Chris Sanders to DreamWorks Chris Sanders to DreamWorks
Feature Film

Chris Sanders to DreamWorks

After animation director Chris Sanders (Lilo and Stitch) was unceremoniously booted off of Disney’s American Dog, it was obvious that some major studio would scoop him up. Quite unsurprisingly that studio has turned out to be DreamWorks Animation. Ben Fritz reports in a Variety Web exclusive that Chris Sanders has signed on with DreamWorks and “will direct Crood Awakening, a project that DreamWorks had been developing with Aardman but took inhouse after its partnership with the British claymation house recently ended…Crood Awakenings, which is about a culture clash between cavemen, has a script by Brit comedy icon John Cleese and Krik De Micco (Racing Stripes). Sanders is rethinking the project, however, and will likely end up doing a significant rewrite.” More details can be found in the Variety article.

  • It looks like Dreamworks is shaping up to be the premiere animation studio. With the recent announcements regarding their stereoscopic 3D films and the upcoming slate of films, their future looks bright. Hopefully they continue the shift to new and creative films and leave their Shrek days behind them. It would be nice to see all of those efforts put into new projects rather than revisiting old characters, worlds, and stories.

  • Sorry, but I haven’t seen anything from Dreamworks that would suggest a change in the quality of their films. Putting them in 3D won’t make them any better. Pixar will retain the crown of the premiere animation studio for the foreseeable future.

  • Floyd Norman

    Interesting. Disney has let top talent walk out the door before. Guys like Tim Burton and John Lasseter come to mind, eh? They managed to do alright for themselves.

    Sanders will be a real asset for DreamWorks, and I look forward to seeing what he has up his sleeve.

    Way to go, Chris!

  • GhaleonQ

    The man deserves better.

  • I have been far less than impressed with Dreamworks’ output in recent years and I still withhold judgement as to whether Sanders will have a better time there than he has at Disney recently. If nothing at Dreamworks has changed in terms of executive meddling in creative affairs, then he may be in for a very tough time.

    I agree, Chris deserves better. He’s an awesome, amenable guy.

  • I agree. Chris Sanders deserves BETTER.

    I was so disappointed to hear that he was booted out of Disney, as he was one of the few originals left at the studio. LILO AND STITCH remains one of the most original animated features I have ever seen, with some of the best characters ever created. He is also one of my favorite artists, as his drawing style is one of the most unique and emotive that animation could ever hope for.

    Considering what Dreamworks Animation has come up with in recent years, I am less than confident that Sanders will get the creative/artistic input he truly deserves. If Sanders makes them a movie that does NOT look like it came from Dreamworks, I will feel a whole lot better.

    Best of luck to Chris Sanders. I wish you the best.

  • Daniel Mata

    Why rewrite a script by John Cleese?

  • Anonymous

    Come on people, Chris is a smart guy…

    Do you really think he’d leave Disney over “creative differences” and just walk in to DreamWorks without having some sort of confidence that he’ll be able to have the creative freedom he desires?!

    Give the guy some credit. And while you’re at it give DWA some credit as well. It’s popular to bash DWA publicly within the animation community but why have they been so honored at the Annies? Why have they done so well at the Box Office?

    They must be do SOMETHING right!

  • Chris Sanders rules. I LOVE his drawing style. it’s just about as unique and original as ANYTHING in this world can get. Hell, even his student films are awesome ( and you can’t say that about 98% of them, mine included ). I saw Lilo & Stitch TEN times at the El capitan on the digital screen. To this day, it’s tied with the Incredibles and Secret of Nimh as my favorite animated movies of all time.

    I think I might just have hope for Dreamworks after all. Their films are good, but nothing special. Just a little milquetoast. Maybe Chris can inject a little needed eccentricity into that place.

  • Chuck

    Thanks for posting this, Amid, and thanks for referring to Chris Sanders as an “animation director.”

    If I read the word “helmer” one more time, I think I’ll vomit.

  • I think that a lot of things go one behind closed doors and we – the unwashed masses – will always be trying to figure out the specifics. That said, let’s be optimistic. Better to see what’s put out first than to conjure up phantasms of “what could be.”

