Said Chris Sanders, head storyboard artist, of the beautiful and atypical-in-many-ways Disney production Lilo & Stitch:
Animation has been set so much in ancient, medieval Europe — so many fairy tales find their roots there, that to place it in Hawaiʻi was kind of a big leap. But that choice went to color the entire movie, and rewrite the story for us.
Indeed, the film’s crew was only introduced to the foundational concept of ‘ohana, which was to color the interactions of most of the movie’s characters and give it some of its most memorable and touching lines, by their tour guide while visiting the islands for research. The film’s Hawaiian and Hawaiian raised voice actors were given latitude to rewrite their lines to include more accurate dialect and Hawaiian slang. As to why the scene was cut, well, there’s been a lot of speculation.
I’ve seen it suggested that it was because Disney felt the scene’s message (communicated by white midwestern tourists treating Lilo as, at best, some sort of concierge at their resort who probably doesn’t even speak English rather than a child who simply lives in the town they are vacationing in and at worst a bit of charming set dressing to their vacation just like the hot sun or breezy beach purely because the color of her skin marks her as a native islander) would pass over the heads of and/or offend white midwesterners.
And Lilo & Stitch was edited due to its release’s proximity to the events of September 11th. A climactic ending sequence was relocated from a city center where several buildings were to have been knocked down. It seems most likely that this scene was simply cut because did not serve enough narrative masters as other ways to do the scene, and/or was too similar to a later, more plot important scene in the movie. It shares a lot of narrative similarities and even some of the shots of fleeing tourists with a scene where Stitch shows his alien nature on the beach. This other scene is beautiful musical sequence one that tempts the viewer with hope that the little family will work out, and even that Nani and David will get together, before dashing those hopes when social worker Cobra Bubbles (who also appears in the deleted scene) sees Lilo almost drown, and Stitch becomes responsible for the girl being taken away from her only remaining family, forming the entire second act climax.
The relative finished nature of the scene, all the way to pencil sketches, speaks eloquently as anything else to the desire of the movie’s production to have it included.