The head of character animation of the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy, Simon Otto, is set to make his feature directorial debut on the upcoming film That Christmas (previously titled The Empty Stocking) at Locksmith Animation. The film is based on a trio of Christmas children’s books by Richard Curtis, the writer-director behind such films like Four Weddings and a Funeral, Mr. Bean, Love Actually, and Yesterday.
The three children’s books written by Curtis, Empty Stocking, Snow Day, and That Christmas tell different family stories set in the run-up to Christmas. Like what happens when a family breaks all Christmas traditions, or a snow day where you’re trapped at school with your least favorite teacher. The film version will place the three stories in a small English beach town and then interweave them to create what Locksmith Animation is describing as “Love Actually for kids.”
Locksmith co-founder Julie Lockhart said this in a statement:
“Simon Otto is one of the pre-eminent artists working in the feature film animation arena today. His superb taste and his ability to endow animated characters and stories with heart, humor and pathos is in a class by itself. We are overjoyed that he will be making his feature directing debut on this Locksmith project.”
Lockhart, a former executive at Aardman Studios (Chicken Run), co-founded Locksmith in 2014 together with animator Sarah Smith, who co-directed the (very underrated) animated film, Arthur Christmas, starring James McAvoy. Locksmith hasn’t premiered a film yet, but their first project, Ron’s Gone Wrong, recently got its first trailer ahead of its October debut.
As for Otto, he started out as an animator with DreamWork‘s The Prince of Egypt, before heading character animation on the How To Train Your Dragon movies. He recently directed multiple episodes of Dragon – Race to the Edge and Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia, before leaving DreamWorks Animation and directing the “Tall Grass” episode of Love, Death & Robots, Volume 2 for Netflix.
There’s currently no release date for That Christmas, but Locksmith Animation‘s Ron’s Gone Wrong hits theaters on October, 22.