The first-ever children’s series to feature Native American characters is coming to PBS with “Molly of Denali”
By Margarita Sophia Cortes
Seasoned publicist and NYWIFT member Gabrielle Torello has been working tirelessly behind-the-scenes to get the word out about this exciting new development launching this summer.
“Indigenous representation is scarce in children’s programming – and TV programming in general – and Indigenous heroines are pretty much non-existent,” said Torello. “Starting July 15, our nation’s First Peoples will get to see themselves, their culture and their values as never before in Molly of Denali.”
Molly of Denali is about Alaska Native Molly Mabray, a feisty and resourceful 10-year-old Gwich’in/Koyukon/Dena’ina Athabascan girl, who takes viewers ages 4 to 8 along with her on adventures and fosters literacy skills along the way. With an emphasis on family and inter-generational relationships, episodes of Molly of Denali model Alaska Native values, such as respecting others, sharing what you have and honoring your elders, while showcasing contemporary aspects of rural life, including strong female role models and how technology aids in communication.
“We’re excited to bring the world of Molly of Denali to audiences everywhere,” said WGBH Executive Producer Dorothea Gillim. “What began with the idea of creating a show based on the joy children find in ‘playing store’ has evolved into the story of kids and community, and an authentic reflection of life in Alaska, with an important informational text curriculum to support it.”
Molly of Denali includes Alaska Native voices in all aspects of the production, both on camera and behind-the-scenes. Every Indigenous character is voiced by an Indigenous actor, including the lead character of Molly, who is voiced by Alaska Native Sovereign Bill (Tlingit and Muckleshoot). Alaska Native screenwriters and producers are also part of bringing the series to life. WGBH Boston developed Molly of Denali with a working group of Alaska Native advisors, and is creating opportunities for developing Alaska Native talent via a Scriptwriting Fellowship. The show also gives young viewers a window into the Alaskan experience through live-action interstitials featuring local children and regions filmed by Alaskan production teams, including Alaska Public Media, KUAC, UAF Frame and Channel Films. The theme song was sung by Phillip Blanchett and Karina Moeller of the Yupik Alaska Native band Pamyua, and the Athabascan fiddle and traditional drum in the song were played by Gwich’in fiddler Brenna Firth.
“I’m thrilled that Alaska Native children will get to see themselves and our vibrant cultures represented in Molly of Denali,” said Princess Daazhraii Johnson, Creative Producer of the series. “Equally important is having a positive representation of Alaska Native culture shared with a broader audience. The show also reinforces for children that no matter where they’re from or where they live, we are all much more alike than we are different.”
Molly of Denali premiered nationwide July 15, 2019 on PBS stations, the 24/7 PBS KIDS channel and PBS KIDS digital platforms.
Each episode of Molly of Denali will include two 11-minute stories as well as a live-action interstitial. The first season will feature 38 half-hour episodes, along with a one-hour special.
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