Stitch's Great Escape! was a "theater-in-the-round" attraction found in the Tomorrowland area at Disney's Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World. The ride opened on November 16, 2004, replacing the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, and was the first Lilo & Stitch-themed attraction by the company. After entering seasonal operation after October 1, 2016 (the 45th anniversary of Walt Disney World), the attraction last operated on January 6, 2018, and after two-and-a-half-years of limbo and speculation, Disney eventually confirmed its permanent closure on July 16, 2020, with signage later removed on August 10 that year.
Taking place before the events of the original Lilo & Stitch film, the ride was an interactive experience where Experiment 626 (better known as Stitch) had a "treat for your eyes, ears, and nose".
The premise was that the park's guests are new recruits working for the United Galactic Federation's Prisoner Teleport Center. After being welcomed by the Grand Councilwoman and debriefed by Captain Gantu and a robotic sergeant, recruits were alerted to the impending arrival of a "Level 3" prisoner and taken to a large holding cell with seats surrounding a teleportation tube in the middle. Shortly after recruits are seated, the "Level 3" prisoner was teleported in and revealed to be an adorable looking creature called Experiment 626. Although confused at first, Gantu, his cohorts, and the recruits would soon learn why 626 is so dangerous, as the blue alien tricked his holding cell's security and began his "great escape".
The attraction was very unpopular during its existence; fans of the ride's predecessor were incensed over their attraction being replaced by a Lighter and Softer experience. Teens and adults were turned off by the ride's silliness and Stitch's gross behavior, while kids still ended up being scared by the loud noises and periods of darkness. Ultimately, what was meant to be the flagship Lilo & Stitch experience at the parks ended up tarnishing its title character's reputation to American Disney fans, and began the franchise's decline to a more niche franchise in that country. Aside from an even shorter-lived stage show in 2009, Disney never attempted another Lilo & Stitch attraction in the United States ever since; Disney refocused their efforts with Stitch Encounternote over at the non-American resorts and The Enchanted Tiki Room: Stitch Presents Aloha e Komo Mai! at Tokyo Disneyland.
Stitch's Great Tropes!
- AcCENT upon the Wrong SylLABle: A strange place called Flor-EE-Da. Also a minor Call-Forward.
- Aliens Speaking English: It was a Lilo & Stitch ride, so of course this trope came into play.
- Alternate Timeline: Considering that Gantu didn't recognize Stitch when he was first revealed in the original film, and that Stitch didn't speak any English until after he arrived on Earth in the film, it's easy to say that the attraction took place in its own timeline separate from the actual canon.
- The Announcer: Pleakley guided "new recruits" (i.e. guests) between the theaters.
- Arc Welding: References to the ride and its title alien were strewn across Tomorrowland:
- When the ride first opened, Cinderella Castle was "decorated" with toilet paper and graffiti as part of Stitch's rampage through the Magic Kingdom.
- A newspaper stand near Rocket Tower Plaza has the headline "Stitch Escapes!"
- Previously, when the PeopleMover passed by the entrance to Stitch's Great Escape!, the narrator would mention that guests on the ride would have to keep Stitch from escaping, only for Stitch to interject with, "I don't think so!", followed by an Evil Laugh. After SGE! switched to seasonal operation, the lines were removed.
- Stitch's stolen police cruiser can be seen along the queue line of Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin.
- A holographic-styled 3D model of Stitch appears in the safety video of Space Mountain.
- Finally, in one of the gift shops connected to Stitch's Great Escape! (Merchant of Venus), pawprints can be seen going across the ceiling, leading all the way to a Stitch statue looking down from above. The gift shops (Mickey's Star Tradersnote and MoV) also had murals with some Lilo & Stitch-related imagery; Star Traders has one on its ceiling with Stitch and Jumba's ship appearing in an alien cityscape, while MoV has Stitch's "cousins" roaming around Tomorrowland (these murals were removed for several years when Star Wars merchandise took over the shop, but as of September 2018 they've been restored despite the ride's lack of operation that led to its eventual closure).
- AstroTurf: Within the ride itself at one point. According to this blog post, Disney added voice clips in the background of a couple boys pointing out Stitch when he is first revealed to the audience, as well one of them incidentally spoiling the moment when Stitch hotwires the teleporter. The voice clips were later removed.
- Big Eater: The "donut guy" apparently.
- Butt-Monkey: Skippy and the "donut guy".
- Call-Forward: Stitch escaped the same way he did in the original film; he spat on someone (this time the audience), tricking the DNA-tracking blasters into firing away from him, and then he broke out of his containment as they do so. He then took a spaceship and used its hyperdrive to reach Earth.
