Features

Lauren Leinburd – Guru Studio

Entertainment GC ‘toons’ into what kids don’t see

When kids watch their favorite cartoons, Lauren Leinburd wants them to see themselves on screen.

As general counsel and senior vice president of business affairs for Guru Studio, she provides structure and guidance to the company’s legal, business and creative departments. Leinburd works closely with creators, broadcasters and writers to get intellectual property on screen amidst the complexities and rapid changes of the entertainment industry.

“It’s an incredible privilege to know that you can impact kids’ lives and help them form lifelong bonds with the characters they see on TV,” Leinburd says. “Our goal is to create programs that educate, entertain and inspire children.”

Lauren Leinburd | General Counsel and Senior Vice President of Business Affairs | Guru Studio

Lauren Leinburd | General Counsel and Senior Vice President of Business Affairs | Guru Studio

Guru Studio, headquartered in Toronto, is an entertainment company known for creating animation for shows like PAW Patrol and Mattel’s Ever After High, as well as creating, developing, producing and distributing its own line of children’s original properties, including Pikwik Pack for Disney, True and the Rainbow Kingdom and Justin Time for Netflix.

Leinburd says she’s especially proud of the studio’s newest, original series, Big Blue, an underwater comedy adventure featuring two Black lead characters. It was created by Gyimah Gariba, a first-time creator whose vision was to create a show where kids of all backgrounds, especially Black children, were reflected on screen.

“In today’s age, it’s more important than ever for kids to see themselves and the world represented on their screens,” Leinburd says. “Programs have to reflect the unique kids that watch them.”

The micro and macro

Leinburd keeps this goal in mind from when an idea is acquired and put into production through to when the series is sold to broadcasters and streamers around the world.

She provides legal, business and strategic advice and acts as advisor to Frank Falcone, Guru’s president and executive creative director. Her work includes protecting intellectual property, managing employment issues and being well-versed in corporate and entertainment law. She negotiates the rights for talent agreements as well as agreements for production, licensing and sales.

“It’s a very exciting and fulfilling way to practice law,” she says. “As a general counsel, I have to be a generalist, but this work also requires me to be a specialist in many areas.”

Lauren Leinburd | General Counsel and Senior Vice President of Business Affairs | Guru Studio

Leinburd works directly with the studio’s creative teams, production executives and marketing and distribution arm. She also oversees the human resources department, which includes the studio operations and recruitment teams for the studio of over 300 animators and artists.

She says working with so many departments gives her a holistic understanding of the business that has allowed her to better structure deals.

“It’s very exciting to sit at the crest of all the departments and see it all come together,” Leinburd says. “You need a great team to be a great leader, so it’s a privilege to oversee the incredible teams that I do.”

Removing barriers

One of Leinburd’s favorite parts of her work is enabling the animators and writers to do what they do best, she says.

This means taking care of the behind-the-scenes work to help diversify Guru’s revenue streams and negotiating business deals and partnerships across television and film, with intellectual property rights coming from books, toys and even TikTok.

Leinburd has recently helped Guru Studio enter new partnerships, including with Sesame Workshop for the new series Mecha Builders, which features Sesame Street characters as robots. The series premiered on HBO Max in early May.

Lauren Leinburd | General Counsel and Senior Vice President of Business Affairs | Guru Studio

In addition to legal, business affairs and operations, Leinburd also oversees the people and culture department. She says the company has worked with diversity and inclusion consultants to ensure a work environment that’s equitable and welcoming. Creating this culture means hiring artists from diverse backgrounds, which helps ensure diverse stories are reflected on screen.

“We support and promote a diverse experience but certainly don’t hire to achieve a quota,” she says. “Rather, we understand what makes great talent, and we hire the best.”

Creating magic

Leinburd was hired at Guru Studio in July 2020 as the first person to hold her role. She’d previously spent seven years at Breakthrough Entertainment, with the last two as vice president and general counsel.

She likes working in entertainment and media because it “captures my creative spark,” she says, adding that she appreciates Guru’s commitment to put creative above all else.

“Rather than business dictating creative decisions, it’s vice versa,” she says. “We never let business compromise creative.”

Lauren Leinburd | General Counsel and Senior Vice President of Business Affairs | Guru Studio

Leinburd says the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed Guru Studio to create even more high-quality content because so many kids are at home watching TV. She says Pikwik Pack, a series about four animal friends who deliver magical packages to their neighbors, has resonated strongly with children because it highlights the importance of community and friendship.

She’s even seen the impact of Guru Studio’s work in her home. While her newborn daughter doesn’t yet have a favorite show, her 3 1/2-year-old son loves PAW Patrol.

“When you take a step back, you’re making cartoons, so every day is fun and full of laughter,” Leinburd says. “You can see the effect of your work in the joy on children’s faces and that magic absolutely brings life to what we do.”

View this feature in the Vanguard Summer II 2022 Edition here.

Published on: June 21, 2022

regions:

categories:

Showcase your feature on your website with a custom “As Featured in Vanguard” badge that links directly to your article!

Copy and paste this script into your page coding (ideally right before the closing tag) where you want to display our review banner.

Testimonials

As promised in advance, my feature in Vanguard has increased my visibility within the profession and prompted more than a few people I have not communicated with recently to reconnect. One of the Italian law firms I have used in the past is now in the process of interviewing me for an article on their website and tweeting out the feature story. Activity and the number of people connecting with me on LinkedIn has soared, which is great. The Vanguard writers and editorial staff were great to work with—highly professional and made the effort to make the experience both fun and rewarding (they were also respectful of the time pressures and demands all lawyers face). I was very pleased with the experience and the final outcome. Needless to say, I have been very pleased. All in all working with Vanguard has been a very positive experience which generated good publicity for both Shawcor and myself. My sincere thanks.
– Tim Hutzul, General Counsel, ShawCor Ltd.
The piece highlighting my company, Bob Baker Enterprises, Inc., came out fabulous. Our company is in the new and used car sales and service industry. Everyone was great to work with and extremely professional. They produced a high-quality product and have provided expert assistance and guidance post-production of the article.
– Wade Poulson, General Counsel, Bob Baker Enterprises Inc.
I was honored to be the subject of an article. I enjoy reading Vanguard articles and seeing how other attorneys got to their positions and see their jobs. It's also interesting to see how different law firms partner with the subjects of the articles.
– Henry Marquard, in-house counsel, Stanley Consultants Inc.
It was a great honor to be featured in Vanguard Law. Working with every member of the team, from the initial interview with Erin Clark, through production with Victor Martins, writing the article with Taryn Plumb and creating the final content with Dave Gushee, was a true pleasure. Everyone was very professional, enthusiastic and supportive, and their creative approach and positive attitude clearly came through in the final product.
– Kevin C. Rakowski, Senior Vice President, Deputy General Counsel, Compliance with Radian Group Inc.

LATEST EDITION

Fall I 2022

READ NOW

GET VANGUARD IN YOUR INBOX.

  • * We’ll never share your email or info with anyone.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.