PBS Kids transports kids to Alaska via its new animated series, Molly of Denali starting Monday, July 15. The show is already making history as the first in the US to feature indigenous leads. Among them, 14-year-old Sovereign Bill, who voices Molly Mabray, a 10-year-old Gwich’in/Koyukon/Dena’ina Athabascan girl. Kicking off this foray into Alaska and its culture will be Monday’s one-hour premiere, followed henceforth with 30-minute episodes, seven days a week.
“PBS KIDS has a longstanding commitment to celebrating inclusiveness and diversity, and we’re delighted to further that mission through Molly of Denali,” Linda Simensky, Vice President, Children’s Programming, PBS, said in a statement. “We can’t wait for families to meet Molly of Denali, who will introduce them to some of the richest cultures in our nation.”
Geared for ages four to eight, Molly of Denali is set in the fictional town of Oyah, Alaska. WGBH (the Boston-based co-production company) Executive Producer Dorothea Gilliam said in a statement the series combines the “story of kids and community, and an authentic reflection of life in Alaska, with an important Informational Text curriculum to support it.” This pioneering curriculum includes written words, images, graphics, video and oral language.
Imbued in episodes are messages about “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.”
The Series Creative Producer, Princess Daazhraii Johnson, grew up in Fairbanks, Alaska and, like Molly, is a member of an Athabascan group, Neets’aii Gwich’in. She’s excited about sharing the world she grew up in with kids everywhere. “I’m thrilled Alaska Native children will get to see themselves and our vibrant cultures represented in Molly of Denali,” she says. “Equally important is having a positive representation of Alaska Native culture shared with a broader audience.”
Kids can look forward to each 30-minute episode sharing two stories, each introducing various cultures, people and places via Molly’s adventures. Along for the fun is Molly’s dog Suki, her Native friend Tooey and African-American, Texan friend Trini.
Molly’s focus on Alaskan culture goes beyond storylines. Not only is the voice talent from indigenous actors, but the writers and producers are Alaskan Natives, as well. Another window into this world will be live-action interstitials of children in Alaska that will be featured in each episode. The series’ music comes by way of Alaska, too, with Phillip Blanchett and Karina Moeller of the Yupik Alaska Native band Pamyua singing the theme song.
Something Johnson is proud