China’s Starlight Media & David Steward II’s U.S. Animation Firm Lion Forge Ink Multi-Picture Film Deal Including COVID-19 Project

China’s Starlight Media, which has previously backed Hollywood directors including Sylvester Stallone, Robert Zemeckis and James Wan, has formed a multi-year, multi-project joint venture with David Steward II’s Lion Forge Animation.

The two companies say they will co-finance and co-produce a slate of original animated films as well as projects based on Lion Forge IP.

The first two projects will be a feature re-imagining of classic Chinese novel Journey To The West and an original animated short film inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic. Production on the latter is being fast tracked to start this month.

Under the JV, Starlight will maintain distribution, licensing and merchandising rights in the greater China region (including mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan), while Lion Forge will handle distribution and licensing rights in the rest of the world. Animation work will be carried out at the Lion Forge studios in St. Louis, Missouri.

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Lion Forge, one of the only African American-run animation studios in the world, produced this year’s Oscar-winning animated short Hair Love. Launched last year, the company’s IP includes comics, graphic novels, original content, and celebrity affiliations. Steward II is son of billionaire businessman David Steward and brother of Kimberly Steward whose K Period Media has invested in movies including Manchester By The Sea and Suspiria.

Beverly Hills-based Starlight Media, run by CEO Peter Luo, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of publicly traded Starlight Culture Entertainment Group.

Commenting on the partnership, David Steward II said, “We operate on the premise of championing diversity, so crossing boarders to collaborate with partners like Starlight Media is a move we’re very happy to make in the spirit of achieving a desired content slate that reflects diverse voices and stories. Aligning with Peter and the Starlight team on this joint venture together feels natural because we all share the same goals and philosophy when it comes to creating content. Lion Forge Animation is committed to establishing a strong brand identity that equates to the best animated projects in the world and this strategic partnership allows for greater economies of scale with a premier partner in Starlight that is among the most dynamic and visionary companies in the industry.”

Peter Luo stated, “We have a great deal of admiration and respect for the incredible work that is being done out of Lion Forge Animation and are very excited about this new multi-year, multi-picture partnership that will allow us to create groundbreaking content with family friendly messaging. We want to be in business with Lion Forge Animation because we share a common vision, not just on taste and preferences of films, but on the execution of a business model that will bring high quality, very entertaining films to the marketplace.”

He continued, “This partnership will allow us to bring the highest quality Hollywood content to the Chinese audience, as well as local language adaptations, and merchandising opportunities. The China film industry has been one of the fastest growing industries in the world and we are excited to work with David and the Lion Forge Animation team, who not only have strong passion for the Chinese market, but also respect and understand the differences and uniqueness of the local audience and ecosystem in China. Our partnership will leverage the resources and strengths of both companies to deliver the highest caliber content to a global audience.”

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