After a few false starts, Locksmith, an ambitious young studio based in London, has struck a deal with Warner Bros. Pictures. Details follow:

  • The pact covers the development and production of theatrical family features. The two companies will co-develop the projects, which Warner Bros. will release worldwide. According to a statement, “Locksmith will collaborate closely with Allison Abbate, executive vice president, Warner Animation Group to add a fresh voice to complement the studio’s current animation activities.”
  • Sarah Smith and Julie Lockhart.
  • “We’re absolutely delighted to become part of the Warner Bros. family with this partnership,” said Sarah Smith and Julie Lockhart, co-CEOs of Locksmith. “The studio has not only a revered legacy in animation, but an outstanding record in bringing contemporary family classics to global audiences. We look forward to working with its visionary leadership team to bring our unique voice and brand to worldwide audiences.”
  • Locksmith was founded in 2014 by Smith and Lockhart, industry veterans previously associated with Aardman Animations. They received financial backing from Elisabeth Murdoch, media executive and daughter of media tycoon Rupert.
  • Locksmith is pitching itself as the U.K.’s only studio dedicated to high-end cg features. At a recent event at Encounters Festival, Smith and Lockhart said that they will produce “comedy adventures, with heart.” Their budgets will land in the range of $75–$100 million — large sums for Europe, but considered upper-mid range for major U.S. studios.
  • Since its founding, Locksmith has met with a few setbacks. An initial production deal with Paramount Pictures was revoked following a change of leadership at the U.S. studio.
  • There followed a new production deal with 20th Century Fox (which was run at the time by the Murdoch family). That arrangement also collapsed after Disney’s merger with Fox. But the House of Mouse will still distribute Locksmith’s first feature, Ron’s Gone Wrong, which is due for release in late 2020 or early 2021.
  • Animation on Locksmith’s films is handled by DNEG, a major production house in London known chiefly for its vfx work that is in the process of expanding its character animation division.

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