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Issues of Colorism Arise in the Casting of Disney's Live-Action Remake of 'Lilo & Stitch'

By Brian Richards | Film | April 14, 2023 |

By Brian Richards | Film | April 14, 2023 |


If you’re not a fan of Disney and their incessant need to make live-action remakes of their classic animated movies, then these newest announcements will either make you flip the nearest table out of frustration, or just shrug your shoulders because the field in which you grow any and all Disney-related f-cks is completely barren.

Yesterday, it was announced by The Hollywood Reporter that the lead role for Nani, Lilo’s older sister and legal guardian, had been cast, and that she would be played by actress Sydney Elizebeth Agudong. And it was previously announced this past March that Lilo herself would be portrayed by newcomer Maia Kealoha.

However, here is the part in this article where we play “What’s Wrong With This Picture?” This is what Nani looks like in the original Lilo & Stitch.



This is what Nani will look like in the form of the actress who is portraying her.


(FYI: None of this is meant to be a personal attack on Sydney Elizebeth Agudong. If anything, my ire and my confusion is aimed more at the director and casting director(s) for Lilo & Stitch 2.0, who signed off on this casting decision, and thought that hiring anyone other than a dark-skinned indigenous Hawaiian woman for this role was a good idea.)

Colorism seems to have once again reared its lighter-than-a-brown-paper-bag head in Hollywood, and social media was not shy or quiet in letting it be known how upset and disappointed they were with this casting decision being made for Lilo & Stitch 2.0, that this film doesn’t really work if it’s centered around a light-skinned, white-passing family of Hawaiians (especially with the threat of social workers hanging over this family’s heads, because how often do white/white-passing families have to worry about being questioned as to whether their children are receiving proper care, and said children being forcibly separated and torn apart from their parents/guardians, compared to other families who aren’t white or white-passing?), and that this film is definitely not getting their time or money. The fact that Disney keeps casting white actors like Zach Galifianakis and Billy Magnussen to appear in the film when there were hardly any white characters in the original version isn’t helping much, either.

“But … but how do you have a problem with this, but you don’t see anything wrong with a Black woman playing Ariel in The Little Mermaid?”

A couple of things to be said in response to your Whataboutism, and your attempt at a “Gotcha!” moment:

1-10) Shut the f-ck up!

11) The characters being dark-skinned indigenous Hawaiians is an important part of the story being told in Lilo & Stitch, and touches upon colonialism, and how non-white families (especially those who were and are dark-skinned and non-white) have their lives ruined and torn apart in ways great and small by The Powers That Be. Ariel in The Little Mermaid has no culture, because she’s a f-cking mermaid, and the need for her to be played by a white woman (and one with red hair, because so many of you truly believe that redhead erasure in pop culture is a thing) is, was, and always will be utterly ridiculous, no matter how many times you incorrectly use the word ‘woke’ while shopping online for tiki torches to use at your next protest. Please don’t bother following that up with how The Little Mermaid is originally based on a Danish fairy tale, just like Frozen, and that white Danish people deserve representation as well, because all that you’ll get in response is me telling you once again to shut the f-ck up!

Will there be apologies and explanations from Disney about these accusations of colorism in Lilo & Stitch 2.0, much like how Lin-Manuel Miranda apologized for the lack of dark-skinned Afro-Latinos in In the Heights? Will the Lilo & Stitch 2.0 actors have their feet put to the fire and be grilled about these casting decisions when they’re being interviewed during the film’s promo tour? (Despite the fact that if there’s anyone who should be questioned aggressively about this by the press, it’s the director and the casting directors who chose to hire these actors in the first place, and not the actors themselves.) Considering that Disney remains a near-unstoppable juggernaut in Hollywood, that they were quieter than ants pissing on cotton about America Chavez not being played by a dark-skinned Afro-Latina in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, and resorted to lots of corporate jargon to defend the live-action remake of Mulan being filmed next to reeducation camps in China?


The live-action remake of Lilo & Stitch will premiere exclusively on Disney Plus once production is complete. You can obviously decide for yourselves whether it’s brilliant or problematic that it will be released only on Disney’s streaming service as opposed to opening worldwide in theaters.