HBO Max, Cartoon Network, and Lion Forge Animation announced today plans to adapt the popular Dark Horse Comics/YouNeek Studios graphic novel series, Iyanu: Child of Wonder, into a 2D children’s animated series. Created by Nigerian filmmaker Roye Okupe, Iyanu: Child of Wonder is an epic superhero tale steeped in Nigeria’s rich culture, music, and mythology. The series follows a teenage heroine who must uncover the mystery behind her newfound powers to save her people from an ancient curse threatening to destroy humanity.
David Steward II’s Lion Forge Animation (Academy Award®-winning Hair Love), a leading Black-owned animation studio recognized for creating and introducing authentic content focusing on underrepresented groups to worldwide audiences, is financing and overseeing production.
Brandon Easton (Transformers: War for Cybertron: Seige, Marvel’s Agent Carter) is heading the writers’ room, with Roye Okupe serving as the executive producer, writer, and director on multiple episodes. Lion Forge Animation’s Head of Production, two-time Emmy® winner Saxton Moore (Rise Up, Sing Out), will serve as supervising director.
Executive producers are David Steward II and Matt Heath from Lion Forge Animation, Erica Dupuis of Impact X Capital, Ryan Haidarian of Forefront Media Group, Doug Schwalbe, and Carl Reed.
Heavily influenced by the history and achievements of the Yoruba people of Nigeria, Iyanu: Child of Wonder is set in the magical kingdom of Yorubaland. The series follows a teenage orphan girl, Iyanu, who spends her days studying Yoruba history and ancient arts but yearns for a normal life. One day, responding to danger, she unknowingly triggers her divine powers, the likes of which have not been seen since the Age of Wonders. With newly discovered superpowers, Iyanu joins forces with two other teenagers as they embark on a remarkable journey to discover the truth about the evil lurking in her homeland. Throughout her adventure, she’ll uncover the truth about her past, her parents, and her ultimate destiny to save the world.
Amy Friedman, head of kids & family programming, Warner Bros., said: “Iyanu: Child of Wonder has it all – vast world-building, authentic characters, a strong, African female hero at the center, and a first-class team of stellar creators and producers. While created for kids, the series will resonate with anyone looking for an adventure filled with surprise, magic, lore, and legend. We feel so lucky to be the home of Iyanu and partnering with this team.”
Lion Forge Animation Founder David Steward II said, “The authenticity of the Iyanu story means everything to us and aligns perfectly with our mission to create and deliver inclusive content to global audiences. A powerful means of accomplishing and sustaining this is through franchise building, and the depth and layers of the Iyanu world allow us to explore and create a beautiful universe on screen alongside tremendous partners.”
“When I set out to create Iyanu for a global audience, I wanted to develop a world that combined everything I love about the fantasy genre with the majesty and awe that is ancient West Africa,” said Roye Okupe. “On top of that, working with Godwin Akpan, who illustrated the books, as our Art Director and collaborating with a thoughtful studio-like Lion Forge Animation that prioritizes authenticity and diversity, is beyond belief.”
Brandon Easton commented, “As a former public school teacher in the Bronx and Harlem, I spent many years with Black, Latino, and Asian teens and saw what they gravitated toward. They loved anime, manga, and things along those lines, but they all lamented that none of the characters looked like them. So when I was hired to adapt Roye’s amazing Iyanu graphic novel, I wanted the story to reflect Roye’s original vision while also injecting a sense of pride and wonder for all children worldwide, but specifically for kids who rarely see themselves reflected in a positive light or at all. Iyanu has also changed the way I see myself as a creator – with the awesome responsibility to tell an unprecedented story to a global audience that showcases the humanity of African children.”
Saxton Moore adds, “Iyanu will usher in a new genre of animation around the African diaspora, and Lion Forge Animation is super excited to be a part of it. We hope to empower little adventurous girls around the globe with Iyanu’s story.”
Lion Forge Animation is represented by Activist Artists Management. Roye Okupe is represented by UTA & Redefine Entertainment.
About Warner Bros. Discovery
Warner Bros. Discovery (NASDAQ: WBD) is a leading global media and entertainment company that creates and distributes the world’s most differentiated and complete portfolio of content and brands across television, film and streaming. Available in more than 220 countries and territories and 50 languages, Warner Bros. Discovery inspires, informs and entertains audiences worldwide through its iconic brands and products including: Discovery Channel, discovery+, CNN, DC, Eurosport, HBO, HBO Max, HGTV, Food Network, OWN, Investigation Discovery, TLC, Magnolia Network, TNT, TBS, truTV, Travel Channel, MotorTrend, Animal Planet, Science Channel, Warner Bros. Pictures, Warner Bros. Television, Warner Bros. Games, New Line Cinema, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Turner Classic Movies, Discovery en Español, Hogar de HGTV and others. For more information, please visit www.wbd.com.
