Week six: “The Croods” Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco

DreamWorks’ The Croods Directors/writers Kirk DeMicco (USC alum) and Chris Sanders will visit us to describe the story and visual development of the Oscar-nominated animated film. The USC Trojan marching band will also be on hand to perform their song “Tusk” live! This song was recorded and included on the original movie soundtrack.

In SCA 108 (Animation students given priority seating if you arrive by 6:30)

Followed by a reception in Lucas Lobby!

Chris Sanders

Chris Sanders is currently serving as executive producer on How to Train Your Dragon 2 the sequel to the wildly successful original film which he directed. Before joining DreamWorks in 2006, Sanders had a successful career at Walt Disney Studios, where he wrote, storyboarded and directed Lilo & Stitch. He worked as a story artist on Rescuers Down Under, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King and was head of story on Mulan.

Kirk Demicco

Director Kirk DeMicco received his bachelors degree from USC. Besides directing and writing The Croods, his other animation credits include Space Chimps, Sherlock Homeboy, Hong Kong Phooey and projects for Hanna-Barbera and Looney Tunes, and collaborating with John Cleese of Monty Python fame.

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49 Responses to Week six: “The Croods” Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco

  1. linhui wang says:

    It was really funny that when the volume of video was gone, but the band came in and played a improvisation. That was the climax during the awesome presentation. Thanks Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco for showing us how differences between the original storyboard and final one of “The Croods”. And also thanks School and Lisa for bring us the food after this seminar,especially the delicious guacamole which was much better than the Mexican restaurant around campus.

  2. Ivan Sayon says:

    I think it was a fun and interesting presentation. Its always great to see the initial storyboard pitches of a scene and to see how it evolved to it’s final form. Hearing stories from Chris and Kirk about what happens during production like story/design revisions late in the pipeline or working with voice talent of varying experience really puts things into perspective especially if the project has more than one director. And hearing their personal stories about where they started and how they ended up was fun to hear too. The food was nice too and I’d like to also extend my thanks to Lisa for setting the whole thing up. And that was some well made guacamole. I remember Linhui forgetting to eat a taquito with her plate of guacamole.

  3. Caress says:

    I’m glad Christ Sanders and Kird DeMicco came as well. It was pretty cool to see a storyboard pitch, as well as realistic editorials on a major animated film. I thought the band performance in replacement of the video was a plan, and it made for a fun end to the presentation.

    I’m also glad Linhui got guacamole, but we had to encourage her to eat it along with the taquitos that were next to the guacamole. She did not listen and just ate a few plates of guacamole. I guess it must have been pretty good.

  4. Jason Ronzani says:

    Chris and Kirk brought a lot of enthusiasm. My favorite part of their presentation was seeing the development of the fire scene from the pitch to the final product. It’s amazing how drastically it changed from the pitch, yet it still maintained all the major points and themes they were trying to get across. It reinforced the fact that a story can always be improved and it made me realize how important it is to get feedback from others. It was interesting to hear that people had difficulty remembering Guy’s name so they changed the way his name is introduced.

    As story tellers, we already know what we are trying to communicate, but it’s important to make those ideas as clear as possible to others without sacrificing the integrity of the work. If the ideas do not communicate well, then it can mean a lot of wasted work.

  5. Dustin Reno says:

    I thought this was a wonderful presentation, and it was great having both co-directors together, as their energy made it very apparent why it was a joint endeavor. They play off of each other so well that I’m certain they made working on such a long project a really fun experience any chance they could.

    It was additionally nice having them be very forthcoming about their feelings on certain aspects of the way making a film in such a large studio structure works, but they were still extremely optimistic and excited about being in it, good, bad, or otherwise.

    I wish the talk had gone on for longer, as I was shocked how early it was when we went out to the reception area, but I was still thoroughly satisfied with the incredible amount they covered in the time. Really wonderful guests.

  6. Yizhou Li says:

    I felt the talk was very good and both directors had a lot of great things to share from their work. It was interesting to see how many times the storyboard changed for the final movie, and Chris Sanders was great at pitching.

    I enjoyed hearing how both directors came from two different directions in the industry, but they were still able to be directors. Chris Sanders story about learning to do storyboards was really funny. These two directors were very fun, and I’m glad they were able to share so many things about working on a team at dreamworks. It sounds like a very tired job, but they are able to do such a big film working together!

  7. Evan Harbuck says:

    I enjoyed Chris and Kirk’s talk and could have listened to their stories much longer. I would have like to hear them speak more about the director’s relationship working with artists but I got the impression that they give their artists lots of freedom.

