By, Nellie Adreeva, March 22, 2023 9:41am (Deadline)
EXCLUSIVE: Lion Forge Animation, the company behind the Oscar-winning Hair Love, has been rebranded as Lion Forge Entertainment as it is expanding its slate to include live-action in addition to animation. It has named veteran family entertainment executive Stephanie Sperber its President and chief Content Officer.
Sperber is joining Lion Forge after recently leaving Imagine, where she was president of Imagine Kids+Family, a division she helped launch. She will report to CEO David Steward II, who founded Lion Forge Animation in 2019, and COO Edward Hamati.
“Stephanie’s unparalleled experience, creative instincts, industry relationships, business acumen and work ethos will be a driving force for Lion Forge and pave the way for us to enter exciting new frontiers,” Steward said. “The Lion Forge brand has stood for diversity and representation in animation for the past four years, and I’m thrilled to take that brand and that mission into the live action series and feature space. We believe that it’s important for kids and teens to see themselves and their experiences reflected in the content, and we look forward to showcasing stories across race, identity and gender for the kids, YA and family audiences.””
Lion Forge, a rare Black-owned animation studio launched by Steward as a platform for authentic diverse voices, is part of Polarity, also owned by Steward, alongside independent comic book publisher Oni-Lion Forge. The studio is behind the upcoming adaptation of the graphic novel series Iyanu: Child of Wonder, which Lion Forge is making into a children’s animated series for HBO Max. Created by Nigerian creator Roye Okupe, Iyanu: Child of Wonder is an epic superhero tale steeped in Nigeria’s rich culture, music and mythology.
In this newly created role, Sperber will focus on building global transmedia franchises around the IP that sits within Lion Forge, as well as expanding production and distribution partnerships, spearheading licensing and merchandising initiatives, and overseeing all aspects of the company’s new live-action film and TV division.
“This is a unique moment in the kids & family space and while some are retreating, Lion Forge is taking the opportunity to lean into its unique ability to tell diverse stories authentically and to co-finance projects, de-risking the green light decision for buyers,” said Sperber. “I have known Dave, Edward and the Lion Forge team for years and couldn’t be more excited to work with them to expand the opportunities for diverse storytellers as well as to create a pipeline for behind the scenes careers.”
As president of Imagine Kids+Family, Sperber oversaw all aspects of creative IP development and production of animated and live-action TV and film projects including Annie Award-winning The Tiny Chef Show and Bossy Bear, both on Nick Jr. She also produced the live-action series The Astronauts for Nickelodeon, which earned her an Emmy nomination for Best Children’s Program, and executive produced the upcoming feature The Slumber Party for Disney+.
Sperber will continue in her role as executive producer on The Tiny Chef Show.
Sperber’s earlier career was spent at Universal Studios where she was President, Global Consumer Products, Digital Gaming and Brand Promotions. During her tenure, she developed the global strategy, sales and marketing execution for the Despicable Me/Minions franchise across all consumer products platforms. Earlier in her career, Sperber was Executive Director, Marketing at Turner Broadcasting, overseeing the brand marketing for Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Lion Forge Entertainment is repped by Activist Artists Management.