Born into an artistic household in Colorado, Chris Sanders grew up drawing and penning short stories. Although Chris drew throughout school and served as the cartoonist for the Arvada High School newspaper, he hadn’t considered art as something he could do for a living. But when his grandmother found a random article about the California Institute of the Arts (or CalArts) in the Denver Post, everything changed. Chris applied for and was accepted to CalArts’ Animation Program, and went on to work for Marvel Productions, and then Disney Studios. He worked as a story artist on The Rescuers Down Under, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King, before he was made head of story on Mulan.
Near the end of Mulan, then-Head of Feature Animation Tom Schumacher asked Chris if there were anything he wanted to develop. ”I remembered a story from eighteen years before that I had tried to write as a children’s book, but had given up on, because I couldn’t compress it into a short story format. Over a sushi dinner at the Walt Disney World Swan Resort, I pitched that story — a tale of a strange forest creature, shunned by all, and unaware of his own origins. Tom liked it, and when he suggested I relocate the tale of the lonely little monster into the human world, Lilo & Stitch was born.”
Chris wrote, boarded, and directed Lilo & Stitch with Dean DeBlois. In 2006, Chris left Disney Studios to join the filmmaking team at DreamWorks Animation. When he was given the opportunity to direct How to Train Your Dragon, he jumped at the chance.
Born March 12, 1962 in Colorado Springs, Chris Sanders was the middle of three children. Chris remembers, “Art was the dominant thing in our house as we grew up. My dad was always sketching and painting — mostly abstract stuff and Buck Rogers-style spaceships. On Friday nights, we all sat at the dining room table around big glasses of water and painted as a family. We were always welcome to draw at my dad’s desk, and we had a constant supply of Blackwing pencils and computer paper he had liberated from the office where he worked.”
When he wasn’t drawing or gathering things from other people’s trash, Chris used a manual Underwood typewriter to tap out short stories. ”Tiny tales that usually ended in misfortune, misery, and disaster. I proudly passed the finished work out to my family. Rather than seek emotional counsel for me, they just asked for more stories, which I happily supplied, trying to invent new accidents more terrible than the last.”
Chris recently completed production on the comedy-adventure feature film The Croods, which was released on March 22, 2013.