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Western Animation / Molly of Denali

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Molly of Denali is a PBS Kids animated series. It has the honor of being the first kids’ show with an Alaska Native as the protagonist.note  It is produced by WGBH Boston, with assistance from CBC and Atomic Cartoons.

Molly Mabray is a feisty and resourceful 10-year-old girl who lives in the fictional village of Qyah, Alaska. She helps her parents run the Denali Trading Post — a general store, bunkhouse, and transport hub. Along the way, she goes on adventures with her best friends, Tooey Ookami and Trini Mumford, and her dog Suki. She also has a vlog, where she shares aspects of her life in Alaska with kids in the lower 48 states note .

The show aims to teach kids about informational text. Molly’s life and adventures are enhanced by informational text such as maps, calendars, and satellite tracking; judging the legitimacy of information sources is also addressed. It also teaches traditional Alaska Native values such as sharing what you have and respecting your elders.


On May 30th, 2019, a podcast based on the series was launched. It explains some of the backstory of the show; specifically, on Molly's 10th birthday and how she met her dog, Suki. Listen to it here. The show premiered on television on July 15, 2019.

Molly of Denali provides examples of:

  • 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: The show noticeably uses 3D CGI for large mechanical objects like Layla's bush plane, Walter's truck, and (in the episode "King Run") the king salmon-catching fish wheel.
  • Ace Pilot:
    • Molly's mom Layla is a bush pilot, and is complimented on her piloting throughout the podcast. She knows everything that’s going on in interior Alaska: what scientists are where and which ones always get into trouble, what the weather will be and if it’s dangerous to fly or not.
    • Trini's mom Joy is an Army helicopter pilot and very capably pilots a rescue mission to the top of Mount Denali in "Molly and the Great One."
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  • Actor Allusion: In "Mollyball", Trini (voiced by Vienna Leacock) suggests that there may be aliens on another planet playing basketball. Sydney is also voiced by Leacock and she hangs out with an alien (Jet) every day.
  • Alliterative Name: Molly Mabray.
  • All There in the Script: The credits to "Grandpa's Drum/Have Canoe, Will Paddle" reveal that the name of Grandpa's childhood friend is Shyahtsoo, which wasn't shown in the episode.
  • An Aesop:
    • "Fiddlesticks" - you should do whatever makes you happy, and you shouldn't feel obligated to do something just because someone wants you to.
    • "Tooth Or Consequences" - Get information from an expert.
    • "Qyah Spy" - Just because someone wears different clothes or speaks a different language doesn't make them a villain.
  • Animal-Eared Headband: Trini's winter hat has bear ears on it.
  • Artistic License – Ornithology: The premise of "Eagle Egg Hunt" is that Molly must re-position a naturalist's webcam so viewers won't miss the hatching of three bald eagle chicks. Actual raptor eggs are laid, and hatch, a day or two apart, ensuring that one chick will be younger and weaker: if there's not enough food for a trio of chicks, the youngest automatically loses out and dies rather than all three starving slowly.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • In "Dream Tube", the kids want to buy a tube, but they don't have enough money. Auntie Midge also has her eye on it. Every time she goes into the Denali Trading Post, the kids think that she's gonna buy the tube, but she doesn't.
    • In "Suki's Bone", Molly, Tooey, and Oscar discover what seems to be an ancient washer, but later it turns out to be a piece of metal from a vacuum cleaner, much to their disappointment.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: "NO! What I want is for you to go home...and get some rest! We have a lot of work to do!"
  • Berserk Button: Trini's is whenever someone or something tries to "mess with Texas".
  • Big Blackout: A blackout happens in Qyah in the episode "The Worm Turns". Because of a spooky story Grandpa Nat told them, the kids think that giant ice worms ate the power lines.
  • Big Brother Bully: Tooey's older brothers, Jay and John, often tease and belittle him. They first showed up on screen in "Puppy Palooza" after being shown in a photograph in the Christmas Episode.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Joy Mumford in "Molly and the Great One".
