Zoe Saldana is leveraging over ten years of navigating the farthest reaches of space in Dark Star Squadron, an original anime from Crunchyroll and the mastermind behind Voltron: Legendary Defender, Todd Lucy. Saldana and her sisters Cisely and Mariel are executive producing the show through their own production company, Cinestar Pictures, with Sonia A. Gambaro and Maytal Gilboa of Pollinate Entertainment also involved. Crunchyroll published a press release on Wednesday celebrating five million paid users worldwide and decided to coincide such a momentous occasion with the company’s most recent project reveal.
Zoe Saldana’s Dark Star Squadron, according to Crunchyroll, “follows the journey of four failing cadets who return from a joyride with a stolen starship to find their academy in ruins and everyone vanished. Now on their own, the ill-equipped heroes embark for the far side of the galaxy to find the missing and prove their worth.” The series is described by executives as an action-packed space opera in the style of Star Wars and Flash Gordon.
Dark Star Squadron wouldn’t be the first time Zoe Saldana is dipping her proverbial Godslayer into a space epic of this scale. The Avengers: Endgame star is a veteran of three of the greatest science fiction franchises in recent memory: Star Trek, Avatar, and Guardians of the Galaxy.
Each story involved a motley crew of charming misfits trying to do right by a galaxy that has already expanded beyond their parochial ambitions; the Passaic native has served aboard the USS Enterprise alongside the Kelvin timeline’s Captain Jim Kirk and First Commander Spock and seen wonders beyond imagination. She has played the Pocahontas to Sam Worthington’s John Smith in Avatar, fighting for the survival of the Na’vi tribe. And of course, Zoe Saldana is known to comic book fans these days for her layered portrayal of Thanos’s adopted daughter Gamora, and her newfound commitment to protecting the universe from otherworldly beings seeking to enslave it.
In many ways, Dark Star Squadron is a cakewalk for Zoe Saldana; the animated series is the inevitable culmination of 12 years of alternating between a space cadet and a feisty extraterrestrial, and more. Imagine starting out in a starship, only to reside in an alien planetoid and work for a space mobster. The massive jumps in her acting career are as substantive as an interstellar trip through space and time, with anime being her next great frontier.
“As true animation and anime fans ourselves, we are so excited for the opportunity to partner with Crunchyroll to bring Dark Star Squadron to a wide audience,” Cinestar’s Zoe, Cisely, and Mariel Saldana write. “We can’t wait for everyone to meet the crew and follow the journey of our unlikely heroes.”
General manager of Crunchyroll Joanne Waage echoes the sisters’ excitement in a statement of her own. She writes: “The tremendous growth of our streaming service is indicative of the growing love for anime and its deserved spotlight in popular culture. Zoe [Saldana] and her team are bringing their own anime fandom to their storytelling and we’re excited to be a part of it.”
Crunchyroll’s Head of Development Sarah Victor adds: “We’re elated to be working with such a talented creative team on the development of Dark Star Squadron, a new fantasy adventure series. We love working with creators who are passionate about telling stories through anime and we can’t wait to bring this interstellar epic to fans across the galaxy.”
Crunchyroll has been developing its own original content since January 2020 with the production of Kyo Shirodaira’s In/Spectre and more recently, a Blade Runner anime with a Winter 2021 release date. As of this writing, it’s unknown which studio is animating Zoe Saldana’s Dark Star Squadron or if Todd Lucy is more involved than he’s letting on.
It’s presently unclear if Zoe Saldana is also starring in Dark Star Squadron as one of the runaway cadets, or if she’s simply onboard at a strictly overseeing capacity. The Guardians of the Galaxy star has lent her voice to a handful of animated features, notably Maria Posada in Coco-esque fantasy comedy The Book of Life in 2014, parrot pirate Captain Celaeno in 2017’s My Little Pony: The Movie, plucky explorer Adelina Fortnight opposite Hugh Jackman’s monsters detective Sir Lionel Frost in 2019’s Missing Link, and Rosa Hernández in this year’s musical Vivo. The latter stars and features original songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton), who is also working tirelessly on Disney’s live-action Little Mermaid. Dark Star Squadron is Saldana’s anime debut.