    The reception was a very nice treat and I wish we could have them more often. I didn’t realize the guac was such a hit so apparently I missed that one.

  8. Joanna Barondess says:

    It was so wonderful to have Chris Sanders and Kirk DiMicco speak with us. I would have loved to hear more stories about making the film as well as more storyboard-to-final processes. I love seeing the changes and progression from initial story to the final result. Hearing Chris and Kirk talk about the relationships that are made within the pipeline was helpful. I knew that things went back and forth between many departments, but having a more concrete idea of what goes on throughout the production of a Dreamworks feature was insightful.

    I am incredibly thankful that I was able to speak and have dinner with Chris and Kirk, along with Robert and Einar. They are such nice guys and are so easy to talk to. Lisa and I talked with Chris mostly about promotion for the film, as well as Chris’ work on ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ (1 and 2). It’s so refreshing to know how down to earth these guys are, especially considering how hard they work. I hope they return at some point.

  9. Andrew Malek says:

    It was really great of Chris Sanders and to Kirk DiMicco to come by USC and speak. Some of my favorite things included learning that the main theme was based off of Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk,” (I’m a big Fleetwood Mac fan) and that the project had been originally been intended to be stop-motion. It is also very interesting to see the evolution from storyboard to final product and appreciate how many iterations are involved between the two. Also who doesn’t like a marching band? Thumbs up to everyone who made it possible.

  10. Jake Zhang says:

    Chris Sanders and Kirk DiMicco are funny and the talk is great. It was great experiences to know the very specific process for the Croods. and it was interesting to know that how the whole group involved to the project’s creative parts. Demo of storyboard is great and it gave me the sense of how story driven camera and visuals; and how visuals change base on storytelling.

  11. Jiexi Wang says:

    I really wish they could stay longer and tell more about Croods! More break down and how they made the film. I think as directors, they focus more on the story line, but I would like it more if they can talk about it in a more animation technical suspect. Over all, I enjoy my time with them a lot – it was a fantastic speech and thanks for the sticker and delicious food!

  12. Tristan says:

    I enjoyed this seminar. It seems like Chris and Kirk have done this a few times before so the ratio of relative information to entertaining factoids was satisfactory. I was a little perplexed by the band, but nonetheless entertained by it. It was also curious that they introduced the talk with what seemed like the effects reel of the film which seemed strange since the film got so much attention for the animation.

  13. Josh Weisbrod says:

    It was really exciting to have Chris and Kirk! I am a longtime fan of Chris Sanders and have enjoyed the work of both of them since moving to Dreamworks. I thought their talk was very interesting, albeit not totally 100% geared towards animation majors. I especially enjoyed their demo of the fire scene from the Croods, from pitch to production.

    It would have been nice to have them speak for longer– it seemed shorter than usual seminars.

  14. Maggie Harbaugh says:

    Such a fun seminar! I was really looking forward to this seminar and wasn’t disappointed. Both Chris and Kirk seemed very humble and down to Earth, which was very refreshing. I enjoyed hearing the about the making of The Croods and its always interesting to hear how different studios are structured. Thank you so much for bringing them.

    Also, the USC marching band is bad ass!

  15. Erin Shea says:

    I really enjoyed this event! Kirk and Chris were really casual and surprisingly down-to-earth, and as a pair, they seemed to be a perfect match for dealing with the pressures of directing a feature. I was mostly curious about how they as individuals dealt with imagining and directing such a large project, and I would have liked to hear more about how they can simultaneously convey their desires to the department directors AND relinquish control over areas they didn’t understand.

    The USC band was such a fun conclusion too, and it prompted me to start listening to Fleetwood Mac while driving around LA. Fight on!

    Thanks, DreamWorks, for the delicious food and fun and informative night!

  16. I didnt attend this wonderful presentation. Fortunately I´ve seen Mr. Sanders talk about his boards which is what I really admire about him as a creator. Great draftsman and storyteller. The way he draws women is pretty curious. I would like to know what inspires him.

  17. Tim says:

    Chris and Kirk were great presenters, i loved seeing the 3 different versions (storyboard pitch, animatic and final) of the same sequence. It was great to get an insight into their processes, and to actually see them pitch. I also really liked that Chris took the time to draw a storyboard shortcut of Guy for us (what happened to that? Can I have it?!). And yeah the marching band were great! Such a fun seminar, i wish it could have been twice as long.

