Simon Otto Simon Otto

Simon Otto, the veteran Dreamworks animator and character designer, is directing his first feature. He will helm That Christmas, a holiday feature from London’s young Locksmith Animation.

The film, which is currently in development, is based on three Christmas children’s books written by British writer-director Richard Curtis (Love Actually). Set in a small English beach town, the narrative interweaves various stories from the book. Locksmith describes it as “Love Actually for kids.”

During his 21-year stint at Dreamworks, Otto played a key role on the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy, serving as head of character animation (and winning a VES Award), and also as a designer and story artist; director Dean DeBlois described him as “like a co-director.” Otto has also directed episodes of series including Netflix’s Dragon — Race to the Edge and Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia, as well as the segment “The Tall Grass” in the streamer’s Love, Death & Robots, Volume 2.

Curtis, whose writing credits also include Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, and Yesterday, will write the screenplay with Peter Souter. He will executive-produce alongside Colin Hopkins and the books’ illustrator Rebecca Cobb, Bonnie Arnold (How to Train Your Dragon), and Locksmith co-founders Elisabeth Murdoch, Sarah Smith, and Julie Lockhart.

Founded in 2014, Locksmith aims to produce high-end cg features on budgets smaller than Hollywood’s. Its first feature, Ron’s Gone Wrong, will be released by Disney on October 22. The studio, which has signed a development and production deal with Warner Bros., announced earlier this week that Illumination veteran Natalie Fischer has joined as CEO.

That Christmas

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