When it comes to children characters in Disney films, I’ve always had mixed feelings about them. Personally, I felt that some were too obnoxious or lacking in character. Also, if they had any siblings, their relationship with them seemed unrealistic to me. Ironically, I didn’t relate to these characters as a kid. However, one Disney child character that I thought was a good and well-rounded character was Lilo Pelekai from Lilo and Stitch.
The film does a great job establishing Lilo’s character and her personality. Lilo is first introduced in a scene as she’s running to her hula class that she’s late for. It also establishes her as a believer in supernatural activities by having her explain to her teacher she was pleasing a fish because it can control the weather. She also has a hobby of taking pictures obese tourists and creating collages.
A nice girl at heart, she can also be selfish, unruly, and strange. One main reason I’ve seen many people, including myself, love Lilo so much is because she still remains true to herself, despite the fact she’s an outcast from the other girls in her hula class. While it is clear to see Lilo’s love for her sister, Nani, there are moments where Lilo and Nani’s tempers come to a head.
The heart of the film is the relationship Lilo has with her sister. After the untimely death of their parents, Nani is now the head of the household and has to take care of Lilo. The film realistically shows Nani’s frustrations with taking care of Lilo and her fear of losing her to child services. Although she is Lilo’s guardian, she tries to be fair towards Lilo and let her have her way at times. This includes getting Lilo a dog-which is an alien and the other protagonist in the film, Stitch. Throughout the film, Nani tries to keep the household together while also looking for work to support herself and Lilo. There are moments in the film where she and Lilo have heart-to-heart talks about their situation.
An interesting thing to point out is that this is the only time a sister relationship is portrayed positively in a Disney canon film. The only other Disney film where a protagonist has sisters and is shown interacting with them is Cinderella. Obviously, Cinderella’s relationship with her stepsisters isn’t a great example of a relationship between sisters. Also, Ariel from The Little Mermaid has six sisters yet the audience doesn’t see her interact with them in the film.
While re watching Lilo and Stitch after all these years, I still find myself relating to her. Being a transfer student at a new college, there were moments where I felt like I was a bit of an outcast too. While I don’t have a sister, seeing the relationship Lilo had with Nani made me wonder how it would be to have a sibling.
Even though I’m an only child, if I had a sister as caring and responsible like Nani, I think I would be okay with that.
Janelle Smith is a TV & Film Writer at Girls in Capes. She is a rising senior at Ohio State University majoring in film studies and minoring in studio art.