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Thursday Treasures

September 27, 2012

Thursday Treasures: Stitch Goes to Tokyo Disneyland!

By: Pedro 'Pap' Hernandez

Who doesn't love a Disney vacation? Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Disney Cruises, even the international theme parks are ideal places to go if you wish to have adventures, forget about the 'real world' for a few days and soak in all the stories and magic Disney has to offer. These vacations are so sought after that even the Disney characters take time from their busy schedules to just enjoy the parks! This was the case with Stitch, aka Experiment 626, when he was able to visit Tokyo Disneyland!

The way he got to Tokyo Disneyland, though, proved to be one of the most surreal moments of corporate synergy in Disney history. Before we even get to that, however, we must learn about the whole Stitch saga at Disney. As you may know, Stitch hails from the 2002 Disney Animated Classic Lilo and Stitch. The story behind the film is that Stitch is a deadly alien criminal that has crash landed on Earth, specifically Hawaii, where he has been confused for a dog by a lonely and strange girl named Lilo. Like mixing peanut butter and chocolate, Lilo and Stitch became a great pair thanks to their odd yet genuinely sweet way of looking at life, leading everyone to believe in the power of ohana (which means family) and restoring faith in the hearts of many.

The movie was so successful that Disney created a television spin-off series in North America (with its pilot being released as a movie on home video), a direct to video sequel (Lilo and Stitch II: Stich has a Glitch), an attraction at the Magic Kingdom (Stitch's Great Mistake-erm I mean ESCAPE), and countless appearances by the characters as meet and greets at all the parks. The success of the film even reached overseas, with each part of the Disney company creating their own take on the intergalactic series. In Japan, they created an anime series named Stitch!~ The Mischievous Alien's Great Adventure.

Taking place a few years after the end of the American series (though this is debatable since events in the anime conflict greatly with the events of the American TV show, making it more like an alternate re-telling of the series), Stitch has landed on a Japanese tropical island named Okinawa where he befriends a young girl named Yuna. Jumba, Pleakley, Hamsterville, Gantu, Reuben and the experiments have also tagged along where they face new challenges and dangers, just like Lilo and Stitch before them.

While the majority of the anime series plays similarly to the American TV show, there was one episode in particular that stunned me thanks to some of the greatest Disney references ever put on any piece of media to date: Stitch Goes to Tokyo Disneyland!

The girls catch a first glimpse of Cinderella's Castle

The premise behind the episode is that Yuna has received tickets to Tokyo Disneyland from her father, allowing her and Stitch to attend the park for a day. Unfortunately, Stitch misses the plane, and loses Yuna in the process. News spreads that the pair are heading there, so good guys Jumba and Pleakley (dressed up as Alice from Alice in Wonderland) and bad guys Gantu and Hamsterville decide to tag along and cause great mayhem at one of the most revered theme parks in the world.

When Pleakley hears about the trip, he tries on costumes to wear at the park. The first two outfits are classic Cast Member costumes for Pirates and the Haunted Mansion

Now, the premise doesn't seem that surreal, especially since the likes of Full House, Family Matters, the Muppets and more have done episodes and specials that take place at one of the parks. What makes it surreal is that this is one of the first instances in which a Disney theme park is a real entity within a Disney universe. Explaining it is tricky, so please bear with me...

The characters have indeed acknowledged the existence of the parks as a place for them to visit, have fun and where we can see them live. Yet, the parks exist in our world. In other words, the parks are treated as a gateway to said Disney universes, not as elements that can be found within the Disney universes themselves. For example, you don't see the cast of the more modern films like Oliver and Company, The Rescuers and Bolt say 'let's go to Disneyland!' and actually go there, much less go to attractions that bear their name or resemblance. It would create a very meta-fictional story that most people would find odd rather than charming.

Your eyes are not playing tricks, they are indeed riding the Jungle Cruise!

This particular episode of the Stitch anime goes all out to acknowledge that Tokyo Disneyland is a very real place within their world. So much so that every single detail of the park has been presented. From the smallest towers on Cinderella's Castle to the signs on Main Street, Stitch the anime spared no expense in trying to re-create the park while still telling its own stories. Characters even go on rides like the Jungle Cruise and Space Mountain!

In an event that defines metafictional, Stitch stumbles upon his own attraction without realizing it!

Stitch, on the other hand, actually walks by some of the attractions, such as Alice's Tea Party, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, and the Enchanted Tiki Room (which becomes one of the most metafictional scenes in the whole episode as the Japanese version of the Enchanted Tiki Room is themed after Lilo and Stitch). Even some of the shows like dance events in front of Cinderella Castle and magic water art created by the custodians are referenced throughout. Of course, it wouldn't be a Disney theme park related episode without fireworks at the castle! After a whole day chasing down villains and facing danger, the cast take a break and admire the fireworks, all while wishing to do it all again sometime in the future.

The girls demonstrate several activities done at the park, like wearing Disney themed costumes, wearing Mickey Mouse ears and collecting special popcorn buckets

I confess that I have not seen the majority of the episodes in this series (I tend to enjoy the movie more than any of its spin-off series, to be honest), yet I figure that this episode would top them all due to both its surreality expressed through metafictional scenes as well as its sincere tribute to the Disney parks. There is truly nothing quite like it: an episode from a television series inspired by a Disney Animated Classic that acknowledges the existence of a Disney theme park in their world and go all out in presenting it to us. It might be a long time till we see something as captivating or as astounding as this, hence why I consider it to be a Disney treasure worth remembering.

Stitch and friends close the night by watching an enchanting fireworks show

Now come the bad news... the series was indeed dubbed into English a while ago, and some of its episodes managed to air on Disney XD. However, the series was pulled off just four days after its premiere. The rest of the world has experienced the series in various languages, so it is odd that the American channel has yet to fully air the whole series. Whether this episode in particular would air in North America remains to be seen, considering it is advertising a foreign theme park whose attractions differ from the ones at the American parks. So for now let's leave it at one of the most peculiar moments in Disney history.


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