Sanders, having left Disney after 2006's Pixar deal (which put his "American Dog" under new bosses), already was at DreamWorks and had spent a year directing the prehistoric story "The Croods." Damaschke thought Sanders would be a good choice to replace Hastings (whose talent agency did not return a call seeking comment). "I didn't know anything specific about the story," Sanders says. "I just had a good feeling about it." He set aside "The Croods," which will now come out a year later than originally scheduled, in March 2012.
It was October 2008, and although "How to Train Your Dragon" previously had been moved from November 2009 to March 2010 (largely to steer clear of "Avatar"), Sanders didn't have a minute to lose; DreamWorks, confident it made good sense to release three movies this year, worried that if the film wasn't ready by March it would slip all the way to 2011. Even when every scene in an animated movie is written, storyboarded and animated, it takes months more to finish the film's lighting, scoring and sound mixing, meaning that Sanders had just a year to remake it.
One of Sanders' first calls was to DeBlois, his "Lilo & Stitch" collaborator, who was in Seattle, trying to kick-start several live-action movies that he would write and direct. "Chris said, 'What are you doing right now?' " DeBlois recalls. "I bought a plane ticket. And we started that week."