Jessica Labi and David Sztoser have joined Canadian indie content creator/distributor Epic Story Media as head of distribution and brand strategy, and head of licensing and merchandising, respectively.
Labi (pictured left) most recently served as SVP of kid-focused producer/distributor Viva Pictures (Monster Family, Top Cat) after founding Toronto-based prodco Hubble Entertainment. She was previously responsible for kids and family content as VP of acquisitions at eOne and held senior positions at Phase 4 Films (before its acquisition by eOne) and kaBOOM! Entertainment. During her career, Labi helped market and distribute brands, including PAW Patrol, The Bernstein Bears and Cat in the Hat.
Sztoser (pictured right), meanwhile, most recently served as VP of toys for Nickelodeon’s New York office, where he led the kids six-to-11 team overseeing toys, video games, sporting goods, consumer electronics and high-end collectibles for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, SpongeBob SquarePants and PAW Patrol. He began his career at Viacom eight years ago as senior director of toy licensing. Previously, Sztoser served as director of licensing sales and marketing for 4Kids Entertainment.
Along with the new hires, who recently joined the company, Epic Story has secured the global licensing and merchandising rights to kids action property Slugterra. JAKKS Pacific is the current master toy partner for the brand.
The Slugterra TV series was originally produced by Epic Story president and founder Ken Faier when he was the co-owner of Vancouver-based animation studio Nerd Corps Entertainment. Faier set up Epic Story in 2017 after serving as SVP and EP for DHX Media, which acquired Nerd Corp for US$50 million in 2014.
The creator/distributor has also inked a new deal with License Development Group for the global licensing and television rights to Chaotic, an animated sci-fi/action series from 4Kids. The series follows a group of teens who can travel to another world where their favorite card game comes to life. It is already on air in the US on Cartoon Network, Disney XD and CW 4Kids; in Canada on Teletoon; and in six European countries.
The executive hires and slate growth follows Bron Ventures taking a minority stake in Epic Story Media last October to invest in IP development and brand management.