‘Lilo and Stitch’ co-director says his film prioritized themes of sisterhood long before ‘Frozen’

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Chris Sanders, the co-director of the 2002 Disney picture "Lilo and Stitch," wants to remind viewers that the film highlighted themes of sisterhood over romance long before "Frozen."

In an interview published in The New York Times on Tuesday in celebration of the 20th anniversary of “Lilo and Stitch,” Sanders recalled feeling “frustrated” when critics and audiences referred to “Frozen” as the first Disney film to prioritize sisterhood over romance.

“Frozen” was released by Disney in 2013 and gained significant popularity and success, earning $1.2 billion worldwide in box office sales. The film became the highest-grossing animated film in history until the release of “The Lion King” in 2019. “Frozen” revolves around a fearless princess named Anna, who rushes to save her kingdom from her sister Elsa’s icy spell.

“To be clear, I think ‘Frozen’s’ great,” Sanders told The Times. “But it was a little bit frustrating for me because people were like, ‘Finally, a non-romantic relationship with these two girls,’ and I thought, ‘We did that! That has absolutely been done before.’”

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Sanders also pointed out that “Lilo and Stitch” was a film that many fans found relatable as they connected to both Lilo’s frustration of feeling misunderstood and Nani’s determination in the face of hardship.

“When the film came out, that’s what a lot of critics talked about,” Sanders said. “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.”

Written and directed by Sanders and Dean DeBlois, “Lilo and Stitch” revolves around a young Hawaiian girl named Lilo whose only remaining family member is her older sister Nani after the death of their parents. The pair’s relationship is challenged as Lilo befriends an alien named Stitch, who helps them relearn what it means to be a family. The film was widely popular at its release, earning $273 million globally as well as an Oscar nomination for best animated feature.

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Although a majority of Disney’s films revolved around romance during the 1990s, the studio began pushing towards an adventure-driven direction in the early 2000s with “Lilo and Stitch,” demonstrating the bond of sisterhood without a romantic plot line for the protagonist.

“Lilo and Stitch” celebrated its 20th anniversary on Tuesday.

 

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