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How Lilo & Stitch Successfully Displayed Grief and the Importance of Sisterhood

Family was the most important theme in Lilo & Stitch, which has aided the film and made it many people’s favorite Disney movie 20 years later.

For the 20th anniversary of Disney’s Lilo & Stitch, reviewing the importance of family and sisterhood from the film is crucial, as these dynamics have made the movie timeless and classic. Nani embarked on a difficult journey from the start of the movie, as she was determined to take care of her little sister Lilo after their parents died in a car crash. Although Stitch played a crucial role as well in Lilo’s life and her recovery, the dynamic between the sisters was heartfelt and memorable, showcasing the fact that sisterhood is what kept them together.

Disney often doesn’t shy away from taking on extremely tragic losses in its movies as a way of connecting with children. Death and loss are absolute truths in life, and Disney has almost taken on this role of approaching the topic with respect and care for their young audience. Bambi and The Lion King are well-known for featuring the death of a parent on the big screen, and the stories proved to viewers that life does go on after death, and this was true for Lilo and Nani in Lilo & Stitch as well.

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Although the tragic moment happened before the start of Lilo & Stitch, Nani and Lilo are still affected heavily by the loss and attempt to adjust to “regular life” while still grieving. Many children who have suffered a loss early in life will act out at school because they’re struggling to process the intense emotions they are feeling at such a young age, and Lilo obviously deals with this. She doesn’t get along with her peers, and she cares so little about fitting in that she isolates herself more. Her focus isn’t so much on behaving normally to fit in with others as it is on remembering her parents and processing her trauma.

Stitch comes along at a perfect time for Lilo, as she needs a friend. Nani has some friends in the community, especially David, who has a crush on her. He helps with covering her shifts and watching Lilo occasionally. Lilo and Stitch turn out to be handfuls when they’re together, as Stitch is experiencing life on Earth, and he wants to learn everything he can with Lilo’s help. Nani lets the connection go on even though she has a weird feeling about Stitch because she wants Lilo to be inspired to behave (plus, she thinks he’s a dog) so they can stay together.

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Child services continuously harass Nani throughout Lilo & Stitch, but she keeps this information hidden from Lilo to protect her. Nani doesn’t have the help of her parents to get through becoming a guardian so young, and she often feels alone in this venture. Lilo seems to be at an age where emotional regulation is still incredibly difficult, and dealing with so many huge changes in her life makes the situation worse. The only way Nani can truly get Lilo to behave is by telling her the truth about their situation and that Nani could lose Lilo if she’s not able to care for her properly.

Although Lilo still deals with her individual grief over losing her parents, she tries to mature emotionally enough to be there for Nani in any way that she can. They work together so Nani can remain Lilo’s guardian, and they grow closer as sisters through the experience. Even if they might fight and have a significant age gap between them, their love and dedication to remaining a family are crucial to the film. This heartfelt connection touched the hearts of Lilo & Stitch’s viewers and has kept the movie as a Disney fan favorite for the last two decades. The movie will continue to inspire new, younger audiences and teach them the importance of family connection through grief.

Madison Diaz has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication with a minor in writing. Now, she’s in grad school, pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing. Her overall goal in life is to be a writer and eventually publish romance novels. She enjoys reading, writing, and casual gaming. She has a cute senior dog and a cool husband who loves talking with her about comics and wrestling.

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