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. He is currently at work on The Croods 2.
In what free time he can scrape together, Chris likes to draw lions and tigers and girls, and sometimes cats or cat girls or witches — basically anything that is a departure from whatever animated project he is currently working on. “Animation is a slow process, existing in an unfinished state for years. It isn’t until the very end, mere weeks before release, that it comes together as the fully lit version the audience will see. For me, bringing a personal sketch to finish, to ink it and to color it, is something of a relief and a catharsis.” Once a year he collects those sketches in a book, and 2013 marks the introduction of “Sketchbook 6.” Previously only sold at San Diego Comic-Con, all six sketchbooks are now available in his online store, and, for the first time this year, at CTN eXpo. You can see examples of his personal artwork on his website as well as his Facebook page.
But when Chris REALLY has some time he draws his very favorite thing in the world, which is his “Kiskaloo” webcomic.