Good golly, meet ‘Molly of Denali’

Good golly, meet ‘Molly of Denali’

Alaska Natives on screen and behind the scenes of new program

If Kennedy Miller is any indication, “Molly of Denali” will have an audience.

The 9-year-old girl was in the audience for the Friday Evening at Egan lecture about the upcoming PBS cartoon that featured a preview of an episode of the show.

“I really like it,” Miller said.

At 9, she’s a bit older than the show’s intended 4-8-year-old audience, but Miller said she would still like to watch the show and could not think of other kids shows set in Alaska.

X’unei Lance Twitchell, University of Alaska professor and language/culture consultant and writer for “Molly of Denali,” said there definitely aren’t many shows with a protagonist like Molly.

“It means a lot,” Twitchell said. “The main character is an Alaska Native female.”

The presentation about the animated show expected to premiere summer of 2019 was the focus of the last Evening at Egan lecture of Alaska Native Heritage Month. However, there will be another installment next week at UAS’s Egan Library.

Twitchell delivered the lecture instead of the show’s creative producer Princess Daazhraii Johnson, who was unable to fly out of Fairbanks because of delays caused by the earthquakes that rocked Anchorage on Friday.

“Molly of Denali” not only features Alaska Native characters on screen, but involves Native voice actors, writers and more.

Twitchell said it adheres to the “nothing about us without us,” idea.

The narrative sovereignty allowed Alaska Native creators to decide how their cultures and values would be depicted. Over the years, that often has not been the case, which has led to misguided or outright racist depictions of indigenous people.

“How many shows feature Alaska Native characters?” Twitchell said. “As I raise my kids, I’ll go ‘Oh, we used to watch this all the time,’ and it will end, and I’ll say, ‘We’re never watching this again.’”

As an example, he played a snippet of Disney’s “Peter Pan,” and as a counterpoint he shared a few work-in-progress segments of “Molly of Denali.”

While audience members were barred from filming the sneak peek or discussing plot particulars too closely, the show introduced a diverse cast of young characters, including the 10-year-old title character, who lives above a trading post, and her multicultural friends and their relatives.

“My goals are to entertain and put diversity on the screen in an authentic way,” Twitchell said.

The show moved quickly and exposition and morals were dispensed during kinetic adventures. The show’s young characters showed resourcefulness and tenacity in solving problems, but had no qualms about turning to adults for help.

Twitchell said some of the values the show intends to extol are sharing with others, honoring elders, seeing connections and more.

“Molly of Denali” also addressed some sensitive issues related to the historical mistreatment of Alaska Natives that left Kolene James, audience member and coordinator for the Native and Rural Student Center for UAS, emotional.

She commended the show for tackling weighty topics as well as providing characters with whom Alaska Native children will identify.

“Being a parent of three beautiful children, to see someone who looks like them is pretty amazing,” James said.


• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com.


University of Alaska Southeast professor <span style="text-decoration: underline;">X</span>’unei Lance Twitchell filled in for the Evening at Egan presentation about “Molly of Denali” Friday, Nov. 30. He introduced the crowd at UAS’s Egan Library to the show’s characters, including Molly’s dog, Suki. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

University of Alaska Southeast professor X’unei Lance Twitchell filled in for the Evening at Egan presentation about “Molly of Denali” Friday, Nov. 30. He introduced the crowd at UAS’s Egan Library to the show’s characters, including Molly’s dog, Suki. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

University of Alaska Southeast professor <span style="text-decoration: underline;">X</span>’unei Lance Twitchell filled in for the Evening at Egan presentation about “Molly of Denali” Friday, Nov. 30. Twitchell has had a hand in the program expected to premiere in the summer of 2019 as a consultant and writer. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

University of Alaska Southeast professor X’unei Lance Twitchell filled in for the Evening at Egan presentation about “Molly of Denali” Friday, Nov. 30. Twitchell has had a hand in the program expected to premiere in the summer of 2019 as a consultant and writer. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

More in Home

Juneau high school seniors Edward Hu of Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé (left), Elizabeth Djajalie of Thunder Mountain High School (center) and Kenyon Jordan of Yaaḵoosgé Daakahídi Alternative High School. (Photos of Hu and Jordan by Juneau Empire staff, photo of Djajalie by Victor Djajalie)
Senior Spotlight 2024: Three top students take very different paths to graduation stage

Ceremonies for Juneau’s three high schools take place Sunday.

The entrance road to Bartlett Regional Hospital. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire file photo)
Bartlett Regional Hospital looking at eliminating or trimming six ‘non-core’ programs to stabilize finances

Rainforest Recovery Center, autism therapy, crisis stabilization, hospice among programs targeted.

(Clarise Larson/ Juneau Empire file photo)
Both JDHS soccer teams advance to state semifinals after decisive wins

Top-seeded girls stay undefeated with 5-0 win against Palmer, second-seeded boys top Homer 3-1.

Mayor Beth Weldon (left), Deputy Mayor Michelle Bonnet Hale and Juneau Assembly member Paul Kelly discussion proposals for next year’s mill rate during an Assembly Finance Committee meeting on Wednesday night. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Assembly members support lower 10.04 mill rate ahead of final vote on next year’s CBJ budget

Initial proposal called for raising current rate of 10.16 mills to 10.32 mills.

A king salmon. (Ryan Hagerty/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Biden administration advances bid to list Gulf of Alaska king salmon as endangered or threatened

Experts say request could restrict activity affecting river habitats such as road, home construction

Dave Scanlan, general manager of Eaglecrest Ski Area, speaks to the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Finance Committee on April 13, 2023. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Dave Scanlan forced out as Eaglecrest’s general manager, says decision ‘came as a complete shock to me’

Resort’s leader for past 7 years says board seeking a “more office-process, paper-oriented” manager.

The entrance to the Alaska Gasline Development Corp.’s Anchorage office is seen on Aug. 11, 2023. The state-owned AGDC is pushing for a massive project that would ship natural gas south from the North Slope, liquefy it and send it on tankers from Cook Inlet to Asian markets. The AGDC proposal is among many that have been raised since the 1970s to try commercialize the North Slope’s stranded natural gas. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Eight young Alaskans sue to block proposed trans-Alaska natural gas pipeline

Plaintiffs cite climate change that harms their access to fish, wildlife and natural resources.

Tom Abbas discusses the hose his boat needs as shop owner and vintage halibut jacket provider Jim Geraghty shows his customer the options. Racks of dry-cleaned woolen jackets hang among the marine supply aisles in Gerahgty’s Lemon Creek business. (Laurie Craig / Juneau Empire)
Coats of many colors: Halibut jackets make a big splash again

“Pre-owned” wool garments from many decades ago being tracked down for resale by Juneau marine shop.

Most Read