Christopher Michael Sanders (born March 12, 1962) is an American film director, story artist, comic strip artist, illustrator, and voice actor, noted for his distinctive art style and managing to earn massive success with two of the biggest animation companies today: Disney and DreamWorks Animation. He worked extensively with the former during The Renaissance Age of Animation, and achieved success with directing partner Dean DeBlois on his brainchild, Lilo & Stitch, and has also been the voice of every appearance of Stitch (except in East Asia). In 2006, however, he left the company after being removed as the director of American Dog (which would later become Bolt) and went to work with Disney's greatest rival—DreamWorks—teaming up once again with DeBlois to work on How to Train Your Dragon, his biggest financial and critical success to date. After writing and directing The Croods with Kirk DeMicco and later having its sequel's production cancelled (only to be later revived without either man as directors), Sanders went on to work on his first solo and live-action/CGI-animated project, an adaptation of The Call of the Wild, which is produced by 20th Century Studios (the first film under that banner after Disney dropped "Fox" from "20th Century Fox") and 3 Arts Entertainment. Due to Disney's acquisition of 21st Century Fox on March 20, 2019, this film also marked Sanders's return to Disney (outside of voice acting as Stitch) after having left the company 13 years prior.note
Productions (with TV Tropes pages) that he worked on or played a role in:
- Garfield: His 9 Lives (1988): Styling — "Diana's Piano" segment
- The Rescuers Down Under (1990): Character designer, storyboard artist, visual development
- Beauty and the Beast (1991): Visual development and story artist
- The Lion King (1994): Story artist, production designer
- Runaway Brain (1995): Additional storyboard artist
- Mulan (1998): Screenwriter, voice of Little Brother
- Lilo & Stitch (2002): Director, writer, character designer, voice of Stitch
- Stitch! The Movie (2003): Voice of Stitch
- The Lion King 1½ (2004): Voice of Stitch (cameo/archive audio)
- Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch (2005): Voice of Stitch
- The Origin of Stitch (2005): Voice of Stitch
- Leroy & Stitch (2006): Voice of title characters
- How to Train Your Dragon (2010): Director, screenwriter
- The Croods (2013): Director, screenwriter, voice of Belt
- How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014): Executive producer
- How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019): Executive producer
- The Call of the Wild (2020): Director
- The Croods: A New Age (2020): Story,note voice of Belt
- Lilo & Stitch (live-action remake; TBA): Voice of Stitch
- Muppet Babies (1984—1991): Model designer
- Lilo & Stitch: The Series (2003—2006): Voice of Stitch and 627
- Stitch! (2008—2015): Credited for creating the Lilo & Stitch characters; otherwise, he has no involvement with this series whatsoever.
- Stitch & Ai (2017): Credited for creating the Lilo & Stitch characters; same ordeal as the Stitch! anime above.
Video Games (all as the voice of Stitch)
- Lilo & Stitch for Game Boy Advance (2002)note
- Lilo & Stitch: Trouble in Paradise (2002)
- Stitch: Experiment 626 (2002)
- Kingdom Hearts II (2005)
- Disney Friends (2007)
- Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep (2010)
- Kinect: Disneyland Adventures (2011)
- Disney Magical World (2014)
- Disney Infinity 2.0 (2014; dialogue reused in 2015's 3.0)
Theme park attractions
- Stitch's Great Escape! (2004): Voice of Experiment 626/Stitch
Tropes related to Sanders and his work:
- Author Appeal: Curved lines, Hawaiian themes, long-legged and busty women, adequately attractive men, huge alien spaceships, cute animals (whom he more often or not voices), long, flowing hair, and coffee, to name a few things that he really likes, and often appear in his works. He is also a fan of Elvis Presley, which is reflected in Lilo Pelekai's fanatic behavior towards the singer.
- Art Evolution: Compare Lilo & Stitch to his more recent works, or even Kiskaloo. His proportions have become a lot more cartoony, and it's somehow become easier to count the straight lines in his work. His general skill has also improved greatly, and he has posted a very long tutorial on DeviantArt about how he made one drawing.
