Although keep in mind, most of that came afterwards--Ben wrote:Yep Estefan, L&S was regarded as a hit for the Studio. It was made for a lot less than a WDFA-LA feature and made quickly and without many troubles either. The idea was always to merchandise Stitch and create a Disney version of Pokemon, with the previous 625 experiments, and the sequel, episode compilations and the anime series were all towards those goals.
Disney was originally baffled as to how to promote the thing (remember when we didn't know what a "lilo" was because we didn't see one in the teasers, and the fans were drooling it was probably going to be a Shrek-clone with 90 minutes of Stitch "punishing" old-Disney movies?)...And expected they'd make a few summer bucks out of the surfing refs, but it would be out of theaters safely in time for their big reliably marketed big-book Thanksgiving "classic"?
One of the reasons for Stitch's omnipresent marketing push was Disney's desperate astonishment that they had a hit character for '00-'04...And yet, once Eisner's "Death of 2-D" directive went forward, all of a sudden L&S's competition-slaughtering summer business and cult-like audience mania retroactively became a "mildly disappointing sleeper", unquote, when it didn't fit the '03 business models of Audiences Hating Ink-and-Paint alongside Treasure and HotRange.
...Like Bolt, history is written by the "winners".