Lilo & Stitch Director Felt Frustration by Frozen Praise: ‘We Did That!’

Lilo & Stitch recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, and while celebrating, co-director and Stitch voice actor Chris Sanders revealed there’s something that’s been bothering him. His frustration stemmed from how the 2013 Disney animated film Frozen was celebrated by being about the love between two sisters as opposed to a “true love’s kiss” shared between a man and a woman.

“To be clear, I think Frozen’s great,” Sanders recently told The New York Times, “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.’”

Opening 11 years before Frozen, Lilo & Stitch centered on the friendship between a young Hawaiian girl named Lilo (Daveigh Chase) and extraterrestrial experiment 626, later Stitch, who might have the least convincing dog disguise ever. However, the primary human relationship in the movie is between Lilo and her older sister Nani (Tia Carrere), who took over raising her younger sister after the death of their parents.

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Of course, both films do feature romantic sub-plots. Princess Anna (Kristen Bell) catches the eye of two different men, Hans (Sontanio Fontana) and Kristoff (Jonathan Groff). Nani has a co-worker named David (Jason Scott Lee) who’s also romantically interested in her. However, despite that, the primary focus of both films is on family love.

“When the film came out, that’s what a lot of critics talked about,” producer Clark Spender told The Times, referring to praise over the genuine characters. “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 Sparked a Franchise

Sourced via Walt Disney Television Animation

Directed by Dean DeBlois and Sanders, Lilo & Stitch went on to earn $271 million worldwide. It ended up being the studio’s most successful film in the early 2000s, beating out other movies like Dinosaur and Atlantis: The Lost Empire. This time period was, of course, directly after the Disney Renaissance, which included such films as Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Mulan, Tarzan, and Pocahontas. Many of which focused on a romantic relationship between a man and a woman.

It also launched a franchise that included three direct-to-video sequels. The first of which, Stitch! The Movie, lead directly into Lile & Stitch: The Series, while the last, Leroy & Stitch, served as the grand finale of the series. All installments of the franchise concerned Stitch’s “cousins,” who were other experiments that were created by the same evil genius who created Stitch.

Two other TV spin-offs have been released. The first was Stitch!, an anime that ran from 2008 to 2011, in addition to specials in 2012 and 2015. The other was Stitch & Ai, an English-language-produced Chinese series that aired in 2017. Both shows didn’t have Lilo in them, instead featuring Stitch teaming up with two other young girls. A live-action remake is also reported to be in development.