  • Eden

    I’m not a particular fan of Dreamworks Animation, but I think this could be a good thing just because I think they’ll be more likely to let Chris Sanders do what he does best than Disney ever would have. It would be an even better thing if they’d let him do some traditional (as in, non-CG) animation … but maybe that’s asking a little bit too much.

  • Mr. Semaj

    I’ll have to reserve judgement on whether this is a good thing.

    While it’s nice Chris found a job, you gotta wonder if he’s going to be marginalizing his talents on the kind of stuff DreamWorks is better known for.

  • “Why rewrite a script by John Cleese?”

    That worries me as well.

    To me John Cleese is like Mel Brooks. You can always count on them to make anything lighthearted and funny.

  • “Why rewrite a script by John Cleese?â€?

    Because it was an Aardman story originally and one of Dreamworks’ quibbles with Aardman was that their movies were so ENGLISH. They fretted constantly that the British humour just wouldn’t fly with US audiences – it was kudos to Aardman that they got away with it for as long as they did. Sanders will probably just rework it with American sensibilities.

    Besides… has Cleese seriously written any major work of note or length since ‘A Fish Called Wanda’? I know he did some contributing to DC a few years back, but he’s done more acting than writing of late.

    Nevertheless, I wish Chris luck and hope it all works out.

  • Kyle Maloney

    The only movie from Dreamworks that ever impressed me was the original Shrek. at the time it was totally fresh. While the animation was…well, stiff, the movie itself was good. And it didn’t rely as much on parody as the other 2 seem to be doing. The main story had more meaning, and the parody was just to make it more appealing/entertaining. The second and third ones seem to be made for no other reason but to cash in with their parody material. Yhe same goes for the rest of their movies actually. That’s where I think they need to work on. They need to take themselves a bit more seriously. It’ll only make the funny gags more funny when they do.

    Maybe Chris is the one to help with that, who knows. I have no idea how much freedom he’s really going to be allowed to have.

  • hmmm

    I’d rewrite Cleese if it seemed the right move. Nothing says that the man can write for animation, and nothing says he can write to kids.

    In fact, pushing this project forward on the strength of Cleese’ involvement is a perfect example of why I find DWA projects so tiresome: their insistent starf#@king when it comes to voice actors and “story by” credits. To me, the ultimate DW animated film so far has been “Shark Tale”- and by “ultimate” I mean the film that best exemplifies their approach and where they place actual animation talent on the totem pole. Expensive, budget-straining voice acting, celebrity cameos, a terrible soundtrack and the kind of story you can pack with easy pop culture references. Animation writers & artists are somewhere down the line of importance after these things at DWA.

    I hope that Chris Sanders isn’t just used to serve- for example- Eddie Griffin’s idea of what an animated movie should be. Or Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s story of a mixed family of adopted pandas lost in Los Angeles or something. Let him make his own movies, protect him from his own excesses, and he’ll help make that studio respectable- maybe for the first time.

    I think I’m going to put Lilo & Stitch in the machine while I’m working. A cool, unique personal vision is what makes that one of the best Disney animated features of the last decade.

  • you never know what the deal is with Chris going to dreamworks. As great as Chris is and I love Lilo….this could just simply be a job for sake of having a job, being able to at least create and make a living. God knows I’ve been there.

  • E

    Sad to think that Sanders will be yet another director of a dw film that is actually directed by producers/committees. It’s the dw way.

  • Robolizard

    Did Cleese write anything major BEFORE ‘A Fish Called Wanda’? Studio aside, Chris Sanders directing a John Cleese script is crazy cool. Dreamworks just has a penchant for making thier characters look creepily realistic. I hope he does what he did for American Dog, because those screenshots looked amazing.

  • Chris Olson

    This whole article is kind of depressing for me. It starts off with Chris Sanders losing creative control over HIS story, and then it proceeds to tell how he’ll be taking over the directing duties for a story that was taken from Aardmann animation. Doesn’t anyone get to see their projects some to fruition under their own direction nowadays?

  • Kelly Tindall

    If you are shocked by this news, put up your hand.*

    *my hand is down. Go Sanders go!

  • sullivan

    “Did Cleese write anything major BEFORE ‘A Fish Called Wanda’?”

