Lion Forge Entertainment & Nickelodeon Animation Ink First-Look Deal For Series & Features

Lion Forge Entertainment and Nickelodeon Animation

By, Denise Petski, July 11, 2023 8:30am (Deadline)

EXCLUSIVE: Lion Forge Entertainment, the company behind the Oscar-winning Hair Love, and Nickelodeon Animation are teaming on a first-look deal covering animated series and features, with a commitment to create content that features diverse voices in front of and behind the camera.

Under the pact, Nickelodeon Animation will have a first look at all Lion Forge Entertainment kids and family IP across animated series, features, short-form and digital content. The company also may bring select Nickelodeon and Paramount IP to Lion Forge to develop and produce.

Lion Forge Entertainment also will have the option to co-finance certain projects the company brings to Nickelodeon, as well as serve as the animation studio on select Nickelodeon projects.

Initial projects identified for potential development include Born Driven, a story based on the life of Wendell Scott, the first Black NASCAR driver; comedy adventure Iron Dragon, based on original IP created by Jay Kim at Mostapes studio in South Korea and Lion Forge; and Marley and the Family Band, an animated series based on Cedella Marley’s picture book, co-produced by Polygram Entertainment.

Lion Forge Animation, founded by the son of U.S. technology billionaire David Steward, was rebranded to Lion Forge Entertainment earlier this year. It is one of the very few Black-owned animation studios in North America and is recognized for diverse stories, authentically told. The Steward family, who control one of the U.S.’ largest Black fortunes, is aiming to raise up to $50 million to boost efforts to create racially diverse film and television content, Bloomberg reported, citing a person familiar with the plans.

Lion Forge aims to monetize its own IP to build franchises, as well as create new IP that can be leveraged across its publishing businesses.

Lion Forge Entertainment currently develops and produces animated and live-action content targeting kids and family, YA and adult audiences, building on the success of earlier Lion Forge Animation projects including the Oscar-winning Hair Love, and the upcoming Iyanu animated series for Max based on Yoruban mythology.

Lion Forge Entertainment CEO David Steward II and President and Chief Content Officer Stephanie Sperber oversaw the deal, which was brokered by Activist Artists Management’s Greg Suess and Jon Kanak. The deal expands the relationship between Sperber and Nickelodeon, where Sperber oversaw creative IP development and production of the Annie Award-winning The Tiny Chef Show and Bossy Bear and served as executive producer of Nickelodeon’s live-action series The Astronauts during her time at Imagine Kids+Family Entertainment.

“Lion Forge Entertainment is on the vanguard of so many exciting and new stories being told in animation, and we are so incredibly happy to be entering into this deal to create new content together for our global audience,” said Ramsey Naito, President Paramount Animation and Nickelodeon Animation.

“I am thrilled to work with Ramsey and her world-class teams at Nickelodeon Animation. Nickelodeon has always been a creative north star, and the opportunity to partner in creating new content that features diverse characters and builds a path for diverse talent in the animation industry is incredibly exciting,” said Steward.

“I look forward to continuing the wonderful creative partnership with the Nickelodeon team. Together, we have a fantastic opportunity to impact kids and families around the world by showing diversity on screen as well as creating a pipeline for young diverse talent within the animation industry,” said Sperber. “Plus, Nickelodeon is one of the best franchise-builders in the business and will be an amazing partner as we together launch into other extensions.”