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HBO Max, Cartoon Network and Lion Forge Team Up on ‘Iyanu: Child of Wonder’

New animated series is based on Roye Okupe’s graphic novel about a young Nigerian woman embued with superpowers who must use them to save humanity against an ancient curse.

HBO Max, Cartoon Network, and Lion Forge Animation have teamed up with Nigerian filmmaker Roye Okupe to adapt his graphic novel series (Dark Horse Comics/YouNeek Studios), “Iyanu: Child of Wonder,” into a 2D children’s animated series. The show tells the epic story of a heroine who must uncover the mystery behind her newfound powers to save her people from an ancient curse threatening to destroy humanity.

Influenced by the history and achievements of the Yoruba people of Nigeria, Iyanu: Child of Wonder is set in the magical kingdom of Yorubaland. The series follows a teenage orphan girl, Iyanu, who spends her days studying Yoruba history and ancient arts but yearns for a normal life. One day, responding to danger, she unknowingly triggers her divine powers, the likes of which have not been seen since the Age of Wonders. With newly discovered superpowers, Iyanu joins forces with two other teenagers as they embark on a remarkable journey to discover the truth about the evil lurking in her homeland. Throughout her adventure, she uncovers truths about her past, her parents, and her ultimate destiny to save the world.

The production is being financed and overseen by David Steward II’s Lion Forge Animation (Academy Award-winning Hair Love), a leading Black-owned animation studio recognized for creating and introducing authentic content focusing on underrepresented groups to worldwide audiences.  

Brandon Easton (Transformers: War for Cybertron: Seige, Marvel’s Agent Carter) is heading the writers' room, with Okupe serving as the executive producer, writer, and director on multiple episodes. Lion Forge Animation’s head of production, two-time Emmy-winner Saxton Moore (Rise Up, Sing Out), will serve as supervising director. Executive producers are Steward and Matt Heath from Lion Forge Animation, Erica Dupuis of Impact X Capital, Ryan Haidarian of Forefront Media Group, Doug Schwalbe, and Carl Reed.

Amy Friedman, Head of Kids & Family Programming, Warner Bros., said, “Iyanu: Child of Wonder has it all – vast world-building, authentic characters, a strong, African female hero at the center, and a first-class team of stellar creators and producers. While created for kids, the series will resonate with anyone looking for an adventure filled with surprise, magic, lore, and legend. We feel so lucky to be the home of Iyanu and partnering with this team.”

Lion Forge Animation Founder Steward commented, “The authenticity of the Iyanu story means everything to us and aligns perfectly with our mission to create and deliver inclusive content to global audiences. A powerful means of accomplishing and sustaining this is through franchise building, and the depth and layers of the Iyanu world allow us to explore and create a beautiful universe on-screen alongside tremendous partners.”

“When I set out to create Iyanu for a global audience, I wanted to develop a world that combined everything I love about the fantasy genre with the majesty and awe that is ancient West Africa,” added Okupe. “On top of that, working with Godwin Akpan, who illustrated the books, as our art director and collaborating with a thoughtful studio-like Lion Forge Animation that prioritizes authenticity and diversity, is beyond belief.”

Easton noted, “As a former public-school teacher in the Bronx and Harlem, I spent many years with Black, Latino, and Asian teens and saw what they gravitated toward. They loved anime, manga, and things along those lines, but they all lamented that none of the characters looked like them. So, when I was hired to adapt Roye’s amazing Iyanu graphic novel, I wanted the story to reflect Roye's original vision while also injecting a sense of pride and wonder for all children worldwide, but specifically for kids who rarely see themselves reflected in a positive light or at all. Iyanu has also changed the way I see myself as a creator - with the awesome responsibility to tell an unprecedented story to a global audience that showcases the humanity of African children.”

Moore concludes, “Iyanu will usher in a new genre of animation around the African diaspora, and Lion Forge Animation is super excited to be a part of it. We hope to empower little adventurous girls around the globe with Iyanu’s story.”

Activist Artists Management represents Lion Forge Animation. Okupe is represented by UTA & Redefine Entertainment.

Source: WarnerMedia

Debbie Diamond Sarto's picture

Debbie Diamond Sarto is news editor at Animation World Network.