About Lion Forge Animation
Lion Forge Animation (LFA) is a leading Black-owned, full-service animation studio that sources, acquires, develops, and produces authentic diverse content for global distribution. Founded in 2019, LFA is a self-financed flexible platform with an established content library. LFA is well-positioned and uniquely equipped to create, drive, and deliver genuine, diverse stories to meet increasing audience demand fuelled by broad-based content consumption and social forces.
Lion Forge Animation continues to expand its IP portfolio with the development and production of TV series and feature films. Upcoming projects include a Hair Love spinoff series (Young Love) for HBO Max; an animated series based on Cedella Marley’s picture book Marley and the Family Band; the animated series Heiress with BRON; Rise Up, Sing Out, executive produced by Grammy-winning artists Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, for Disney; multiple projects with Imagine Kids + Family including Chippy Hood, First Step, and Bugtron; an animated series based on Josef Bastian’s multiple award-winning “Excerpts from an Unknown Guidebook” book series; and a slate of projects introducing the groundbreaking life and legacy of Wendell Scott, the first Black race car driver and team owner to win a race at NASCAR’s highest level.
Lion Forge Animation sits within Steward II’s holding company Polarity, a diversified global media company with a mission to bring authentic content to a diverse global audience. To create a richer content experience and offering, the company believes in the value of embracing diversity and highlighting previously unheard voices, as well as new and emerging views and voices. The Polarity portfolio includes Illustrated Syndicate and Magnetic Press, as well as Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group.
David Steward II has been putting resources behind his vision of expanding the market for inclusive content to new age groups and demographics since the early 2010s, building a portfolio of titles and imprints that feature characters and creators from a wide variety of backgrounds such as African Americans, Hispanics, members of the LGBTQ+ community. He’s extended that vision and ethic to the larger media landscape with an organization that can orchestrate content development, production, financing and distribution across different channels.
Find out more at: www.lionforgeanimation.com
About Dark Horse
Founded in 1986 by Mike Richardson, Dark Horse Comics is an excellent example of how integrity and innovation can help broaden a unique storytelling medium and transform a company with humble beginnings into an industry giant. Over the years, Dark Horse has published the work of creative legends such as Yoshitaka Amano, Margaret Atwood, Paul Chadwick, Geof Darrow, Will Eisner, Neil Gaiman, Dave Gibbons, Faith Erin Hicks, Kazuo Koike, Matt Kindt, Jeff Lemire, Mike Mignola, Frank Miller, Kentaro Miura, Moebius, Chuck Palahniuk, Wendy Pini, Richard Pini, and Gerard Way. In addition, Dark Horse has a long tradition of establishing exciting new creative talent throughout all of its divisions. The company has also set the industry standard for quality licensed comics, graphic novels, collectibles, and art books, including Stranger Things, Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Legend of Korra, Minecraft, The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario, Dragon Age, James Cameron’s Avatar, Game of Thrones, Mass Effect, StarCraft, The Witcher, and Halo. Today, Dark Horse Comics is one of the world’s leading entertainment publishers.
About YouNeek Studios
YouNeek Studios is an award-winning multiplatform entertainment company founded by Roye Okupe. Using graphic novels, animation, video games, and other forms of media, YouNeek focuses on telling extraordinary stories about extraordinary characters inspired by African history, culture, and mythology, with the ultimate goal of empowering African creatives and storytelling across the globe. Visit www.youneekstudios.com for more.
About Impact X Capital
Impact X Capital is a double bottom line VC, founded to support diverse and underrepresented talent in the digital and technology, media and entertainment space. The Studio’s aim is to increase diversity and inclusion through development of bold and distinctive storytelling with from African diaspora creatives. Our content moves international audiences from appropriation to appreciation while giving agency to creators of color. The founders include Sir Lenny Henry and Tony winning actor Adrian Leicester; author and TV presenter Eric Collins and Executive Producer Erica Dupuis, a former HBO executive. www.impactxcapital.com
FOUNDER & CHIEF CONTENT OFFICER | Founder and COO of Seat42F, a leading source of entertainment news, information, television and movie resources.