Lilo & Stitch’s director says his film did girl power way before Frozen

·2-min read
Frozen (Disney)
Frozen (Disney)

When people think of Frozen, the first thing that usually comes to mind is “girl power”.

When the animated film came out in 2013, it was praised for how it portrayed the relationship between the two characters at its centre: sisters Anna and Elsa.

Instead of a classic Disney romance, viewers were treated to an exploration of sisterhood, with romantic interests either shoehorned in (hello Kristoff) or revealed to be double-crossing scumbags out for the crown (hello Hans).

Parents who took their children along to repeat screenings of the film might be forgiven for thinking that this was the first time Disney broke the mould in this way.

But they’d be wrong – as Lilo & Stitch’s co-director Chris Sanders has been keen to point out.

“To be clear, I think Frozen’s great,” Sanders told The New York Times for an article celebrating his film’s 20th anniversary.

“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.’”

Producer Clark Spencer also weighed in on the more realistic way that the film portrayed the sisters’ relationship and bodies. Though audience screenings showed that people objected to how much they shouted at each other, the production team stood firm, saying it was more realistic.

“This is a moment when Nani is feeling pressure, when Lilo is feeling out of place and trying to figure out who she is,” Spencer added.

Their hard work paid off: “When the film came out, that’s what a lot of critics talked about,” he 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.”

Lilo & Stitch came out back in 2002 but has since gone on to become a cult classic.

Centring on the friendship between young girl Lilo and Stitch, an alien with a bizarre resemblance to a koala, the beating heart of the film is the relationship between them and between Lilo and Nani, her older sister.

It went on to become Disney’s most successful film in the early noughties, earning $271 million worldwide and spawning three video sequels and three TV series.

However, Frozen still takes the crown when it comes to sheer cultural heft, earning $1.8bn globally. In addition to a commercially successful sequel, Frozen 2, the Frozen musical is currently also playing in London’s West End.

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