- He used to have problems with making most females and general background characters unique. The practice on drawing different faces really shows almost immediately, and now, all of his works are more or less cast full of snowflakes-territory.
- Bleached Underpants: You'd be surprised; then again, some of his characters, female or male are all pretty good examples of being fanservicey in kids' movies.
- Descended Creator: Outside of the Japanese and Chinese spin-off shows and the non-American Disney Parks attractions, he voiced Stitch from Lilo & Stitch in almost every project the character appeared in, even ones that came out after he left Disney for DreamWorks.
- Fanservice: Half of his DeviantArt gallery has a "mature content" block over it. The other half is composed of his slightly more SFW drawings of women.
- God Does Not Own This World:
- He created, written, and directed Lilo & Stitch, but the franchise that his 2002 film spawned had no creative input from him aside from his voice acting as Stitch, 627, and Leroy, and the franchise itself moved on without him after he left Disney. Jess Winfield of the TV shows is the closest person the franchise has to a curator.
- The first How to Train Your Dragon was also co-written and co-directed by Sanders, but the whole film trilogy was handled by Dean DeBlois (although Sanders was an executive producer for the sequels). Sanders also had no input in that franchise's TV shows either.
- God Never Said That: It is (or was as the years went on) widely believed in the Western Lilo & Stitch fandom that Sanders said in an interview that the Stitch! anime, which he did not participate in, is non-canonical to the franchise. No evidence of this supposed interview has ever appeared; it's just something that the Western fanbase (who mostly hate the anime) falsely spread. In fact, there's nothing on the web that shows that Sanders has ever said anything about the East Asian Stitch shows (this anime and Stitch & Ai), let alone even being aware of them. Not only that, Sanders really only uses his social media accounts for self-promotional purposes, so don't even expect to hear from him about his own opinion on them anytime soon.
- Hartman Hips: A lot of his drawings have women with curvy, sexy legs. Their upper bodies are more akin to stick bugs. Also tend to dip into bustiness being thrown into the mix.
- Mistaken for Gay: People in the animation industry prior to Lilo & Stitch knew that either Sanders or his screenwriting and directing partner Dean DeBlois (but not both men) was gay, but assumed it was the heterosexual (and married to a woman) Sanders who was the gay one because of Sanders's quirkiness compared to the openly homosexual DeBlois's calmer demeanor.
- Orphaned Series: His webcomic Kiskaloo hasn't been updated since 2008.
- Puni Plush: His primary art style. Over the years, it's gathered some traits of anime-influences, likely because of his occasional trips to Japan. Stitch is basically Japan's Mickey Mouse.
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: Stitch is but one example. His favorite things to draw are; cartoons, voluptuous women, and incredibly cute creatures, really defining the term "pwescious"
- Rousseau Was Right: There is a lack of an actual villain in his movies. His movies are usually about very human, real people going through a believable situation.
- She's Got Legs: Most of his female characters have nice legs. Very long, curvy legs, to be precise.
- Show, Don't Tell: Unlike most Western animated fare for children, his films include some remarkably subtle scenes where characters can just act without talking more than a handful of lines, if at all. Used to great effect in How to Train Your Dragon.
- Tsurime Eyes: Post-Lilo & Stitch, where 90% of the characters were of Polynesian descent, he's kept that particular feature in all of his drawings.
- Typecasting: He usually plays a cute, fuzzy animal.
- What Could Have Been:
- He posts many of these things on his blog. For example, a cut scene from The Croods, the storyboards depicted Eep and Guy on a date. They just watched things sinking in the tar; it was not going well. Or a scrapped—and second variation—of a sequence from Lilo & Stitch composed of several hundred drawings; enough to sit on, and cover an entire room with. And this was cut... and it was the second attempt. In other words, there's a storyboard of another few thousand drawings out there.
- There's also American Dog and The Croods 2, both of which had supposedly Troubled Productions; the former film he got removed as director after he refused to listen to John Lasseter's suggestions (and thus it got retooled as Bolt), which prompted him to leave Disney, and the latter film got cancelled after several delays, although it recently got back in production as The Croods: A New Age for release in 2020... without Sanders involved as director anymore.