Chris Williams is one of the most prolific filmmakers in animation, and his solo directorial debut, The Sea Beast, has just recently released on Netflix. The film tells the story of a young girl stowing away on the ship of a sea monster hunter and the subsequent adventure the pair go on together.
Accruing 95% on the Rotten Tomatoes scale, with the audience scoring it an impressive 88% (via the Rotten Tomatoes website), it doesn’t really come as a great surprise. It is the kind of grand story that Williams has worked on for years, having spent most of his career as a major contributor to some of Disney’s most acclaimed animated features.
Williams’s first Disney work was as a story artist for Mulan, the tale of a young Chinese woman during the Han Dynasty, who impersonates a man in order to take her father’s place in the military during a Hun invasion. One of Disney’s great successes during the Disney Renaissance, the film won huge at the box office, earning $304 million worldwide (via Box Office Mojo), and receive major critical acclaim for its animation and characters.
It would go on to spawn a direct-to-video sequel and later on a live-action adaptation, as well as a McDonald’s menu item that would become the stuff of internet legend.
The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
Williams’ first writing credit with Disney came from his work on The Emperor’s New Groove, receiving a story credit for the endlessly quotable film about a selfish Emperor who is transformed into a llama during a comically failed assassination attempt. While the film didn’t quite receive the acclaim of other Disney films, it has often been cited as one of the company’s funniest features (via EW).
It’s great to see that the crew’s hard work eventually paid off considering that the film had a troubled production (via Polygon). Originally intended to be a comedy musical with a more serious tone, the film underwent a complete overhaul into a full-fledged comedy halfway through production. During this time, Williams helped to create the Pacha character voiced by John Goodman as an older contrast to Kuzco (via Vulture).
Lilo And Stitch (2003)
Lilo and Stitch had recently made waves on social media, with many believing that it should have received the wider success and acclaim that Frozen received for its depiction of sisterly love (with some even arguing that Lilo & Nani are the better siblings). The film is widely-considered one of the most beloved Disney films of the 2000s, and its heartfelt story is surely one of the reasons why.
Chris Williams worked as a story artist for both of these films, meaning he had a hand in creating two of Disney’s most prolific franchises that have spawned sequels, video games, and theme park attractions.
Chicken Little (2005)
Williams was a story artist for Chicken Little, an adaptation of the Henny Penny fable in which a chicken believes that the world is coming to an end and that the sky is falling. The film was Disney’s first in-house computer-animation film and grossed over $300 million worldwide (via Box Office Mojo), though received less than stellar reviews for what many critics saw as a weak story.
A direct-to-video sequel was planned, entitled Chicken Little 2: The Ugly Duckling Story, but the film never materialized due to Disney’s then-new Chief Creative Officer, John Lasseter, halting all production of sequels (via rotoscopers.com).
In 2008, Williams received his first feature-film directing and screenwriting credit, directing the film Bolt with Byron Howard. Howard himself would go on to direct the massively successful Tangled, Zootopia, and Encanto for Disney.
Another troubled production, Williams and Howard were brought on as co-directors to replace Chris Sanders after creative differences (via slashfilm.com), helming the story of a television star dog embarking on a journey to get back to his owner, who is then joined by a sarcastic cat and a hamster that is a superfan of his. The film was a return to acclaim for Williams, as it received positive reviews for its likable characters, as well as its story’s winning mix of heart and comedy.
While Williams worked as a story artist for Frozen, he also notably stepped into voice acting in the film. More than the mere additional voices he had provided to other movies in the past, Williams voiced a named-character, Oaken, in a very memorable scene.
Oaken is the extremely polite owner of the trading post and sauna where Anna and Kristoff meet. Hilariously, the scene concludes with the polite Oaken turning out to be a towering behemoth, who violently launches Kristoff out of the building for calling him a “crook.”
Big Hero 6 (2014)
Williams next stepped into the director’s chair for Big Hero 6, the first animated Marvel film by Disney, which tells the story of a young superhero team forming to stop a masked villain. The film was a massive success, not only receiving huge praise for its combination of action and heart, but also grossing over $600 million worldwide (via Box Office Mojo) and winning Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards.
The film has spawned multiple television series, including the recent Baymax! Disney+ Orignal series, and follows the incredibly likable Baymax and the characters he encounters as he provides them with help.
One of Disney’s most acclaimed animated films, Moana saw Williams in a co-director position, as well as once again receiving a writing credit for story. The story, telling the tale of the titular teenager, who sets on a voyage across the ocean in search of the demigod, Maui, in order gain his help to restore the Heart of Te Fiti.
It became a cultural phenomenon, with audiences fawning over its action-packed and emotional journey. The film is deeply loved by many and is now considered one of the most rewatchable movie musicals.
Ralph Breaks The Internet (2018)
Williams has only executive produced two films in his career. His recent film The Sea Beast being one of them, and Wreck-It Ralph sequel Ralph Breaks the Internet being the other one.
Disney’s first computer-animated sequel film, the movie follows video game characters Ralph and Vanellope as they journey through the various websites on the internet and the characters they find there, including those belonging to several other Disney properties. Ralph Breaks the Internet has endured in the current pop culture thanks to some of the internet memes the film spawned.
Raya And The Last Dragon (2021)
The most recent Disney film Williams lent his work to was the 2021 film Raya and the Last Dragon, a story about a warrior princess who goes on a quest to find the last remaining dragon that can help save her world from the evil Druun.
The film was Disney’s first animated foray back into theaters during the COVID-19 pandemic, simultaneously releasing on Disney+ Premier Access at the same time. The film proved popular, eventually ending up the third-most streamed film of 2021 (via Variety), with many praising the animation and the dynamic characters.
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