Elisabeth Murdoch Helps Open Locksmith Animation's London Studio

Credit: Locksmith Animation
Sarah Smith, Elisabeth Murdoch and Julie Lockhart

The company, co-founded by Sarah Smith, Julie Lockhart and Murdoch, is already working on 'Ron's Gone Wrong' for Fox and has two further animated feature films in the pipeline for the studio.

The latest major entry into the world of high-end CG animation has officially opened the doors to its new studio.

Locksmith Animation, which already has a three-picture deal with 20th Century Fox, formally opened its facilities in London's plush Primrose Hill neighborhood on Monday, with co-founders Elisabeth Murdoch, Sarah Smith and Julie Lockhart on hand to welcome guests, who included Cate Blanchett. 

"We are creating the next global animation powerhouse in the U.K.," said Murdoch, who teamed up with former Aardman Animation executives Smith (Arthur Christmas) and Lockhart (Shaun the Sheep) to create Locksmith four years ago after leaving TV giant Shine, which she set up before selling to her father Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, before it split into News Corp and  21st Century Fox, in 2011. 

The three-level, 5,000-square-foot studio first opened in late 2017 and has since brought in around 70 staff from the U.K. and overseas, many working on Locksmith's first feature, Ron's Gone Wrong, which has been in production for seven months and due out in 2020.

Smith and Lockhart said they had sought out some of the biggest names in animation to collaborate on their projects, something underlined by the assortment of names working on Ron's Gone Wrong. Among the film's multi-award-winning team are director and Pixar vet J.P. Vine (Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur), production designers Nathan Crowley (Dunkirk, Interstellar, The Dark Knight) with Aurelien Predal (Mune, 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).

While the Primrose Hill facility will house the creative "front-end" team of writers, directors, producers and artists, the digital production will take place at Locksmith's London pipeline partner, the Oscar-winning VFX giant Double Negative. Double Negative's CEO Matt Holben and managing director Alex Hope both serve as directors of Locksmith. 

In her speech, Smith briefly spoke about her company's two future projects, including a "properly irreverent girl movie set in London" and a film about the "end of times," when kids have inherited the earth. Lockhart later told The Hollywood Reporter that both had been optioned by Fox. Locksmith -- which is expected to deliver a film every 12 to 15 months, helping to bolster Fox's focus on family titles -- has also optioned the rights to Lissa Evans' acclaimed children's book Wed Wabbit. 

The building in which Locksmith's studio sits also houses Murdoch's arts education charity Freelands Foundation, which she said would help empower the next generation of creatives working at the company.