British studio Locksmith Animation announced today a multi-year production partnership with Twentieth Century Fox Film (TCFF) that is expected to result in a new cg feature film release every 12-18 months. The deal’s first project has already been greenlit.


Locksmith, started by former Aardman exec Sarah Smith and Aardman producer Julie Lockhart, will develop and produce the films entirely in London using Double Negative’s pipeline. The alliance between Locksmtih and Double Negative was established in 2014, when Locksmith first launched.

Though Locksmith signed a deal with Paramount Pictures last year to develop animated features, the partnership with Fox is a more natural fit. That’s because the company’s principal shareholder (and third co-founder) is Elisabeth Murdoch, the daughter of Rupert Murdoch, executive co-chairman of 21st Century Fox, the parent company of TCFF. Elisabeth’s brother Lachlan Murdoch is the other executive co-chairman of 21st Century Fox, and her brother James is the CEO.

Locksmith’s mission is to create a second pipeline of animated feature production, to supplement the films already produced by Fox-owned Blue Sky Studios. This follows a trend by other American majors who are using a two-studio pipeline to capitalize on the growing popularity of feature animation: for example, Disney has Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar; Universal has Illumination and Dreamworks Animation.

“As we redouble our efforts in the family and animation space, there is no better partner in the world to welcome into our family than Locksmith,” said TCFF chairman and CEO Stacey Snider. “Julie and Sarah are each singular talents, and together with their vast experience and belief in the preeminence of the storyteller, they are building a world class animation studio that is attracting top tier talent to an ambitious slate of projects.”

Added Smith and Lockhart, “We are thrilled by the response of both Stacey and the Fox team to Locksmith’s vision, talent, and IP. TCFF has a first-class track record in marketing and distributing animation, and their shared appreciation of our stories make this a truly exciting partnership. Embarking on production of our first film, with more titles in the pipeline, is a great moment for Locksmith.”