EXCLUSIVE: Lion Forge Entertainment is expanding the studio’s management team under President and Chief Content Officer Stephanie Sperber, with the addition of three key executives. Former Hello Sunshine exec and multi-award-winning executive producer Kirsten Newlands joins as Executive Vice President of Production and Content Partnerships; Emmy-nominated children’s media creative Koyalee Chanda serves as Senior Vice President of Animation; and seasoned kids distribution and sales executive Jonathan Abraham joins as Director of Distribution.
Newlands and Abraham will head up a Global Media Sales division to handle international sales and distribution for the company’s financed and owned IP. The new sales and distribution group will make its debut at MIPCOM / MIPJR next month where the company will be taking out the anticipated 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.
Newlands, a Canadian Screen Award winner and multiple Emmy nominee, is overseeing 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 hits such as 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.
“Producing engaging kids’ content is a lifelong passion of mine,” said 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.”
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. He 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.
Chanda will lead Lion Forge’s animation department as Senior Vice President of Animation. 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 shingle Laughing Wild at Netflix Animation where she did early development for Higher Ground’s Emmy-winning series Ada Twist and We the People. She was one of the first hires at Apple TV+ Children’s Division and has previously worked with HBO Kids and Family, Universal Kids, PBS Kids as well as Nickelodeon on the channel’s hit series Wallykazam!
David Steward II, Founder and CEO of Lion Forge Entertainment, and Stephanie Sperber, CCO, 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.”