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Lion Forge Entertainment Hires Trio of Key Executives

Kirsten Newlands joins the company as EVP Production & Partnerships; Koyalee Chanda as SVP Animation; and Jonathan Abraham as Director of Distribution.

Lion Forge Entertainment has just announced the addition of three key executives: former Hello Sunshine exec and multi-award-winning Executive Producer Kirsten Newlands who joins as Executive Vice President of Production and Content Partnerships; Emmy-nominated children’s media creative Koyalee Chanda, who serves as Senior Vice President of Animation; and kids distribution and sales executive Jonathan Abraham, who joins as Director of Distribution. The team will serve under Lion Forge Entertainment President and Chief Content Officer, Stephanie Sperber.

With the arrival of Newlands and Abraham, Lion Forge launches a Global Media Sales division to handle international sales and distribution for the company’s financed and owned IP. The newly minted sales and distribution group will make its debut at MIPCOM / MIPJunior next month where the company will take the highly anticipated Nigerian anime-inspired series Iyanu, based on Roye Okupe’s acclaimed graphic novel, and the new animated kid series BugTron. Abraham will lead the Global Media Sales division and report directly to Newlands.

Newlands, a Canadian Screen Award winner with multiple Emmy nominations under her belt, will oversee all physical production, studio alliances, financing, co-productions and sales at Lion Forge Entertainment. She has executive produced more than 800 half hours of animated children’s television, including My Little Pony; Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs; Carmen Sandiego; The Deep; and Pikwik Pack. Prior to joining Lion Forge, Newlands served as the VP, Kids Animation, Production at Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine. For more than a decade, she led all animation production endeavors for WildBrain (DHX Media) as SVP, Animation Production. Newlands oversaw the robust slate of both wholly owned series, as well as the work-for-hire initiatives. Her contributions were instrumental in establishing the studio as a significant global player in the creation of kids’ content. Newlands has consulted for both Guru Studio (True & the Rainbow Kingdom, Paw Patrol) and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Pretzel & The Puppies). A former Co-Chair of WIA’s (Women In Animation) Vancouver branch, she served as an advisor to CineCity to help emerging visible minority and aboriginal filmmakers produce short, dramatic films in the province of British Columbia.

Chanda will lead Lion Forge’s animation department as Senior Vice President of Animation. With over 25 years of experience as a seven-time Emmy nominated children’s producer, director and writer, Chanda started her career on the breakthrough preschool series Blue’s Clues. Most recently, she served as the VP of Kids and Animation for Hello Sunshine. Previously, Chanda worked as a VP of Production and Development for Chris Nee’s Laughing Wild at Netflix Animation where she did early development for Higher Ground’s Emmy-award winning series Ada Twist and We the People. She previously worked with Apple TV+ Children’s Division, HBO Kids and Family, Universal Kids, PBS Kids as well as Nickelodeon on the channel’s hit series Wallykazam!

Abraham, a kids distribution sales veteran, has extensive knowledge in maximizing exhibition windows and launching successful merchandising and licensing programs. Before joining Lion Forge, Abraham built the international sales and consumer products division of Guru Studio, known for producing hits like Netflix’s True and the Rainbow Kingdom and Disney Jr.’s Pikwik Pack, among others. He oversaw the design, manufacturing and global distribution of toys and various consumer products, both through international retailers and major distribution partners. Abraham also served as the Head of Global Sales and Acquisitions at Portfolio Entertainment and worked for Zuru Toys where he handled direct sales for the entire southern hemisphere aiding in the company’s significant growth trajectory.

“Producing engaging kids’ content is a lifelong passion of mine,” stated Newlands. “I am thrilled to join Lion Forge Entertainment and work alongside David and Stephanie to create global financing partnerships and best-in-class animation production capabilities to increase diversity in front of and behind the camera to shape the future of children's entertainment.”

Sperber and David Steward II, Founder and CEO of Lion Forge Entertainment said jointly, “We’re incredibly excited to welcome Kirsten, Koyalee and Jonathan to the Lion Forge family. Their impressive track records, wealth of experience and dedication to creating outstanding children's content will play a pivotal role in our continued growth and success. With the launch of our Global Media Sales division, we are reaffirming our commitment to delivering exceptional kids and family content to audiences worldwide and are poised to take our beloved IPs like Iyanu and BugTron to new heights internationally.”

The executive hirings follow a busy summer for Lion Forge Entertainment, which closed a first-look deal with Nickelodeon Animation, set a strategic global content partnership with advertising giant Dentsu, and inked a multi-title development deal with Penguin Young Readers for a slate of children’s film and TV projects.

Source: Lion Forge Entertainment

Whitney Whitener's picture

Whitney is a freelance writer focusing on VFX-driven fantasy film & TV as well as preschool animation.