HBO Max has hired its first head of HBO Max international and greenlit an animated series based on the characters from Oscar-winning short Hair Love (pictured).
Former SVP of international for Hulu Johannes Larcher will be responsible for the global rollout and management of HBO Max, which launched in the US in May. His first priority in the newly created role will be to roll out the streamer in Latin America for 2021. Larcher will report to Gerhard Zeiler, WarnerMedia’s chief revenue officer and president of WarnerMedia International Networks. He will work alongside Whit Richardson, president of WarnerMedia Entertainment Networks for Latin America, and Priya Dogra, who was recently appointed president of WarnerMedia Entertainment Networks for EMEA and APAC.
The SVOD’s international rollout has been a priority for HBO Max since the beginning, with Latin America and Europe identified as key markets, according to a spokesperson for HBO Max. Larcher’s official start date has not been announced yet.
In his previous role as managing director of digital for MBC, Larcher built up the VOD platform’s reach to more than 1.4 million subscribers. Between 2016 to 2018, he served as co-founder and CEO of VR studio SubVRsive in Texas, and before that he worked as Hulu’s SVP of international, leading the launch of Hulu Japan.
HBO Max is building up its kids content portfolio with animated series Young Love, based on the Oscar-winning short Hair Love, amid a swell in demand for diverse kids shows. The 12-episode dramedy is aimed at families, and focuses on the relationships within a Black family as they juggle careers, marriage, parenthood and social issues. Animated in 2D, the series builds on the story of Hair Love, in which a father struggles to do his daughter’s hair for the first time.
The short captured a snapshot of a quiet moment in a family’s life, and Young Love will expand those moments, with new stories diving into the lives of Zuri and her parents, says Carl Reed, Lion Forge Animation’s president and an executive producer on the new series.
“Some perspectives, including those of Black people and people of color, are often overlooked, and it’s important that there are outlets for their narratives,” says Reed. “We don’t all need to tackle the big historical moments, like slavery or the Selma riots. By showing those calm and quiet moments everyone can relate to, we can build an appeal with the average viewer. Young Love will tap into the global conversation going on now about fairness, equity and becoming a better person by seeing things through another person’s lens.”
Sony Pictures Animation will produce the series with creator Matthew Cherry (BlacKkKlansman) as its showrunner, alongside producer Carl Jones (The Boondocks, Black Dynamite). Blue Key Entertainment’s Monica Young (Hair Love) and Lion Forge Animation execs David Steward II and Reed, who also produced the original short, will serve as EPs.
Originally a comic book publisher focused on under-represented voices, Lion Forge branched out into animation in May 2019. Since then, the company has worked to build up a slate of family-friendly projects, including inking a deal with South Korea’s Studio Mogozzi to co-develop and produce the animated series Bugstron (26 x 22 minutes). Most recently, it signed an exclusive first-look deal with Imagine Entertainment’s kids and family division to make a trio of animated shows, including preschool series Chippy Hood.
“Hair Love and the Oscar represent a huge milestone we didn’t expect to reach so soon,” says Reed. “We had a lot of assumptions about the industry when we launched, and we weren’t sure if it was the right time, or if the inclusive stories we wanted to tell would connect. But now, with HBO Max’s support for the series, we have more armor and encouragement to continue creating stories that capture the significance of diversity.”