Chris Sanders Fired.
This morning I got some disturbing news from a friend who still works at Walt Disney Feature Animation. I guess yesterday they laid off 166 people, leaving only 600 behind.

One of the fired was "Lilo & Stitch" writer / director Chris Sanders.

I had the luck to sit near Chris' office twice in my career at Disney. The first time was in the fall of 1998, after I'd been in the building all of two or three months. At that point he and his co-director Dean were first thinking up Lilo & Stitch. They were very secretive about their work, and since I was on a different picture, I barely knew their title. But eventually I found out more about the movie. I guess you'd say I happened to be in the right place at the right time. See, Chris also did the voice for Stitch in the movie (and all of the many, many sequels) so every day he was constantly running around doing that high pitched gibberish that is Stitch. But this is back when about five people in the world knew who Stitch was, and I wasn't one of them. Finally I was just like, "Dude, what are you doing?!" At that point I was let into his wonderful world.

I've met lots of bright people in my thirty years on this planet, heck I married one, but Chris Sanders is something else. He is a genius. It's plain and simple. Now I've never met Steve Jobs, or Bill Clinton, or the guy who came up with the Clapper, you know, the people most associated with being a genius in today's world, but I'm smart enough to recognize genius when I see it. Or hear it muttering alien squeeks from his office.

Because Chris Sanders is Stitch. There's one story from when he was directing Lilo at the Florida studio, which of course is now since closed. Anyway, apparently there was a line of ants walking along the sidewalk. Chris and his co-director made a bet of how many ants they could lick off of the sidewalk.

It's that weird, crazy kid behavior that made him perfect for making Disney animated movies. Like one day when I was sitting outside of his office he was even more excited than normal. And "normal" for him was like a five year old all hepped up on pixie sticks and Halloween candy. One day he's totally psyched, and he's carrying this wooden box. He asks this other Production Assistant and myself if we want to see something cool. It's as if we were in elementary school waiting for class to begin, and he's got the best "show and tell" item ever. He's so excited that it rubs off on you, like pixie dust.

"What's in the box? What's in the box?"

It turns out that he had a mummified cat in the wooden box. He bought in on eBay or some sketchball website. It was so gross and funny and weird, and he was totally into it. It's pretty obvious his is the brain that spawned Stitch.

Anyway, in 2003 I ended up sitting in a cubicle outside of his office again. He was just starting to plot the movie that he was directing, well, directing until yesterday. I remember the day he found out that I was quitting and moving home. He saw me scanning at one of the "creation station" computers, and he mentioned that it was a bummer I was leaving Disney. He was actually quite somber and genuine, and it was sad to see him like that.

That was one of the hard parts about leaving Disney - all of the people who I didn't know that well, who I had never worked with, but with whom I would liked to have worked. You know, the potential. The possibilities.

But I always thought, "At least I'll get to go to these future movies as a fan". To see the little bits of the artists who I know make it into the characters that they create.

It's sad that now I've lost not only the possibility to work with Chris Sanders, but also the possibility to see his movie. If it was a bummer when I left Disney, then this is downright tragic.
posted by Josh @ 2:33 PM  

Josh and Liz are two American kids who got married in August. Liz has lived in Dubai since 2003, Josh since August of 2006.

Follow along in the culture shock of being recently married and (for Josh, at least) recently transplanted to Dubai.

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