Locksmith Animation, the new feature digital animation company, set up by former Aardman colleagues, Sarah Smith (director, Arthur Christmas) and Julie Lockhart (producer, Shaun the Sheep Movie), along with media mogul, Elisabeth Murdoch (co-founder and chairman of the company) officially opens up in North London.
The news was announced at the launch party last month at the company’s new headquarters and the audience included Cate Blanchett as well as several big names in US animation.
Located in Primrose Hill, this 5,000 sq. ft., three-level studio will house 70 artists, crew and staff as well as will serve a base for writers, directors and producers working on the company’s projects. The studio plans to deliver one CG animated movie every 12 to 18 months.
“The studio gives a home to Locksmith’s ambition to create a major new strand of CG-animated movies here in London. It’s a wonderful building, but it’s the artists that are our greatest assets. We hope it will add to the appeal of London as a world-class destination for the best animation talent working today,” said co-CEOs Smith and Lockhart.
Setting up big British animation companies have failed invariably as animation studios do not come cheap. Pixar spent a reported $175 million on producing Inside Out (2015) and even more on its most recent hit, Coco (2017) while Aardman’s most recent feature Early Man was made for $50 million which is quarter of what is spent on other Hollywood animated features.
Locksmith Animation has struck a multi picture development and distribution deal with 20th Century Fox and has already partnered with Double Negative, the British VFX and computer animation company of Interstellar, Dunkirk and Blade Runner 2049 fame.
“You have to be realistic and understand what the world’s children want to see. I am ambitious for that. Animated movies are such a gigantic labour of love that you want them to be seen and to mean something to kids all around the world. That means you can’t be inward looking and British. You have to look outward,” Smith stated.
Locksmith is currently in production on its first film Ron’s Gone Wrong due in November 2020. The story is about a wonderful walking, talking, digitally connected robot and an 11 year-old boy who ends up with a dysfunctional one. When the robot goes wrong, the kid has to work out what friendships and relationship mean in a world of online and screen time.
The award-winning team includes director J.P. Vine (story artist – Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur), production designers Nathan Crowley (Dunkirk, Interstellar) and Aurelien Predal (Mune: Guardian of the Moon, The Little Prince), producer Lara Breay (Megamind, Penguins of Madagascar), editor David Burrows (The LEGO Movie), cinematographer David Peers (Happy Feet) and VFX supervisor Philippe Denis (Trolls).
Earlier this year, Locksmith optioned the children’s novel Wed Wabbit by Lissa Evans. Future projects will include a punky, irreverent, kick-ass girl movie set in London and an end-of-the-world adventure focused on a kid-run Earth, both of which have been optioned by Fox, Lockhart told The Hollywood Reporter after the opening night.