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Kid-Network Sprout Bets on William Shatner To Draw Viewers to Space-Themed Series

William Shatner has turned up in some interesting places since rising to outsize fame by playing Captain Kirk in “Star Trek” in the 1960s. He’s had a talk show on The Biography Channel. He led viewers through a home-repair program on cable’s DIY network. And he was the lead in a signature program of the 1980s, cop drama “T.J. Hooker.”

Now he’s heading to kids’ TV.

Shatner will narrate a new animated series about pink space creatures known as “Clangers” on Sprout, the kids’ network owned by NBCUniversal. If younger viewers want to see the aliens, they’ll have to get through Shatner first.

That’s because Sprout, in an unorthodox maneuver, won’t show the creatures until the series debuts on June 20th. In the meantime, executives are counting on Shatner to draw kids to the series through promos in which he rattles off some of the spoken-word poetry he’s used over the years in projects ranging from a 1968 album (on which he covered Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man”) to a series of Priceline ads in the early 2000s.

“We are really holding back the characters,” said Jennifer Giddens, vice president of marketing at Sprout.”We are almost letting the kids drive” their own ideas of what the Clangers will look like, she said. Over the course of several promotional spots, Shatner will hint, through his spoken-word monologues,at what the creatures might look like, Giddens said. “They are going to want to see the big unveiling” when “Clangers” debuts.

In one promo that has started to run on Sprout, Shatner describes the aliens as “curious creatures / I discovered / Tucked in starry stretches/ of Outer Space.” Kids dance in the background to his musings.

More teases are set to roll out in the weeks to come. Each will feature Shatner offering more details about the Clangers, such as the fact that they rely on a series of interesting whistles to communicate, rather than speech (underscoring the critical function of the actor’s narration in the series). “Clangers must be seen… to be believed,” he will tell young viewers. “And you must see them for yourself.” During the week of June 15th, Shatner’s voice will be heard on Sprout’s signature morning program, “The Sunny Side Up Show,” when Chica, an anthropomorphic chicken who is one of the stars of the show, demands to know more about the Clangers.

Most young viewers likely won’t know Shatner from his many acting roles over the course of the last six decades, but executives at the networks are hoping his broader recognition among older viewers might help drive tune-in. “Kids may not know who Shatner is, but we always try to look at opportunities with marketing where we are engaging the whole family – not just the kids, not just the moms,” said Giddens.

Kids may also not realize that the Clangers have been around as long as Shatner. The series has its roots in British TV, where it first appeared on BBC between 1969 and 1972. The creatures lived on and inside a small, hollow planet and feasted on blue string pudding and green soup.

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