- The Cameo:
Stitch: Yoo-hoo! Cinderella! Your prince is here...
- Skippy from the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter was seen in one of the chambers in the pre-show. According to Sergeant 90210, he was in for "jaywalking between the moons of Jupiter".
- Stitch's cousins were seen in the first part of the pre-show as criminals of the galaxy (with their names and numbers written in Tantalog), and the exit halls featured wanted posters for a few of them written in either Tantalog or English.note Of course, this ride opened when The Series was still airing on Disney Channel and ABC Kids; there was even a poster promoting the show during the first few years of operation.
- The experiments that passed through the screen in the pre-show were (in order) 625/Reubennote , 303/Amnesio, 520/Cannonball, 177/Clip, 624/Angel, 360/Drowsy, 344/Dupe, 345/Elastico, 151/Babyfier, 149/Bonnie, 150/Clyde, 222/Poxy, 258/Sample, 297/Shortstuff, 254/Mr. Stenchy... and some green creature with the number 300M.note
- Cinderella's voice was heard when Stitch enters her castle.
Cinderella: You're not my prince! Goodbye!
- Canon Foreigner: Sergeant 90210 and Skippy in the pre-show, who were carried over from Alien Encounter.
- Cosmetically Advanced Prequel: Non-canonically took place before the events of the first Lilo & Stitch film, as it featured Stitch's first run-in with the Galactic Federation.
- Decomposite Character: Skippy and the "donut guy". In Alien Encounter, Skippy was teleported to the other tube, in which he came out fried and disfigured. In this ride, the normal Skippy stays in his tube the whole time, while the disfigured Skippy is made into the messy "donut guy" who gets teleported in during the pre-show.
- Excited Show Title!
- Gasshole: Stitch's infamous chili dog belch, which was actually a "subtle" lampoon on the rules against eating and drinking in the theater. (He takes said chili dog from a "recruit" in the dark.)
- Hassle-Free Hotwire: Stitch hotwires the teleporter to take him out of the prison chamber.
- Lighter and Softer: Stitch's Great Escape! was a much softer version of the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, about which parents frequently complained to the staff that it terrified their kids even though there were warnings saying it may be too intense for children 12 and under. Alien Encounter itself was actually lighter than the original concept for the show, which was based on the Alien franchise, and featured the Xenomorph, Ripley, and the Weyland-Yutani company. The idea was abandoned when it was decided to be too dark for a Disney theme park, though Alien still appeared in The Great Movie Ride.
- Long-Runners: Despite the reception this attraction received, it managed to operate regularly for almost twelve years and existed for a little over thirteen, whereas Alien Encounter didn't even reach a decade.
- Mythology Gag: From October 2017 to March 2020,note the first pre-show room of the attraction was made into a meet-and-greet area that's titled Stitch's Alien Encounter Character Greeting!, a not-so-subtle nod to the building's third tenant.
- Named by the Adaptation: The hammerhead shark officer from the film is identified as "Lieutenant Sledge".
- "No Talking or Phones" Warning: Along with the chili dog moment mentioned above, before that, Stitch heard someone's cell phone ring and went across the theater to answer it (this caused the restraints to press down as he "ran" in the dark). This is a reference to the rule against the use of phones in the theater.
- Overly Long Name: The robot sergeant's full name was Sergeant C4703BK2704-90210.
- Pardon My Klingon: Stitch said "Meega, nala kweesta!" a few times, first when he broke containment, then twice (in a mocking "Na na-na na, boo-boo!" tone) when he escaped.
- Potty Failure: Sergeant 90210 fainted and "oiled himself" upon hearing of a class 3 alien arriving.
- Revised Ending: The first ending showed an animation of Stitch riding Astro Orbiter, either during the day or at night depending on the time of day at the real life Magic Kingdom. It was later changed to him climbing on and entering Cinderella Castle exclusively in broad daylight.
- Series Continuity Error: Experiment 626 actually called himself "Stitch", even though he had not met Lilo yet.
- The Guards Must Be Crazy:
- Even when the new prisoner seemed cute and harmless, and you had both two DNA tracking cannons and a small army of recruits standing by, no good could come from raising the glass tube he's in.
- The recruits themselves were unarmed, inexperienced, and currently being forcibly held in place by DNA scanners that have already finished serving their purpose.
- X Days Since: Was seen in the exit. Apparently, they had a very good track record before Stitch came along.
Galactic Armada Officer: It appears we've been licked, sir!
Captain Gantu: What a day... Release the recruits. I need a vacation.