How 9/11 Changed the Ending of ‘Lilo and Stitch’
The events of September 11, 2001 changed a lot of things. Airline security got tighter, the War on Terror became a regular national news item, and, overall, the outside seemed a little less safe than it had the day before. The repercussions of 9/11 were also felt as far as Hollywood, with the industry’s output of films based on or around themes of violence, terrorism, and war taking on a more serious, sinister bent. “Post-9/11 horror” and “post-9/11 action” became units students study in film class. A lot of films already in production went through slight alterations: the World Trade Center towers were digitally erased from New York City skyline scenes in movies released after the attacks, and entire scenes featuring the towers were cut. Hawaii is about the furthest you can get from New York and still be in the U.S., but even so, there’s a whole scene in Disney’s Lilo & Stitch that was altered so that audiences watching the film so soon after 9/11 wouldn’t be disturbed.
Lilo & Stitch was released in the summer of 2002 — not long after the attacks, but long enough to have almost completed production by the time the attacks occurred. Vox has acquired footage of a scene towards the end of the movie from an unreleased cut, where an airplane flying through a busy city was replaced, in the released cut, with a spaceship flying through mountains and countryside. It looks like they kept a lot of the animation for each of the characters, although there are some short bits that have been cut altogether.
The filmmakers no doubt thought that the scene in the unreleased version would be distasteful for audiences to see only a few months after an incident very much like this one occurred in real life. The fix doesn’t seem to have affected the movie in any major way, as even the orientation and movement of the spaceship in the released cut is exactly the same as the plane in the first version. Nine months after 9/11, audiences would probably be more comfortable with seeing an alien plane getting hijacked, rather than a human one.