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Sarah Smith Steps Down at Locksmith Animation as Natalie Fischer Named CEO

Co-founder leaves to develop own projects; former Illumination COO takes the helm, with co-founder and ‘Ron’s Gone Wrong’ producer Julie Lockhart named president of production.

Locksmith Animation has named former COO and senior advisor of Illumination Entertainment, Natalie Fischer, CEO. Company co-founder Julie Lockhart has been named president of production, continuing to lead all aspects of production and development while partnering with Fischer at a strategic level. The announcements were made as the animation company gears up for the October global release of its first CG animated feature film, Ron’s Gone Wrong. Lockhart served as the film’s producer.

Co-founder Sarah Smith, writer, and director of Ron’s Gone Wrong, has stepped down from her role at the studio to concentrate on developing her own creative projects. 

“We are incredibly fortunate that Natalie Fischer has joined us to lead Locksmith’s expansion,” commented Locksmith Animation chair & co-founder Elisabeth Murdoch. “She has a proven track record of success in the animation industry and those instincts and insights combined with Julie Lockhart’s unsurpassed production expertise will guide a new era of growth at our studio. I’d also like to thank our co-founder Sarah Smith for her contributions to Locksmith’s growth, her dedication to building the amazing team at the company, and her vision as a filmmaker.  We are grateful for her leadership and stewardship of our first release, Ron’s Gone Wrong.”

Currently, the studio is currently in production on That Christmas (formerly known as The Empty Stocking), a holiday film based on the children’s book series by filmmaker Richard Curtis. Also, in development is an original musical/comedy set up at Warner Bros. Pictures.  

Fischer joined Illumination as head of business development in 2009.  Her contributions to the growth of Illumination date back to the inception of the studio, when she worked closely with founder Chris Meledandri on the studio’s original business plan in 2007. She was integrally involved in the company’s launch and rollout. Previously, she was SVP, business development and strategy at Universal from 2004 to 2009, and a business strategist at Channel 4 Television in the UK prior to that. She holds an MBA from Harvard and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania. 

“I'm thrilled to be joining Liz, Julie and the incredible Locksmith team at an exciting time in the animation industry,” noted Fischer. “We have big opportunities ahead and I look forward to using my experience to help drive this new phase of growth at Locksmith.”

Source: Locksmith Animation