'Star Trek': Kids-Focused Animated Series Near Nickelodeon Deal

THR_Alex_Kurtzman_4940 - THR - H 2019
Damon Casarez

Alex Kurtzman is keeping his word to expand his Star Trek universe to a new generation.

Viacom-owned cable network Nickelodeon is near a deal for a new animated series from franchise captain Kurtzman and Emmy-winning writers Kevin and Dan Hageman (Trollhunters, Ninjago).

While details are slim, the new animated series would target younger viewers. It will be the first Star Trek series to land at an outside network after CBS TV Studios revived the franchise on its direct-to-consumer platform CBS All Access. The latter has the flagship Star Trek: Discovery, the Patrick Stewart-fronted Picard entry, a Michelle Yeoh-led spinoff and the adult animated series Lower Decks all in the works.

"There's other animated things that we're building that are an entirely different perspective and an entirely different tone [from Lower Decks]," Kurtzman told The Hollywood Reporter in January as part of lengthy Creative Space interview. "What's exciting about it is not only looking at each animated series as what's the different tone, but what's the different technology we can apply to these things so that visually they're entirely different?"

Kurtzman and CBS TV Studios have been open about their respective interest in the animation space. Kurtzman said there will be a "minimum of two" and possibly more animated series in his Trek franchise. "Each show has to have its own identity," he said, calling Lower Decks a "wonderful perspective change." 

Picked up with a two-season, straight-to-series order in October, Lower Decks will focus on the support crew serving on one of Starfleet's least important ships. It joins the shortform entry Short Treks, which in January was expanded to include two new upcoming entries — both of which are animated.

"I go back to my childhood and Luke Skywalker, the [Star Wars] farm boy who looks out at the twin suns of Tatooine and imagines his future. Trek never gave me that," Kurtzman told THR. "Trek was always fully formed adults, already in Starfleet and people who have decided who they are. And it never was aspirational that way. It's important to me to find a way to go back and reach younger kids in a way that Trek should and never really has."

Sources note that the animated Star Trek series will be a tentpole for new Nickelodeon president Brian Robbins, who is under a mandate to rejuvenate the kids-focused cable network under Viacom CEO Bob Bakish. In a November Creative Space interview with THR, Robbins opened up about the challenges in the kids programming space as Nickelodeon faces competition from stalwarts Disney Channel and Cartoon Network, in addition to Netflix and other media on mobile and gaming platforms. Having a series with a built-in base (largely of parents) will help drive tune-in for Nickelodeon while also introducing the iconic Star Trek franchise to a new generation of viewers.

The Nickelodeon order arrives as talks of a CBS Corp. and Viacom merger have heated up again in recent days.