Martin Sheen

Animal Planet is venturing into scripted programming with its first ever film starring Martin Sheen, the network announced at Thursday's Discovery Communications upfront.

Based on the true events that inspired Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, Revenge of the Whale features Old Thomas Nickerson (Sheen) as he tells his story about being a cabin boy on the ill-fated voyage of the whaling ship The Essex. The two-hour special, a co-production with the BBC, also stars Jonas Armstrong and Adam Rayner.

Animal Planet's Pit Bulls and Parolees returns with more dire rescue cases than ever

The network also announced a project with basketball star Yao Ming. InThe Yao Ming Project, the 7-foot-6 Olympian goes on a mission, along with WildAid, to end the trade of illegal ivory and rhino horn in his home country of China.

Other highlights from the presentation include the pick-up of six new series, the return of Puppy Bowl XI, as well as popular shows Finding BigfootGator BoysMy Cat From HellRiver MonstersTankedToo Cute!Treehouse MastersAmerica's CutestIce Cold Gold and, as TVGuide.com exclusively announcedPit Bulls and Parolees