Lion Forge Animation, lauded for championing diversity, authenticity, and under-represented communities in its storytelling, is now Lion Forge Entertainment, expanding its production slate to include live-action as well as animation and has named veteran family entertainment executive Stephanie Sperber as President and Chief Content Officer.
Lion Forge Entertainment will develop and produce animated and live-action content targeting kids & family and YA audiences, building on the success Lion Forge Animation (Academy Award-winning Hair Love) has achieved since being founded by CEO David Steward in 2019. Sperber will report to Steward and Edward Hamati, COO.
Said David Steward II, “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,” added Steward. “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.”
“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.”
Sperber is a respected and seasoned entertainment executive who has focused on creating content and building franchises for kids and families in the film and television space. In a career that has spanned 30+ years, she has launched some of the most successful and iconic consumer product businesses around the world, developed and produced children’s television series and films, developed deep relationships within the kids and family creative community, and generated significant global revenue.
In this newly created role at Lion Forge, Sperber will focus on building global transmedia franchises around the world-class IP that sits within Lion Forge, as well as 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. Sperber will also continue in her role as Executive Producer on The Tiny Chef Show for Imagine Entertainment.
Prior to 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 for the first time as a dedicated business.
As leader of Imagine Kids+Family, Sperber oversaw all aspects of creative IP development and production of IKF’s TV and film projects in both the animation and live-action formats, including Annie Award-winning The Tiny Chef Show and Bossy Bear both on Nick Jr.
She produced the live-action series The Astronauts for Nickelodeon for which she was nominated for an Emmy 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+.
Sperber’s earlier career was spent at Universal Studios where she was President, Global Consumer Products, Digital Gaming and Brand Promotions, where she oversaw global Consumer Products & 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. Earlier in her career, Sperber was Executive Director, Marketing at Turner Broadcasting, overseeing the brand marketing for Hanna-Barbera Productions.
“Stephanie is a professional franchise builder and has a very keen eye and vision for the kids and family space” stated Edward 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.”
Sperber’s background plays directly into Lion Forge’s strategy to monetize its own IP to build franchises and well as to create new IP that can be leveraged 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 & 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 & Danica Brine’s Chef’s Kiss, Ezra Claytan Daniels’ Upgrade Soul, and the Eisner award-winning anthology Puerto Rico Strong.
Reel 360 News wishes Stepanie all the best at Lion Forge Entertainment.