“People were like, ‘Finally, a non romantic relationship with these two girls,’ and I thought, ‘We did that!'”
Upon the release of Disney’s “Frozen,” the animated film was widely celebrated for prioritizing the sacred bond of sisterhood, rather than adopting a traditional damsel-in-distress trope.
The animation’s plotline was centered around a relationship between sisters Anna and Elsa rather than either of the character’s connections to a man. Instead of a “true love’s first kiss” breaking a spell or saving the day, the love between two sisters helped save the day.
While Disney fans praised the film for prioritizing sisterhood, “Lilo & Stitch” co-director Chris Sanders says his Hawaiian Sci-Fi flick had already done it 11 years before “Frozen’s” release.
“To be clear, I think ‘Frozen’s’ great,” Sanders clarified in an interview with The New York 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.'”
“Lilo & Stitch” first debuted in theaters 20 years ago in June 2002 and steered away from Disney’s traditional animations about classic fairy tales and romances. At the time, all of the studio’s now classic hits like “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” “Mulan,” and “Tarzan” had incorporated a heteronormative romantic storyline.
Sanders and co-director Dean DeBlois’ “Lilo & Stitch” broke the mold and centered around a friendship between a Hawaiian girl and a fluffy blue extraterrestrial creature that loosely resembled a koala.
The most significant relationship between two main human characters belonged to Lilo and her older sister Nani and the hardships that came after the death of their beloved parents in a tragic car crash. Based on a bond between two new friends and a love between two sisters, the film grossed $271 million worldwide and launched a franchise that birthed three sequel direct-to-DVD movies and television series.
“When the film came out, that’s what a lot of critics talked about,” the animation’s producer Clark Spender referred to the movie’s genuine characters to 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.”
Sanders concluded his sentiments by hoping that the film will eventually get its recognition for being one of Disney’s animation pioneers in exploring sisterhood over romantic love.