'Lilo & Stitch' Casting Announcement Sparks Whitewashing Criticism

'Lilo & Stitch' Casting Announcement Sparks Whitewashing Criticism

by Peyton GatewoodApr 18, 2023

Disney has revealed the actors set to take on fan-favorite roles in the live-action remake of Lilo & Stitch.

The first wave of news came a few weeks back when Disney found their Lilo in little Maia Kealoha, a Hawaiian child actress. Also announced was On My Block actress Sydney Agudong, who is gearing up for her role of Nani, Lilo’s headstrong and caring big sister.

Though Agudong was reportedly born and raised in Hawaii, many enthusiasts of the original cartoon couldn’t help that the casting was symptomatic of a bigger problem in the entertainment industry: whitewashing. The misalignment comes when comparing Agudong to the original Nani, who possesses a sturdy, athletic frame and darker skin.

One user explained their feelings about the film in a Twitter thread: “Some of y’all don’t realize the problem. Yes the actress is native Hawaiian but she’s not darker. Indigenous people (especially the ones who are dark skin) are very underrepresented in the media and people just want that represented.”

In the days following, Kahiau Machado was cast as David, Nani’s love interest. Machado got a better reaction than Agudong, though some still point out that in side-by-side comparisons, both live action actors are noticeably lighter than the original cartoon. At the time of the 2002 original’s release, Nani was the only leading Disney woman with darker skin. Notorious for their stick-thin princesses, Nani is also one of the most realistic representations of a woman's figure featured in Disney’s animated universe to date.

Many online said that this could be the final straw for consumers who are tired of going to see a movie they technically have already seen, only to be disappointed with casting, cuts or plot changes.

“A lot of people grew up with Lilo and Stitch like with any other Disney movies their live action remakes always FAIL to capture what makes the originals so good and memorable people,” said another user.

This user voiced our thoughts exactly:

Justice for Cobra Bubbles.

Photo via Getty/ Albert L. Ortega