One on One Spotlight: Directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois
Title: One on One Spotlight: Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois
Sponsored by Dreamworks Animation
Description: There is a unique journey that directors will go on to create a feature animated film for a large production studio. Join LA Film Critic Charles Solomon as he discusses some of the decisions made and the path taken by award winning directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois in their journey of getting Dreamworks latest release “How To Train Your Dragon” to the screen.
Born into an artistic household in Colorado, CHRIS SANDERS (Writer / Director) grew up drawing and penning short stories. Although Sanders 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 “Rescuers Down Under,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin” and “The Lion King,” before he was made head of story on “Mulan.”
Near the end “Mulan,” then Head of Feature Animation Tom Schumacher asked Chris if there were anything he wanted to develop. “I remembered a story from 18 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” 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. “My first call was to Dean. I felt that the story of teenaged Vikings battling dragons was the perfect style for us. Dean was just finishing a project and was excited to join me in writing and directing the project. No matter what Chris is working on, he always keeps something in mind: ‘My father told me something once, and I bet he doesn’t even remember—there are limits to what you can build or make, but you can draw anything.’”
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 is currently in production on “The Croods” for DreamWorks Animation.
DEAN DeBLOIS (Writer / Director) is a film director, screenwriter and animator who is equally at home in the worlds of live-action and animation filmmaking. Although already an accomplished animator and writer at the time the film became a worldwide hit, DeBlois is perhaps best known for co-writing and co-directing Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Lilo & Stitch.” He later stepped behind the live-action camera to direct the indie critical darling “Heima,” which documents alternative/post-rock band Sigur Rós’ series of free, unannounced concerts performed in their home country of Iceland. He also previously served as head of story on the Disney hit “Mulan.”
DeBlois once again collaborated with Chris Sanders (co-writer/co-director of “Lilo & Stitch”), to write and direct the 3D animated fantasy adventure comedy “How to Train Your Dragon” for DreamWorks Animation. He is currently in pre-production on the sequel to “How to Train Your Dragon;” he will write and direct the film. In addition, Dean is set to write, produce and direct the live-action comedy “The Banshee and Finn Magee.” In addition, he has several live-action projects in development at Universal Studios and The Walt Disney Studio, on which he is serving as writer, director and producer.
DeBlois started his career at Hinton Animation Studios and worked as animator on the television series “The Raccoons.” He next joined Don Bluth’s Sullivan Bluth Studios in Ireland and worked on the animated features “Thumbelina” and “A Troll in Central Park.”
Moderator Charles Solomon: An internationally respected critic and historian of animation, Charles Solomon has written on the subject for “The New York Times,” “TV Guide,” “Newsweek” (Japan), “Rolling Stone,” “Los Angeles Times,” “Modern Maturity,” “Film Comment,” “The Hollywood Reporter,” “Manchester Guardian,” Amazon.com and National Public Radio’s “Day To Day.” His work has also appeared in publications in Canada, France, Russia, Britain, Israel, the Netherlands and Japan. His recent books include “The Prince of Egypt: A New Vision in Animation” (Abrams, 1999), “The Disney That Never Was” (Hyperion, 1995), “Les Pionniers du Dessin Animé Américain” (Dreamland, Paris, 1996) and “Enchanted Drawings: The History of Animation” (Knopf, 1989; reprinted, Wings, 1994), which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and the first film book to be nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award.