing that he is no longer part of the main cast, Gantu stays in the Galactic Council as Captain of the Galactic Armada this time.
  9. Since the show was produced in English, the mouth movements are actually based on English speech. This is more prominent in the hard-drawn episodes mentioned above.

Videos

Trivia

  • Despite popular claims, Stitch & Ai is actually set in a separate timeline from Stitch!.
  • Despite this show having been on a streaming service before, Stitch & Ai is currently unavailable for streaming on Disney+.

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