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Simon Otto—perhaps best known for the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy, for which he served as head of character animation and, for the second and third films, story artist–will make his animated feature film directorial debut on Locksmith Animation’s That Christmas
Previously known as The Empty Stocking, the movie is based on a trio of Christmas children’s books by Richard Curtis (Love Actually, Four Weddings and a Funeral). The film places these stories in a small English beach town and interweaves the stories to create what the studio describes as “Love Actually for kids.”
Otto, who was born and raised in Switzerland, joined DreamWorks in 1997 to work on The Prince of Egypt and worked as supervising animator both in hand-drawn and CG animation on numerous DWA features including Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, Over the Hedge and the Aardman co-production Flushed Away.
He won a Visual Effects Society award for outstanding animation in a feature film for the first How To Train Your Dragon and was nominated again for How to Train Your Dragon 2. While at DreamWorks, he directed multiple episodes of Dragons: Race to the Edge and Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia. Most recently, he directed “The Tall Grass” episode of Love, Death & Robots, Volume 2 for Netflix.
Last week, UK-based Locksmith announced that Natalie Fischer—a former COO of Illumination Entertainment–has been named CEO of the company, succeeding co-founder Sarah Smith, director (alongside Jean-Philippe Vine) and co-writer of Locksmith’s first animated feature, Ron’s Gone Wrong. Smith has stepped down from her role at the studio to “concentrate on developing her own creative projects,” according to the announcement. Additionally, co-founder and Ron’s Gone Wrong producer Julie Lockhart was named Locksmith’s president of production.
Lockhart, Smith, Elisabeth Murdoch and How To Train Your Dragon trilogy producer Bonnie Arnold are executive producers on That Christmas. This marks the first animated feature project for Curtis, who is writing the screenplay with Peter Souter, and he will also exec produce along with Colin Hopkins and the book’s illustrator Rebecca Cobb.
Ron’s Gone Wrong will be released worldwide by Disney’s 20th Century Studios on Oct. 22.
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