Stitch from Lilo & Stitch dragging the skin from the bottom of his eyes out of frustration. Image: Disney.

Who in the World Thought ‘Lilo & Stitch’ Monopoly Was a Good Idea?

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June 16, 2022, marked the 20-year anniversary of Lilo & Stitch’s release. With that has come interesting retrospectives with the creative team at publications such as the New York Times and conversations at the Inbtwn Animation Fest discussing the Hawai’i-set film. Despite this being the time to reflect on the labor, limitations, and legacy of the incredible film, I can’t help but think about one of the worst Disney official merchandise decisions that they’ve made in the last decade.

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Beyond the uproar about Ms. Monopoly one hundred years ago (in 2019), Monopoly’s history as a game has always been political. What started as a game by Lizzie Magie, in 1903, to show how bad monopolies are and promote Georgism, ended up de-radicalized when Parker Brothers bought it in the 1930s. While I like to partake in the game, it’s also very polarizing for its manipulative nature that can end friendships. When I first saw this Lilo & Stitch Monopoly in a Box Lunch window display, I stopped and backtracked like I was an animated character, not out of excitement about the possibility of collecting another edition, but because of the shock of how inappropriate this choice was.

Lilo & Stitch Monopoly board, box, and pieces. Image: Disney & USaopoly.
(Disney & USaopoly)

Not only have native Hawai’ians struggled to have any semblance of political and economic power since the overthrowing of Queen Liliʻuokalani by the U.S. Marines & private businesses, but homelessness in Hawai’i has persisted through the years. While homeless transplants from the mainland U.S. are an issue, much of the homelessness in Hawai’i comes from a lack of affordable housing and well-paying jobs. Not that this should even be a requirement of having a home, but in 2015, the AP reported that 40% of homeless Hawai’ian residents held jobs. Both of these things are exacerbated by the tourism industry (and the military), which acts as concrete shoes rather than a life raft.

Are we seeing why even a spin on a property-based game set in Hawai’i is in poor taste now? Especially how hotels lead to bankrupting players?

What’s wild about this whole set of choices that resulted in this game is that the movie took on some very serious topics but dropped the ball on this. Lilo’s sister Nani is trying to work and raise her little sister after their parents passed away. A social worker (a stand-in for Child Protective Services) doesn’t believe she is fit to raise her. While the story was originally going to be told in Kansas and likely about a white family, this new setting gives added (even if unintentional) layers of the breaking up of Indigenous families. This is an issue in Hawai’i, too. Realistically, Lilo would’ve entered foster care and had only a 34% chance of her caretakers being Native Hawai’ian.

While, in the Lilo & Stitch-themed Monopoly edition from USaopoly, you buy characters instead of property (which, I mean …) it still could have just been a pass entirely. Several sites introduced this product with something along the lines of “say ‘aloha’ to this game,” forgetting that aloha means both “goodbye” and “hello.” I’m choosing to acknowledge the former in this situation.

(featured image: Disney)

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Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.