Chris Sanders has become one of the most sought-after animation directors not currently working for Pixar, as the filmmaker has been the driving force behind hits like Lilo & Stitch and How to Train Your Dragon.
Chris Sanders Starts Out:
Growing up in Colorado, Chris Sanders would often spend hours amusing himself by sketching and doodling – with his cartoonish style inspired by a variety of classic instances of animation, including the 1944 Disney cartoon The Three Cabelleros. Though he was interested in pursuing animation in his post-secondary education, Chris found himself overwhelmed by the many choices offered by various schools. It wasn’t until his grandmother read a glowing article about the California Institute of the Arts’ animation program that Chris had made his decision, and it was there that he picked up the skills and techniques that would later serve him exceedingly well.
Chris Sanders Meets the Muppets:
Almost immediately after graduating CalArts in 1984, Chris landed a job as a model designer for the Saturday morning cartoon series Muppet Babies. Chris stayed with the show until 1987, when he became the first person hired by the Walt Disney studio’s newly-formed “visual development” department. Right off the bat, Chris was put to work as a storyboard artist on the company’s 1990 release The Rescuers Down Under. His most high-profile gig came a year later, when he was asked to storyboard several key sequences in Beauty and the Beast – including Beast’s death and subsequent resurrection. Chris’ top-notch work on the film also landed him a “story by” credit on the film, and it wasn’t long before he was being asked for his creative input on other titles in Disney’s pipeline (including 1992’s Aladdin and 1994’s The Lion King).
Chris Sanders Makes his Directorial Debut:
In 1998, Chris was handed the biggest responsibility of his career up to that point – as he was asked to co-head the story department on Disney’s Mulan. The film, for which Chris also helped write the screenplay, earned the up-and-coming animator Annie Awards for Storyboarding and Writing, and paved the way for Chris to make his directorial debut with 2002’s Lilo & Stitch (alongside Dean DeBlois). Featuring the voices of Ving Rhames, Tia Carrere, and Daveigh Chase, Lilo & Stitch immediately established both Chris and Dean as animation filmmakers worth watching – with the movie eventually going on to spawn a series of direct-to-video sequels and even a television show.
Chris Sanders Co-Directs How to Train Your Dragon:
Riding high on the success of Lilo & Stitch, Chris began working on a new film for Disney called American Dog – with the project eventually running into problems after head honcho John Lasseter voiced his concern with the movie’s direction. American Dog eventually became Bolt and Chris decided to leave Disney for DreamWorks Animation, where he was quickly reunited with his Lilo & Stitch co-director Dean DeBlois and put to work on How to Train Your Dragon. Released in 2010, How to Train Your Dragon earned DreamWorks some of the best reviews of its existence and became their highest grossing effort not to feature an ogre named Shrek.