VES Award-winning How To Train Your Dragon franchise alum Simon Otto has been set to make his animated feature directorial debut on Locksmith Animation’s That Christmas. Based on a trio of children’s books by writer/director Richard Curtis, and previously known as The Empty Stocking, the film is currently in development at Locksmith Animation’s studios in London.
Elisabeth Murdoch, Sarah Smith, Julie Lockhart and Bonnie Arnold are executive producing That Christmas. Curtis is writing the screenplay with Peter Souter and will also exec produce along with Colin Hopkins and the book’s illustrator Rebecca Cobb.
The three Curtis books in the series — The Empty Stocking, Snow Day and That Christmas — tell charming family stories which take place in the run-up to Christmas. The Locksmith film places these stories in a small English beach town and interweaves them to create what the studio describes as “Love Actually for kids.” This is the first animated feature project for Curtis whose hit movies include Yesterday, Love Actually, Four Weddings And A Funeral, Notting Hill and About Time.
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In addition to overseeing the animation on the How To Train Your Dragon films, Otto was instrumental in designing and developing the look of the characters, their personalities, and the overall style of the animation as well as working in the story department. He joined DreamWorks in 1997 to work on The Prince Of Egypt and served as supervising animator both in hand-drawn and CG animation on many of the studio’s features including Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron, Over The Hedge and the Aardman co-production Flushed Away. Otto won a Visual Effects Society award for Outstanding Animation in a Feature Film for the first HTTYD movie in 2010 and was nominated again in 2015 for HTTYD2.
While at DreamWorks, Otto directed multiple episodes of various Netflix animated series including Dragon – Race To The Edge and Trollhunters: Tales Of Arcadia. After 21 years at DreamWorks Animation, Otto left the studio to pursue a variety of projects in shorts, series and features. Most recently, he directed “The Tall Grass” episode of Love, Death & Robots, Volume 2 for Netflix.
Locksmith’s first feature film, Ron’s Gone Wrong, will be released worldwide by Disney on October 22, 2021.