Sure, Lilo & Stitch is a coming-of-age story about a young girl and her unexpected alien companion, but it’s first and foremost a story about the powerful bond between two sisters.
When Frozen was released a decade ago, it won praise for being a Disney movie about the power of sisterhood, not focusing solely on romance or its princesses falling in love and being “saved” by a prince. However, some Disney fans couldn’t help but remember that a very similar storyline had been done before, ten years prior — and now the co-director of Disney’s 2002 animated classic Lilo & Stitch is speaking out about his frustrations.
As noted by Variety, Lilo & Stitch co-director Chris Sanders spoke to the New York Times about Lilo‘s 20th anniversary and mentioned Frozen. “To be clear, I think Frozen‘s great,” he shared. “But it was a little bit frustrating for me because people were like, ‘Finally, a nonromantic relationship with these two girls,’ and I thought, ‘We did that! That has absolutely been done before.’”
In case it’s been awhile since you’ve seen Lilo & Stitch, the movie is about Lilo, who becomes fast friends with an alien named Stitch, and her older sister Nani. Nani plays the role of caregiver for Lilo after their parents died.
The movie is best remembered for its line “Ohana means family,” and the fact that it’s a Disney animated movie that has no central romance — just two sisters of color (and an alien friend) trying to support and love each other through good times and bad. The movie was a more realistic portrayal of family life (minus the whole alien thing) than other Disney animated films of the time, and shined a spotlight on female characters viewers could identify with in a different way than princesses.
“When the film came out, that’s what a lot of critics talked about,” Lilo producer Clark Spender told the NYT. “Those moments that were based in reality in a way that people could see themselves in, and it didn’t feel like they were cartoon characters.”
Despite the fact that its central plotline may have been overshadowed by the blizzard of success that was Frozen, Lilo & Stitch has made its mark in Disney history, too. In its initial run, Lilo & Stitch was a box office success, ranking as the highest grossing animated film of 2002 after Ice Age. The movie has since spawned sequels, video games, anime, and may potentially be next in line for a live-action remake.
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