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Lion Forge is leveraging its Oscar-winning Hair Love short film to dive deeper into animation in a recent deal with Chinese media investor Starlight Culture Entertainment. For one of its first projects, the company will look to the present for inspiration; Lion Forge’s short will take a look at how COVID-19 is affecting life on Earth, from humans to animals, per Variety. Production on that project is set to begin as soon as possible.

Using IP from Lion Forge’s library of comics and graphic novels (including Witchy by Ariel Slamet Ries and Mooncakes by Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker), the agreement details a multi-year, multi-property span, with a deal to co-finance and co-produce animated films. Work on the animation itself is set explicitly at Lion Forge’s St. Louis, Missouri HQ, while aspects pertaining to development, story and character design will be a collaborative effort between the two.

CEO David Steward II said in a statement: “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.”

Also among the first of Lion Forge’s animation projects is a Journey to the West “reworking.” Starlight will handle distribution, licensing and merchandising rights in Greater China, while Lion Forge will maintain distribution and licensing rights everywhere else.

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