March 12, 1962
Colorado Springs, Colorado, U.S.
Writer-director, illustrator, and animator
Christopher Michael "Chris" Sanders (born March 12, 1962) is an American writer-director, illustrator, and animator best known for co-writing and co-directing the Disney animated feature Lilo & Stitch and DreamWorks' How to Train Your Dragon, and providing the voice of Stitch (Experiment 626) of the former. After leaving Walt Disney Animation Studios, Sanders went on to work for DreamWorks Animation, co-writing and co-directing animated feature films such as How to Train Your Dragon and The Croods, along with Kirk DeMicco.
Born March 12, 1962 in Colorado Springs, Chris Sanders fell in love with animation at the age of ten after seeing Ward Kimball animated shorts on The Wonderful World of Disney. Throughout his childhood, he began drawing and writing short stories. Although Chris served as the cartoonist for the Arvada High School newspaper, he never considered art as his livelihood. After his grandmother told him of a newspaper article about the California Institute of the Arts (shortened as CalArts) in the Denver Post, Sanders immediately applied for admission, and was accepted into their animation program. Sanders majored in character animation, and graduated from CalArts in 1984. He then initiated his career as a character designer for Muppet Babies, produced by Marvel Productions.
Sanders later moved over to the Walt Disney Company in 1987, working in the visual development department. After serving on The Rescuers Down Under, Sanders was promoted to story work on Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. When pre-production on Lion King commenced in 1991, Sanders, serving as production designer as well, along with Roger Allers, Brenda Chapman, George Scribner, and Don Hahn among other lead crew members took a trip to Hell's Gate National Park in Kenya, in order to study and gain an appreciation of the environment for the film. According to Lion King producer Don Hahn, Sanders also served as storyboard designer for Mufasa's ghost sequence.
For Mulan, Sanders served as head of story, and contributed to the screenplay; he also voiced Little Brother (Mulan's dog). Towards the post-production of Mulan, then-Head of Feature Animation Thomas Schumacher approached Sander about pitching an idea. Sanders had created the character of Stitch in 1985 for an unsuccessful children's book pitch, and developed a treatment for an animated feature featuring the character. During a sushi dinner at the Walt Disney World Swan Resort, Sanders pitched his film idea, in which Schumacher approved of. Recruiting former Mulan co-screenwriter Dean DeBlois as his co-director, the duo revised the film's story and dialogue, and shepherded the production to its successful June 2002 release. Sanders later voiced the character of Stitch on its direct-to-video sequels and television series.
In 2005, Sanders developed his next project titled American Dog. The plot was to have involved Henry, a famous TV star dog, who one day finds himself stranded in the Nevada desert with a testy, one-eyed cat and an oversized, radioactive rabbit who are themselves searching for new homes, all the while believing he is still on television. Following creative disagreements from studio leadership, including John Lasseter, Sanders was removed from the project, and replaced by Chris Williams in 2007. The project was later retitled Bolt. In March 2007, it was reported that Sanders had relocated to DreamWorks Animation, and was developing Crood Awakening.
However, in September 2008, Sanders and Lilo & Stitch alumni Dean DeBlois began development on How to Train Your Dragon for DreamWorks Animation. The film was released on March 26, 2010 and was well-received by critics. It grossed nearly $500 million worldwide. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and Academy Award for Best Original Score at the 83rd Academy Awards. The movie also won ten Annie Awards, including Annie Award for Best Animated Feature.
After completing How to Train Your Dragon, Sanders returned to The Croods, which was released on March 22, 2013. Sharing directing and writing credits with Kirk DeMicco, the film proved to be a success, and garnered itself a planned sequel. Due to his involvement with The Croods, Sanders is serving as additional executive producer for How to Train Your Dragon 2 scheduled for release in June 2014.
- Chris Sanders - Biography. Internet Movie Database. Amazon.
- Chris Sanders - Bio. chrissandersart.com.
- The Lion King: Film Notes.
- Shirey, Eric. Producer Don Hahn Shares His Experiences Working on 'The Lion King'. Yahoo!.
- Sanders, et al. The Story Room: The Making of 'Lilo & Stitch'. DVD. Walt Disney Home Entertainment. Burbank, California. 2005.
- Sander joins DreamWorks. Variety.
- Amidi, Amid. Toy Story 3 and American Dog News. Cartoon Brew.
- Amidi, Amid. UPDATE: Chris Sanders Still Crood and Directing Dragon. Cartoon Brew.
- Giardina, Carolyn. Details of 'How to Train Your Dragon' Sequel Revealed. The Hollywood Reporter.