Sanders had apparently been informed before last Wednesday that he was no longer going to be the director, and according to this source, was deeply disappointed, hurt and angered. The source also writes, "Chris felt like his heart had been ripped out, and he didn't expect if from someone (Lasseter) who always talks about a director-driven studio model. This was totally Chris' project from the start, he was pouring himself into it, and now he's fired."I know nothing about this beyond what I'm reading on the web, but it brings to mind several things.
Creators have an emotional connection to their creations; business people do not. Creators love their characters and stories the way parents love their children. Business people see ideas, scripts, films, etc. as raw materials to be manipulated for maximum profit.
Richard Williams says that the Golden Rule is that the person with the gold makes the rules. Artists who take a paycheque in exchange for creating always serve at the pleasure of those who pay them. Reputation and track record can provide a creator with some leverage, but never enough to fully control a creation.
Right now, the Disney money is backing Lasseter and Catmull and not Chris Sanders. Eventually, Disney will back someone else. That's the nature of the system.
The high cost of creating animation is one of its artistic tragedies. Creators in other media who can afford to self-finance their work (authors, painters, composers, etc.) are far luckier than animators.
This is the second time that Pixar's management has replaced a director who originated a story. Jan Pinkava was taken off Ratatouille, which is now being directed by Brad Bird. I do not expect Pixar to make any public statements about this, but I think they should. If they don't, Pixar's reputation within the business may be seriously damaged. Those already working for Pixar will think twice about offering ideas to the company. Those aspiring to work for Pixar may think twice about applying.
Finally, a reminder about the wonders of the web. Never before in history has an animation artist had the opportunity to create and own a film and make it available to a potential audience of billions. True, at this time you've got to lower your expectations in terms of budget and box office, but I'm betting that all over the world today animators are looking at Chris Sanders and thinking twice about working for big studios.