Molly of Denali, the first animated children’s TV series to feature a Native American lead character, will land on TV screens in the summer of 2019, Broadway World is reporting. The show will aim to teach literacy skills to elementary school-aged children and preschoolers.
Since the days of Sesame Street in the 1960s, during which PBS used colorful puppet characters as a way to reach out to an ethnically-diverse population of kids, the publicly-funded network has tried to be inclusive of characters of various races, ethnicities, abilities, and backgrounds. But one group that has by-and-large escaped the network’s notice is the Native American community.
Enter Molly Mabray, a “feisty and resourceful” 10-year-old from the Gwich’in/Koyukon/Dena’ina Athabascan Alaskan tribe (hence “Denali,” which is the Koyukon name of Alaska’s highest mountain, formerly known as Mt. McKinley).
In a statement, Linda Simensky, Vice President, Children’s Programming, PBS, welcomed the latest edition of the network’s lineup.
“PBS KIDS has a longstanding commitment to celebrating inclusiveness and diversity, and we’re delighted to further that mission through MOLLY OF DENALI. We can’t wait for families to meet MOLLY OF DENALI, who will introduce them to some of the richest cultures in our nation.”
Native Alaskan Values
Like most PBS shows aimed at children, Molly of Denali is not without its moral compass. The show will provide lessons about the importance of family and the relationships between the generations, promises the network. Further, the show intends to consider the values that guide Molly’s tribe, such as respecting your elders and sharing what you have.
— PBS KIDS (@PBSKIDS) February 1, 2019
The show will also showcase the realities of remote, rural life and will teach kids about the role technology plays in the lives of people like Molly.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a PBS Kids show without a strong educational focus, and Molly doesn’t disappoint. As she takes her 4- through 8-year-old viewers with her on her adventures, the young viewers will learn literacy skills via “informational text.”
“In every episode,Molly navigates her world and solves problems with the help of books, online resources, field guides, historical documents, maps, tables, posters, photos, Indigenous knowledge from elders, her very own vlog and more.”
Real Alaskan Natives Contribute
If nothing else, Molly of Denali will be authentic from top to bottom. PBS Kids worked with real Alaskan natives to develop the show’s look, feel, sound, and script. And real Alaskan natives will voice all of the characters, including Molly herself who will be voiced by Alaska Native Sovereign Bill (Tlingit and Muckleshoot).
Molly of Denali premieres on PBS Kids on July 15, 2019; check local listings for times.