  18. Joseph Yeh says:

    This was a truly wonderful presentation and I am so thankful to have listened to these geniuses talk about Crood, a film I enjoyed thoroughly. I loved the art direction and it was intriguing to hear about their writing process and simplification of ideas.
    On the other hand, the first thing that was shown was this high level of vfx and compositing work, which I’m not sure the directors are capable of doing by their own hand.
    I don’t really understand why Chris Sanders says he isn’t good at drawing because he is amazing… I guess directing is his forte. I do feel that a good director can best understand what he or she is directing if he can do it him or herself or has years of experience in the field.

  19. Fan Feng says:

    I was so excited about their presentation. I could not help posting the pics online, my friends in China were so jealous about the good resources we had. The first time watching The Croods was in China, my parents accompanied me at that time. They were very happy after watching this amazing animation.
    I think the team work is very important for commercial animation production. They showed us the importance at the beginning of the presentation. It shocked me a lot. Then they showed us a piece of storyboarding (Chris Sanders is a amazing actor, too . I think…) which is partly different from the final work. I think it is very helpful showing us the works in different steps.
    A good animation always concentrate numerous people’s talent. That is the reason I like animation and film. Let’s fight.

  20. earnason says:

    Kirk and Chris gave an exciting presentation that I felt was a more than decent glimpse into their creative process. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the storyboards and having Chris act them out and it confirmed my suspicion that the story department is the most appealing department of any big studio to me.

  21. Lanzhu Jian says:

    Such a great presentation. i talked with Chris after the even and it is just a bless to talk with someone have so many talent in story telling. I m very inspired.

  22. Frederico de Sa Fernandez says:

    Both Directors, Kirk and Chris seem to have an astonishing amount of knowledge when it comes to movie entertainment. A great seminar with lots of wonderful subjects regarding the animation and storytelling medium. The Croods seems like a great film, the portrait of the family and it’s journey of salvation relate very closely to our personal background as humans that rely so much on that model. Clever humor was everywhere, as well as a sense of intense work. How they’ve managed the story development was fabulous, running over it again and again.
    Very inspiring!

  23. Yawen Zheng says:

    I really enjoy this wonderful presentation! We are so close to the director and study from them. It’s very useful for us to get know each process for the Croods and storyboard pitches. also the USC marching band is awesome!

  24. Amelia says:

    This seminar was very fun. As my classmates have said, it was interesting to see behind the scenes of a big studio. I especially liked to see Chris Sanders’ rough storyboards and to hear him talk about how he was basically coaxed into storyboarding. I still do not think that a big studio is where I want to end up, I am always shocked at how much of a process these films go through, but it is fun to see that despite the corporate mentality and the shiny finished product, there is still an artistic side to the making of these films.

  25. Catalina says:

    This seminar was very fun! I also agree with Einar, I think the most fun department in a big studio is the story department. I really enjoy when artists pitch their work. Recently a former student form Elizabeth came to class and pitch us his storyboards and it was very fun. I would like to improve my pitch skills.

  26. Christina Brous says:

    I feel like everything’s been said about this presentation already, but I’ll just say it was so fun! Chris and Kirk are so casual and engaging and even though their backgrounds are so illustrious, I felt like I could go up to either one of them and have a great conversation with them without being intimidated. Seeing the storyboard versions was the best! It made me really want to be a storyboard artist, but then again, I have a bad habit of wanting to BE whatever job our presenters are selling to us (except vfx, bleh).

  27. calcagno3 says:

    As one of the lucky individuals to sit down with Kirk and Chris, I have to say the experience of being able to wine and dine with them and be able to understand them at their level was a super enriching moment in my time here at USC. I can’t tell you how much pressure I felt just making sure that I represented myself well, and subsequently the animation department, to both of these guys, in particular Chris Sanders ’cause I’ve been a huge fan of his for years.

    But I was especially flattered and honored that they accepted my comic book; that project was a dream project for years and even though I’m not as involved in it anymore, it still means a great deal to me. And to have it in their possession is just…incredible, truly.

    • elisabethmann says:

      Chris genuinely enjoyed receiving your comic book, Robert. I was really impressed you took the opportunity to do that.

  28. Brian Rhodes says:

    Personally this was one of the seminars I was very much looking forward to. Not so much for the movie, as to understand the process and ideas of making such a movie. I am a huge Chris Sanders fan and it was interesting to see how he perceives his own work, how they (Chris) come up with ideas and the challenges they face along the journey.

    To be such an incredible artist, I loveed that Chris spoke about the idea being the most important and the attention he focuses on story.

