Lion Forge raids Hello Sunshine for kids’ animation veterans & launches global sales division

Kirsten Newlands

Lion Forge Entertainment, the US-based studio behind the Oscar-winning Hair Love, has hired three new execs, with two joining from Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine, and launched a global sales division.

Kirsten Newlands has been appointed as EVP of production and content partnerships to oversee all physical production, studio alliances, financing, co-productions and sales. The seasoned exec producer has has worked on more than 800 half hours of animated children’s television, including My Little Pony, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs and Carmen Sandiego.

Koyalee Chanda

She joins from Hello Sunshine, where she served as the VP of kids’ animation production. Prior to that, she led all animation production for WildBrain, while also consulting for both Guru Studio and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Meanwhile, Newlands’ fellow Hello Sunshine exec Koyalee Chanda has joined Lion Forge as SVP of animation to lead the department. She served as VP of kids and animation at Witherspoon’ firm and previously worked as a VP of production and development for Chris Nee’s shingle Laughing Wild at Netflix Animation, where she did early development for Higher Ground’s Ada Twist and We The People.

Chanda was also one of the first hires at Apple TV+’s children’s division and previously worked with HBO Kids and Family, Universal Kids, PBS Kids as well as Nickelodeon.

Lion Forge, which struck a partnership with Penguin Young Readers last week, has also hired kids distribution sales veteran Jonathan Abraham, who previously built the international sales and consumer products division of Guru Studio, known for producing titles like Netflix’s True And The Rainbow Kingdom. 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 southern hemisphere.

All three will report to Lion Forge Entertainment president and chief content officer, Stephanie Sperber, who joined the company from Imagine in March.

Jonathan Abraham

With the arrival of Newlands and Abraham, Lion Forge is launching a Global Media Sales division to handle international sales and distribution for the company’s financed and owned IP. The unit will be at MIPCOM & MIPJR next month where the company will be presenting its Nigerian anime-inspired series Iyanu, based on Roye Okupe’s graphic novel, and the new animated kid series BugTron. Abraham will lead the Global Media Sales division and report directly to Newlands.

David Steward II, founder and CEO of Lion Forge Entertainment, and Sperber, 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.”

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