    Yeah, a little thing called Fawlty Towers.

    Also a good deal of every monty python movie and tv show. Cleese is a comic genius and a writer, not just an actor.

    I love Chris and wish him well.

  • Mr. Woah

    For whatever reason, Chris Sanders and John Cleese being involved with an animated movie about cavemen seems to promising.
    And if the end product ends up looking like American Dog’s concept art did, I’ll be sure to watch it.

  • Dreamworks started off Promising with the first Shrek and Antz and proved that they were fully capable of creatively holding their own against Blue Sky and Pixar in the CGI field, but then came Shrek 2, Shark Tale, Madagascar, and Over the Hedge; a painful string of films featuring scatological jokes for the sake of scatological jokes, tired reprises of past Top 40 songs (mostly from the 70’s), and Family Guy-style pop culture references that require you to watch every TV show and Film made since the 60’s in order to comprehend them. Ironically, Disney attempted to copy Dreamworks’ formula for Chicken Little and failed miserably at it.

    Could Chris Sanders do good work at a place like DWA? It’s anyone’s guess, but hopefully he’ll be able to do something new at DWA.

  • Wow. Ex-Disney man joins Dreamworks to direct ex-Aardman project. Funny how tangled up animated feature production gets.

    I hope Chris can bring what he brought to Disney with Lilo & Stitch (easily the best film to come out of the studio for a long time) for Dreamworks. The amount of talent that works at that place never seems to be truly realized in their final projects, thanks to the rubbish stories they have to work with, and the hodge podge way they manage everyone’s work together (a single shot from Shrek 2 looks like it had many people working on it, all with different opinions on how it should of been executed, with the effect being a very odd looking movie).

    Sanders should be able to make a positive impact on the studio that needs a good kick in the backside.

  • There was no question that Chris would land on his feet quickly. I’ve always liked the concept of Crood Awakenings, if anyone can make it even better– I think it’s Sanders.

  • Daniel Mata

    I can understand why they might want to Americanize some of the dialogue, but to me so far, their Americanization of dialogue means pumping it full of American pop culture parodies. I have a sick feeling that this would be as genuine as canned cheese. Good writing transcends borders. Its why whatever John Cleese has been involved with has become a classic. Is Fawlty Towers and Monty Python too British? Yeah, but its also too funny.

    I have low hopes for this, despite how wonderful Lilo & Stich was.

  • victoria

    We’ll lets see how Chris does at Dreamworks. Although it’s apparent no studio deserves him right now, but maybe that’ll change. Maybe he should create his own studio, or go into teaching. I’d be willing to sign-up for his class right now.

  • LNG

    Is Chris Sanders meant to be DW’s Brad Bird? Is Jeff Katzenberg Ed Catmull?

  • tom

    Good luck, Chris!

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Daniel Mata says, “I can understand why they might want to Americanize some of the dialogue, but to me so far, their Americanization of dialogue means pumping it full of American pop culture parodies. I have a sick feeling that this would be as genuine as canned cheese. Good writing transcends borders. Its why whatever John Cleese has been involved with has become a classic. Is Fawlty Towers and Monty Python too British? Yeah, but its also too funny.”

    I can see how some may think of it as well, it would be like “Americanizing” Japanese cartoons to remove references to their culture in order to get it passable to an American audience. Being too open-minded myself, I’d rather like to know more about those little cultural tidbits than to be sprinkled with the same ‘ol pop culture stuff that ruined my enjoyment of seeing anything new lately. I can plainly see why Aardman would want out of the deal if they knew the level of US scrutiny that would fall into their productions or how they might be pressured to re-think the process in order to appeal to an outside audience.

    I only wish Sanders the best on his next project, and hope to see something released with ‘heart’ than none at all.

  • It really is a shame that Chris Sanders got fired from AMERICAN DOG. (Could this be THE THIEF AND THE COBBLER 2008?) But IF Sanders is allowed creative freedom (which some may doubt, given Jeff Katzenberg’s dubious faith in artistic qualities), he may be DreamWorks’ glimmer of hope, and we might start seeing *good* animated movies from that company. But at the same time, he may even become John Lasseter’s folly (with all due respect to Lasseter).