  29. Sophie Xing says:

    I was so happy they came to our school to make a presentation. It’s one of my favorite presentation for this semester. I’m glad to see the original storyboard. It was so funny. I always think The Croods should be the Oscars best animation this year.

  30. Yifu Zhou says:

    Croods is one of my favorite animation! I watched this movie in theater for 5 times with my classmates, my friends and my families when I was in China. I bought a DVD and watched again and again after it’s no longer in theater. I love the visual and the story. The way they using camera and the way the characters was animated is so amazing. I feel it is the most exciting thing for me to see Chris and Kirk presenting the way they made this animation. I was so exciting to meet with them. I hope I can make an animation like Croods some day in the future.

  31. emily says:

    “The Croods ” is my most favorite animation ! I am glad to see them in person. I really enjoyed their speech and it was fun to see how they present the story in DreamWorks.

  32. Fernando Rabelo says:

    Although I thought it was a bit too short, this seminar as incredible. Once more we had an opportunity to see the behinds the scenes of a successful movie, which is very inspirations and instructive for us animators. They showed us an important aspect of this career: Partnership. It’s very important to always respect others vision and also show yours when working with others. They showed that it could be a great combination when two minds are involved in the same process. Also it was great to have them showing the first boards and how they pitched some scenes of “The Croods.”

  33. Ryan Gillis says:

    I didn’t attend this wonderful presentation either. But I was lucky enough to see Chris Sanders talk on another occasion. His drawings always come off effortless and gestural, and they communicate very effectively.
    He’s got a great handle story. I remember a few semesters ago his co-director from How to Train Your Dragon came in for seminar, and talked about how they were brought in to totally restructure a troubled script. I think that movie turned out great, and I always like when great success come from hard work, not just a stroke of brilliance.

  34. Sijia Huang says:

    They are talented and great speakers. It is great to enjoy their speech. Great to see some original concept design and story board from them!

  35. Zheng Kang says:

    “The Croods” is one of my most favorite animation films. I saw this great film in the theater with my girlfriend in China. She loved it so much. I was so glad to see the directors in person. The talk in seminar was inspiring and both of them had a lot of great things to share from their work. It was interesting to see how many times the storyboard changed for the final movie. Also It was very helpful for us to get know each process for “The Croods” and storyboard pitches. One of the greatest seminar!

  36. Eric Cheng says:

    I LOVE Croods! I think this animation is the best DreamWors animation after the first KungFu Panda. Just like the lectures said, all DW animation are base on some existed culture, and croods is the first one DreamWorks create an original world with original culture. I think this is a valuable spirit to our industry and I am happy to know that DW still gonna keep develop it and make the second one.

  37. Li,Xia says:

    The band gives us a big surprise.
    The food is very good..

    Of course the most important thing is I got a lot of inspiration.
    It is very important to get feedback from other people.
    Animation is a team work. It is impossible to finish a feature animation film by one person.
    (But I still expect the advanced technique can make the animation making process easier, one day, Animation can easily made by several persons.)

  38. Ning Xu says:

    crazy seminar. They are really great, I think the skill to draw storyboard is such a great craft as a director.

  39. Simo Liu says:

    “The Croods” is one of my favorite animation! Cool animation, cool people and cool seminar! Very fun to see making progress of this cool film!

  40. Frank Gu says:

    The Croods!!! I personally think is the best animation in 2013. I really enjoyed the seminar from Chris and Kirk. I want to become a story artist one day so it was cool to see Chris presents the story in front of us. Best part in this seminar.

  41. Frank Gu says:

    What’s wrong with the blog? how come all my comment is gone?!

  42. Chaoqi Zhang says:

    Wow, the movie “The Croods”. Fantastic storytelling, each part is funny and touching, very entertainment experience, Good Story and good Team work, not only help for good movie but also saving life time.

  43. the orchestra at the end of the seminar was such a great surprise! and the food too. I loved one of the guys pitching their storyboard for us, he was such a good actor. They really had a vision for the whole piece and it reflected in what they were saying. I learned a lot about the team work from them

  44. Ruthie Williams says:

    I thought the world of The Croods was really imaginative and exciting when Dreamworks came to show up the concept art a year or so ago, and I was happy with how beautiful it turned out. I was especially excited to see that Chris Saunders injected so much of his amazing artistic sense and character design into the final product. The story I think only got a little forced in the middle, when the two guys are stuck in the tar. My favorite part of The Croods is how much detail and expression went into animating the characters and making them speak so much with body language.

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