Lilo and Stitch: The Series: Topper (2003)

Oh, right. That era when Disney tried capitalizing on every movie they'd ever made by producing an endless sea of direct-to-video sequels and spin-off TV series: I remember that.

The original Lilo and Stitch movie is pretty great, though it's always seemed derivative of The Iron Giant to me. Not this episode though: it feels derivative of Dora the Explorer.

The premise of the series, according to the internet, seems to involve Lilo and Stitch trying to locate a bunch of experiments, like Stitch. Apparently, this was connected to the direct-to-video sequel no one saw. I guess that sort of fits what I just watched. Sort of.

The episode opens with Lilo explaining Christmas to Stitch. The results are less humorous than depressing. Also, it seems like like Jumba and Pleakley are living with them, for some reason. Also relevant is Gantu, who has an experiment pellet wrapped as a gift. Again, I'm not entirely clear on why he did this. Fortunately, I don't care in the least.

While visiting the mall, Stitch sees the pellet getting wrapped at the wrapping booth. However, the box containing the experiment is mixed with the others, causing him to collect presents from all over the island in an attempt to get it back. There's a brief and uninspired Grinch homage, followed by an even briefer misunderstanding when Lilo and Jumba capture Stitch. Before they can even bother with dramatic tension or emotional distress, they plug him into a mind-reading machine and realize he's not actually trying to steal the gifts for himself.

Then Jumba shows up, steals all the gifts, and takes them to the mall. After a brief and boring tussle, they work out their differences, and wind up activating the experiment, which - conveniently - is a glowing, star-shaped genetic hybrid that fits on a Christmas tree. This also conveniently resolves Pleakley's plot: he wanted to dress up like a tree.

The episode masquerades as something edgy and subversive, but it comes off as dull and repetitive. Lilo is clearly voiced by a young child, something we've seen work in certain contexts. But not here: in this show, it just makes her dialogue stilted and forced, making it all the more difficult to pay attention.

It also doesn't help that the show is animated using very static backgrounds and relatively little action. Clearly, whoever they put in charge of this did not understand what made the movie work.

The show seemed aimed at very young children. Lilo's descriptions of life on Earth to Stitch almost seem educational, except that the writers are attempting to slip in jokes connected to her skewed perspective on the world. None of these really hit their mark, though, largely because the show seems terrified of actually going in a dark direction.

It's all unfortunate: the premise of a show following Lilo and Stitch's ongoing adventures seems like it could have worked, but the execution fell extremely flat. Visually, it looks like they were trying to invoke the look of the movie: it would have been far better if they'd gone after its energy or spirit.

This really isn't worth your time. Skip it.