Locksmith Animation: the UK's newest movie studio looking to take on Hollywood

In a market dominated by America's elite, one British startup is hoping to take the animation industry by storm

Published Last updated

It’s been more than four years in the making but Locksmith Animation, the newest studio in the UK film scene have released their first feature film ‘Ron’s Gone Wrong’ into cinemas with 20th Century Studios.

It’s no easy feat to release a film during the late stages for the pandemic, especially as it’s their first film out the gate, but as I went for a behind the scenes tour of the studio’s headquarters in Primrose Hill, it’s clear the studio was not just full of optimism for the release, but they are looking firmly ahead to the future. It also helps that they have major production film talent behind them complete with the financial backing of Elizabeth Murdoch.

The studio was co-founded by three-time Academy Award nominee Julie Lockhart, who is as big as it gets. Before starting the studio, she held leadership roles at Aardman Animations, the company behind the hit British franchise ‘Wallace and Gromit’ where she was a producer on many of the studio’s acclaimed projects including the Emmy and BAFTA award winning ‘Shaun the Sheep’ series.

She’s one of the main players in building this brand-new studio from scratch but it’s clear that she has high hopes for the company.

She said: “We’re a new studio but we actually started up eight years ago and that’s how long these things take from an animation point of view. "Sarah Smith came with this crazy idea to start up an animation studio that could rival the greats in the states and that’s what we set out to do. We’re so proud to show the world our first movie because we feel it takes its place amongst the best."

The animation market is known to be incredibly competitive, especially when you have established studios that have been on the scene for decades. Pixar is a subsidiary of Walt Disney Studios and are known for the worldwide smash hit Toy Story franchise whilst Illumination Entertainment has made a global identity for themselves in the market through the popular ‘Despicable Me’ and ‘Minions’ movies.

However Locksmith are attracting some of the best talent from around the world and are bringing them to the UK. Another major player is the company’s CEO Natalie Fischer who joined the company in February 2021.

Although this is a new venture for her, like Julie, she is no stranger to the animation market having worked in senior roles in Illumination as well as in other major media companies such as Universal and Channel 4.

Although some might consider it a risk to join a new studio before the release of a single feature film, she has previously been instrumental in developing one of the biggest animation companies in the world, and she wants to do the same by re-enforcing the drive to bring global talent to the UK so the new studio can properly compete on the global stage.

Liam Payne arrives for the world premiere of 'Ron's Gone Wrong', at the Royal Festival Hall in London during the BFI London Film Festival. Picture date: Saturday October 9, 2021.
Liam Payne arrives for the world premiere of 'Ron's Gone Wrong', at the Royal Festival Hall in London during the BFI London Film Festival. Picture date: Saturday October 9, 2021.

She said: “Having spent 10 years in the CG Industry in the US and seeing all of the wonderful British and European talent that was there and that wanted to work closer to home, it really wasn’t scary. When they shared this idea with me it was like ‘How does that not already exist?’

"It’s such a good opportunity to not just work with European talent, but global talent to make films for a global audience. Julie Lockhart is quick to reinforce that strategy idea, adding: “We have so much talent here in the UK, it was just wonderful to be able to bring them from all the different areas.

"We have people from Bristol, we have people from London, people from across the UK but also people from the states, from Europe. For us it was important to build the studio here and to build it together … with a pipeline here that we can make a movie together and to develop the industry in London so that it can go on and on and become a new centre for CG and animation excellence.”

It’s clear that this new studio wants to compete with international giants, and it is attracting the global talent necessary to do so, not just off screen but on it too. ‘Ron’s Gone Wrong’ may only be their first film but already Locksmith Animation have attracted stars like British Academy Award winner Olivia Colman to star in their feature film debut complete with One Direction’s Liam Payne to helm the main song on the soundtrack.

However what is also clear, is the studios focus to be a part of building the UK to be more of a prime destination for excellent filmmaking, particularly in the global animation market.