Charitie Ropati watched the pilot episode of Molly of Denali in her Columbia University dorm room, huddled around a computer screen with friends.
“We were crying,” Ropati said. “We realized we finally had positive representation.”
Molly of Denali is the first cartoon series with an Alaska Native character as the lead. It premiered in the U.S. on PBS Kids in July.
For many, it is more than a cartoon.
“Watching the show is a way for my Native friends and I to bond,” said 18-year-old Ropati, who’s Yup’ik. She had just moved to New York City from Anchorage and was feeling homesick when the pilot aired.
“PBS did such a good job. It is like my siblings, Native youth and myself can see ourselves in it.”
The series, in its first season, has Indigenous input at all levels of production, Indian Country Today reported. It includes 38 episodes, a podcast series and a collection of paperback books.
The series, a co-production with CBC Kids, premiered on CBC in September 2019. People can watch Molly of Denali on Saturdays on CBC TV and CBC Gem, and on-demand via Gem.
Dorothea Gillim is the series’ executive producer, a position she also held on Curious George. After working in the industry for many years, she says this program is special.