Along with a name change, the Oscar-winning animation studio adds live-action to its production slate as well as a veteran family entertainment executive to lead the company.
Lion Forge Animation has rebranded as Lion Forge Entertainment, expanding its production slate to include live-action in addition to animation, and named veteran family entertainment executive Stephanie Sperber as President and Chief Content Officer. Lion Forge Entertainment will continue to develop and produce content targeting the Kids & Family and YA audiences, building on the success Lion Forge Animation (Academy Award-winning Hair Love) has achieved since CEO David Steward founded the company in 2019. Sperber will report to Steward and Edward Hamati, COO.
In her newly created role, Sperber will focus on building global transmedia franchises around the studio’s IP, expanding strategic production and distribution partnerships, spearheading licensing and merchandising initiatives, and overseeing all aspects of the company’s new live-action film and TV division. She will also continue in her role as Executive Producer on The Tiny Chef Show for Imagine Entertainment.
Before joining Lion Forge, Sperber was President of Imagine Kids+Family, a division she launched to extend Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment into the kids’ space. Sperber oversaw all aspects of creative IP development and production of IKF’s TV and film projects in animation and live-action formats, including Annie Award-winning Nick Jr shows The Tiny Chef Show and Bossy Bear. She produced the live-action series The Astronauts, which received an Emmy nomination for Best Children’s Program. Sperber also executive produced the upcoming feature The Slumber Party for Disney+ and has developed and sold numerous series and features across all platforms, including Nickelodeon, Netflix, Apple, HBO Max, Disney+.
Earlier in her career, Sperber was President of Global Consumer Products, Digital Gaming and Brand Promotions at Universal Studios, where she oversaw global Consumer Products and Retail for Universal Pictures and NBC Networks, Digital Gaming, Product Placement and Film Promotions world-wide. During her tenure, Sperber led some of the most successful consumer products and digital programs in Universal’s history, most notably developing the global strategy, sales and marketing execution for the Despicable Me/Minions franchise across all consumer products platforms. Sperber was also Executive Director of Marketing at Turner Broadcasting, overseeing brand marketing for Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Sperber’s background will further assist in Lion Forge’s strategy to monetize its own IP, to build franchises, and create new IP across its publishing businesses. Lion Forge’s parent company, Polarity, also owned by Steward, owns Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group - one of the industry’s most respected and acclaimed independent comic book companies, publishing more than 60 original graphic novels annually, in addition to an extensive list of periodical comics. Oni-Lion Forge’s curated line includes award-winning original and licensed comic books and graphic novels, including Adult Swim’s “Rick and Morty;” Nickelodeon’s “Invader ZIM;” Bryan Lee O’Malley’s “Scott Pilgrim;” Ted Naifeh’s “Courtney Crumrin;” Anthony Johnston and Christopher Mitten’s “Wasteland;” Sophie Campbell’s “Wet Moon;” K. O’Neill’s “The Tea Dragon Society;” Brenna Thummler’s “Sheets and Delicates;” Maia Kobabe’s “Gender Queer;” Jarrett Melendez and Danica Brine’s “Chef’s Kiss;” Ezra Claytan Daniels’ “Upgrade Soul;” and the Eisner award-winning anthology “Puerto Rico Strong.”
“This is a unique moment in the kids and 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.”
Steward stated, “We’re so thrilled to have Stephanie join the Lion Forge family in this key expansionary moment. An accomplished leader in the family entertainment space, Stephanie is uniquely equipped to build deep and layered franchises and run a multidimensional business unit supporting them though all correlating verticals. Her 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. 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.”
“Stephanie is a professional franchise builder and has a very keen eye and vision for the kids and family space” stated Hamati. “Her track record is well established in terms of building wonderful, novel properties which connect with audiences. Lastly, she is a highly collaborative and well-respected leader, who not only enhances the strong culture and focus of our company but brings a strong working history with key Hollywood players.”
Source: Lion Forge Entertainment