Following a slew of Disney’s most beloved films, like The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and The Lion King, the early 2000s proved an experimental time for the animation studio. Between the release of Dinosaur, The Emperor’s New Groove and Atlantis: The Lost Empire, its storytelling was all over the map, and that brought about a mixed bag of Disney animated films. But among them, the most beloved of Disney’s Post-Renissance era is unmistakably Lilo & Stitch, which turns 20 years old this summer.
Set in modern day Hawaii, Lilo & Stitch follows a young girl’s friendship with an angry alien on the run amidst her future with Nani, her older sister and remaining guardian, being placed in jeopardy. As the animated movie soon turns two decades old, CinemaBlend spoke with the voice of Nani, Tia Carrere, who brought more than dialogue to Lilo’s sister. The Wayne’s World and True Lies actress recalled having a say in numerous pivotal moments in the film. In her words:
Tia Carrere was born and raised in Hawaii, and when she was brought on to the Disney film, she remembers she had previously been considered for a role in Mulan. While the 1998 film was not to be, Carrere shared that she suggested Nani’s love interest David be played by Jason Scott Lee, and was given the chance to contribute to the authenticity of Lilo & Stitch. She continued:
Tia Carrere had a lot to do with making Nani sound like a Hawaiian teen, including with a memorable line “Lilo, you Lolo,” where she shows some playful concern over her young sister adopting a blue "dog" she calls Stitch. Carrere also said this:
During our interview, Tia Carrere also shared how the movie’s entire filmmaking team, led by directors Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders, spent a lot of time to make sure Lilo & Stitch displayed the Hawaiian culture in a credible way, between the alien mayhem and such. In her words:
In recent years, Disney has gone on to depict more cultures outside its European fairytale roots, such as the Polynesian culture with Moana or the Columbian family in Encanto. Lilo & Stitch holds up in many ways because the Disney team spent time to make Hawaii and the Hawaiians in the film feel authentic. The movie also told a modern and emotional story about two sisters facing perhaps their family being torn apart after their parent’s death. It had a quirky humor about it that stands out among some less charismatic or complex storylines.
Tia Carrere’s role in Lilo & Stitch shows how important it can be for actors and filmmakers from the culture being depicted in a story being in the room. Celebrate Lilo & Stitch by revisiting the film, which now streaming with a Disney+ subscription, and stay tuned here on CinemaBlend for more about the exclusives celebrating the film’s 20th anniversary.
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