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For immediate release (October 6, 2017) Media Contact: Judy Abelman Email: Phone: 440.725.8861...

Animated TV producer Leah Lewis reaches out to young African American females, with some help from her buddy, Little Lumpy

By Lauren Sable Freiman  |  Photo by Doug Khrenovsky

Leah Lewis and her company, Three Butterflies Entertainment and Press, walked away from the pitch competition of the Oct. 21 Female Entrepreneur Summit with $2,500, a third-place prize that was sponsored by Ursuline College. For the Cleveland native and Beaumont School grad, the award was especially gratifying, and not only because it supported her dream of creating an animated television program for children.

“As the third-place winner and a Beaumont grad, that was quite something for me,” Lewis says. “Beaumont is run by the Ursuline nuns. Quite a coincidence.”

With the award money from the competition, money from two campaigns, funding from Small Business Administration micro-lender ECDI, and funding that she continues to seek, Lewis hopes to see her character Little Lumpy, and her animated television program for children, Little Lumpy’s Travel Log, on television in the next three to five years.

“Little Lumpy, who is African American, and her six best friends, who are called the lovelies, travel the globe and go to various countries, learning about various sites and cultures,” she says. “My program caters to a children’s demographic, which is ages six to 11. Currently, there is a void in the marketplace for that demographic.”

While Disney Junior’s Doc McStuffins currently caters to the preschool demographic, Lewis says that no other programming currently centers on an African American female character, and none highlight multiculturalism and diversity in quite the same way as Little Lumpy. Little Lumpy’s friends include Sophie, of Asian descent, Am, of Jamaican descent, Hazel, of Brazilian descent, Hector, of Puerto Rican descent, and twins P.J. and Joseph, who are British by way of West Africa.

Lewis, a graduate of Howard University’s School of Law with a master’s degree in divinity from Yale is currently working to complete her doctor of ministry degree. She created Little Lumpy following law school as a tribute to four women who played large and influential roles in her life – her mother, two aunts, and a surrogate grandmother. Following their deaths, which all came within one year, Lewis wrote a manuscript about Little Lumpy, her childhood nickname, to capture the high quality of her childhood surrounded by such strong role models. After three years of research on the publishing industry, Lewis self-published Little Lumpy’s Book of Blessings in 2000. Now, Lewis believes that Little Lumpy’s time in the limelight has come.

“She is my passion and she is very connected to my destiny,” she says. “I believe that her time has come. The ideal scenario is to be on PBS with network syndication.”

Over the past six months, Lewis has slowly pared down her other activities with the intention of devoting all of her time to Little Lumpy and Three Butterflies in 2016. Until this past August, she had been working as a pastor, fulfilling the call to the ministry that she answered in 2002. She is also serving as a council person for the Village of Highland Hills through the end of 2015.

With the new year, Lewis will begin to secure additional sources of funding for Little Lumpy. She will work with a consultant to target seasoned investors from Hollywood, will explore grant opportunities from entities like the National Endowment for the Humanities, and will work to tap into corporate sponsors and underwriters. Once the funding is in place, Lewis will begin to finalize the logistics of creating an animated television program.

“I can remain based in Cleveland and hire a studio,” Lewis says. “I don’t intend to found a studio in the city because we don’t have the workforce here. As a newbie in the industry, it would behoove me to hire a studio that has a well-honed process.”

Lewis says she has also been fortunate to connect with television production veterans who are on board to make an animated Little Lumpy a reality. Ray Pointer, who has worked in animation since 1973, and Joan Turgeon, who has been in the industry since the late 1980s, will likely become employees of Three Butterflies once additional financing is in place. Lewis says she also expects to hire at least one writer.

Lewis has also developed a relationship with another source in Hollywood through a dialogue partnership. She and Perrin Chiles, the CEO of Adaptive Studios in Culver City, Calif., regularly participate in an exchange of information. She speaks to him about issues of diversity while he shares information about what it means to own and run a Hollywood studio.

“My focus as a business owner has to be on learning the entertainment business,” Lewis says. “There are also resources in Cleveland that are very helpful, like the Cleveland Urban Film Festival, which puts on great workshops.”

In addition, the Cleveland Institute of Art also offers an animation program that Lewis has found to be extremely helpful in developing the knowledge and skills necessary to animate Little Lumpy.

As she looks with excitement toward the flurry of activity the new year will bring, Lewis is humbled and excited for what’s to come.

“It has been a blast, and I have encountered some of the most phenomenal people who are open and willing to share and join me in this process,” she says.

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