The Walt Disney Corporation is a company with a storied history, and is well known for its series of animated classics. From Golden Era films such as "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves," to "The Lion King" which hails from the Renaissance Era, all the way to modern day classics such as "Frozen," Disney shows no signs of slowing down when it comes to quality. Disney has created an iconic ensemble of characters and films, each with their own group of loyal fans. Trust me when I say this, you do not want to end up in an argument over which Disney Princess is the best. You will be there for hours (but the only real answer is obviously Belle, with Jasmine being a close second). With dozens and dozens of animated classics to choose from, how do you decide which film stands above the rest? While I don’t exactly have a perfect answer to this question, I’d like to think I’m correct in saying that 2002’s "Lilo & Stitch" is the best Disney film. So today, I would like to explain why.
One reason why I believe "Lilo & Stitch" is the best Disney film is the relationship between the film’s two sisters, Lilo and Nani. Although a large focus of the film is on Stitch and the various mayhem that he brings with him to the Earth, a large source of the film’s drama and conflict come from the situation that the girls were forced into. Lilo is a 6-year-old girl who is being raised by her older sister Nani. Sometime before the events of the film, Lilo and Nani’s parents died in a car accident, leaving Nani with the task of raising her sister. Their parents' death had a profound impact on both of the girls, particularly Lilo. Throughout the film, Lilo shows signs of severe depression, something which Nani has a very hard time dealing with. Also, Lilo and Nani are constantly at each other’s throats for a large part of the film. This stems from the fact that Nani is not only Lilo’s older sister, but is her legal guardian. So naturally, the two fight quite a bit. They are frequently seen throwing household objects at each other, as well as yelling at the top of their lungs. You know, normal sibling things.
Part of what makes Lilo and Nani’s relationship so endearing is that their situation is very realistic. Both of the girls are forced to deal with very relatable situations. Lilo is a young girl who is trying her best to fit in and make friends. This is made much more difficult by the fact that she does not have very much in common with the other girls. Lilo is weird and different in the best possible ways, but the other children do not see her this way, and frequently ridicule and shun Lilo. Nani is a young woman who is trying her best to raise her younger sister, as well as help her cope with the loss of their parents. Nani works a job with long hours and low pay in order to make ends meet for her and her sister. Long story short, this means the girls live paycheck to paycheck, which is a very relatable struggle. In addition, Nani has to deal with near constant surveillance from the film’s equivalent to our Child Protective Services. At any moment, they could deem Nani an unfit guardian, and take Lilo away from her. However, in spite of all their hardships and fights, the girls are always there for each other. The film is packed with numerous poignant moments, one of the more emotional ones being when the two sisters have a very genuine heart-to-heart. Disney films are no strangers to featuring meaningful relationships, but "Lilo & Stitch" does the best at showcasing one that is so pure and genuine.
"Lilo & Stitch" is a film that has numerous themes. Loss, depression, anxiety, financial struggles, being a young parent, and being socially awkward. But at the heart of it all, the film’s central theme is the concept of Ohana. Ohana is a term that is deeply ingrained in Hawaiian culture, and was popularized by this film. As stated by Lilo herself, “Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind, or forgotten.” Ohana does not only refer to blood relatives. The core of Ohana is the remembrance and celebration of the people you consider family, blood relative or otherwise. This concept is emphasized by the character Stitch, (I can’t believe this is the first time I’m actually mentioning the little blue guy). Experiment 626, better known as Stitch, is a creation of Dr. Jumba. Stitch was created for the sole purpose of destruction. However, through his relationship with Lilo, Stitch has a change of heart, and is accepted into Lilo’s Ohana. Stitch’s change is a result of Lilo being able to relate to him and see the good in his heart. Lilo is able to see that Stitch is greatly misunderstood, much like herself. He does not wish to cause any serious destruction; but prior to meeting Lilo, it was all he knew. By the end of the film, the entire cast of characters have each gone through a personal growth, and come together to form Lilo’s perfect little Ohana."Lilo & Stitch" is a powerful and emotional film, one that is often forgotten in the conversation of great Disney classics. It features a beautiful Hawaiian setting, and does an excellent job in paying homage to the region and its culture. In addition, the film displays realistic, genuine, and relatable situations and relationships. The film has that classic Disney magic in spades, and I truly believe it is Disney’s best work yet.