One incredibly fun, and incredibly exhausting, project I’ve been working on the past few years has been as a writer for the new PBS KIDS animated show Molly of Denali. It premiered July 15, and it’s been soooo fun to see how the public is reacting to it! Especially the kiddos.
That’s not to say I never saw a representation of Native people on screen. I saw plenty of funny “Eskimos” in igloos and Indian princesses in fringe outfits not saying a word as they were rescued. There were frightening, screaming warriors the white heroes so bravely fought against. But not a single time did I see myself in these stereotypes and caricatures.
I had these images in mind when I was approached by producers in the fall of 2016 to write for a new animated children’s program, “Molly of Denali.” The company was WGBH, the same company behind such monumental children’s programs as Curious George and Arthur. I was excited to hear that not only was it developing a show based on an Athabascan girl named Molly for PBS KIDS, it had an Alaska Native advisory group involved with its creation. I received a huge “bible” of material on the show, which described the effort to teach what’s called “informational text” to children through the episodes, and highlight the science and social aspects of Alaska. As exciting as this was, however, I didn’t grasp exactly what it could mean.
Then I saw the pilot.