Richard Curtis, Peter Souter and Simon Otto inspire at DNEG London!

Creative visionaries behind ‘That Christmas’ share insight for DNEG Animation’s Inspire Series

We were thrilled to welcome Richard Curtis, Peter Souter and Simon Otto to DNEG as special guests for our Inspire series!

On Tuesday, May 16th, the writers and director behind That Christmas, an upcoming animated holiday feature film, currently in production at DNEG Animation, joined us for an insightful discussion at our London studio.

Richard Curtis, Peter Souter and Simon Otto make up the creative team at the helm of That Christmas. Richard, a renowned filmmaker known for his work on beloved films such as Love Actually and Four Weddings and a Funeral, and iconic TV shows such as Blackadder and Mr. Bean, initially conceived That Christmas as a captivating series of children’s books. Teaming up with co-writer Peter, they adapted the tale into a feature-length animated film directed by Simon, known for his work on high-profile animated films including the How To Train Your Dragon series!


The session was moderated by DNEG Animation’s Creative Director Philippe Denis and covered a number of topics, including the challenges of adapting the writing process during the COVID era, the contrasting experiences of working on live-action films versus animation, and navigating the intricacies of rewrites and rejection.


Speaking on the animation process, Richard marvelled at how production and post-production happen simultaneously:

“The ability to try things and change things throughout the process; you’re not stuck with what you shot on the day. It’s like being able to re-cook a meal when you weren’t happy with how parts of it turned out. It’s a magical and privileged position.”

Reflecting on his role in the writing process, Peter described his contributions as a series of writing several versions of scenes and dialogue…only to have most of them be rejected. Yet, this process ultimately led him to craft some of the film’s most hilarious moments:

“It was like I was Usain Bolt’s left sock, only contributing to every other step. But I found this tremendously freeing.”

Simon Otto, transitioning from his background in animation to his directorial debut with That Christmas, shared a shift in his perspective on the creative process. He emphasised the importance of building a team of exceptionally talented individuals and setting aside egos to allow the best ideas to flourish:

“Sometimes you have to make tough choices about cutting something that an artist worked very hard on, and is great on its own, but doesn’t necessarily fit in the film. As an animator myself, I don’t take those decisions lightly.”

Throughout the discussion, all three speakers expressed their deep appreciation for the remarkable work being done by DNEG Animation and extended heartfelt gratitude to all the talented individuals involved in bringing their vision to life.


After the session, our team enjoyed some delicious drinks, canapés, and a chance to chat with our esteemed guests!


On the event, DNEG Animation’s Senior Director, Training & Development Andrew Schlussel said:

“It was a thrill to get to meet Richard Curtis in person, and inspirational to hear about his vision for the film and how it came together. “

We’d like to extend our sincere thanks to Richard, Peter and Simon for joining us for this special INSPIRE event. Stay tuned for more information about That Christmas, coming soon!




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