Former Aardman Animation Creative Director Sarah Smith is branching out on her own, creating the UK’s first dedicated high-end CG feature animation studio, Locksmith Animation. The new shingle’s focus will be on creating a long-term slate of CG-animated pics for a worldwide audience. Locksmith has received backing from Elisabeth Murdoch, who is the principle shareholder and made the investment in a personal capacity, as well as VFX house Double Negative which will collaborate closely with the company. This is a major development in the UK toon sector following the introduction of the animation tax credit last year.
Smith made her animation debut as director and co-writer of 2011’s Arthur Christmas, and co-exec produced The Pirates! Band Of Misfits in 2012. Her other credits include producing UK TV series The League Of Gentlemen, and several collaborations with Armando Iannucci. She joined Aardman in 2006. Double Negative, a major player in Britain’s bustling VFX arena, counts credits that include The Dark Knight Rises, Skyfall, Les Misérables, Fast & Furious 6, Captain Phillips, Rush, Man Of Steel, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Transcendence and Godzilla. Smith said today, “With animated films among the most beloved and successful movies in the world, but still only a handful of producers out there, the UK offers Locksmith a unique opportunity, including a world class CG Visual FX industry, brilliant comedy writers and directors, outstanding children’s literature, the European animation talent pool, and government tax credits.” The company has plans to announce an international creative board of animation writers, directors and digital experts.