  • Big Eater: Suki the Alaskan Malamute, as shown throughout the podcast. She loves to eat everything, even food that isn't supposed to be for dogs. Eventually, she is revealed to have stolen Molly's strawberry birthday cake.
  • Birthday Episode: The podcast focuses on Molly's 10th birthday, and the mystery of who stole her strawberry birthday cake. She finally celebrates her birthday proper in the final episode, "Happy Birthday Molly".
  • Bland-Name Product: In "The Worm Turns", Molly, Tooey, and Trini look up if giant ice worms are real on a fact-checking site called, an obvious parody of The giant ice worms later turn out to be a hoax.
  • Boarding School of Horrors: As revealed in "Grandpa's Drum", Grandpa Nat was sent away to a boarding school when he was younger, which part of a broader forced assimilation campaign by the United States government. There, he was shamed and bullied by teachers for being an Alaskan Native.
  • Boyish Short Hair: Connie Williams wears her hair in a pixie cut.
  • Broken Aesop: In "Native Youth Olympics," Walter emphasizes to Molly that the key to doing well in any of the Native Youth Olympic events is to keep practicing. In the end, Molly wins a gold medal for the Greased Pole Walk, an event that she signed up for at the last minute and didn't practice at all because she was naturally good at it.
  • Broken Bird: Grandpa Nat, in spades. As revealed in "Grandpa's Drum", as a child, he was separated from his family and friends and forced to attend boarding school, where he was subjected to extreme racism and was only allowed to sing English songs. Because of this, he decided to give away his drum to his childhood friend and to not sing anymore. Layla mentions that talking about it makes him very sad. Luckily, Molly and Tooey recover his drum and he starts singing again.
  • Call-Back: In "Hus-keys," one of Molly's props in her dog-training video is the book Best Beasts Ever! And Where to Find Them. That was the book that had convinced the Mabrays' guest Travis that mammoths still exist in the episode "Book of Mammoths." Apparently, he left the book with them after they finally convinced him that it was bogus.
  • Calvinball: In "Mollyball", Molly invents a game called Mollyball, where the players make up rules as they go.
  • The Cavalry: In "Molly and the Great One", just when Mac McFadden is in danger during a blizzard, Joy and Atsaq arrive in a helicopter to save him.
  • Canine Companion: Suki the Alaskan Malamute, who accompanies Molly on her adventures.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Trini's lucky rock in "Dream Tube". After Molly and Tooey dismiss the rock as not being an agate, Trini uses it as her lucky rock. It later comes in handy when it's discovered to really be an agate and Auntie Midge buys it for $30, meaning that the kids have enough money to buy a tube.
    • Mr. Patak's canoe in "Have Canoe, Will Paddle". He builds one despite not knowing much about canoes. Later, it comes in handy when the kids use it for the canoe race after they get a hole in their original canoe.
  • Christmas Episode: "Tooey's Hole-i-Day Sweater" takes place at Christmas and is about Tooey accidentally ripping a hole in his Homemade Sweater from Hell.
  • Cowboy: In "Culture Clash", Molly and Tooey dress like cowboys and talk with Southern accents to make Trini (who moved to Alaska from Texas) feel at home. This backfires.
  • Cool Old Guy: Grandpa Nat is this to Molly, as he provides wisdom and native stories to her throughout the podcast.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Grandpa Nat has one as revealed in "Grandpa's Drum". As a child, he was removed from his family and forced to attend boarding school, where he was openly shamed for being an Alaskan Native. He was also only allowed to sing English songs, causing him to not sing anymore and to give away his drum to his childhood friend.
  • Dark Horse Victory: In "Brand New Flag", Molly holds a town-wide contest to design a flag for the Trading Post. Overwhelmed with all the entries, she laters finds a flag design that she thinks is perfect, even though it has no name. It wins the contest. It turns out that Suki made it.
  • Déjà Vu: Grandpa Nat experiences this in "Grandpa's Drum". When Molly and Tooey sing and drum together, he starts seeing visions of himself and his old friend when they were younger, doing the exact same thing.
  • Description Cut: In "Have Canoe, Will Paddle", Molly tries to ask Mr. Patak to coach her and the others on how to canoe, saying that he's a perfect fit. Then it cuts to Mr. Patak saying that he is not a perfect fit.
  • Diegetic Soundtrack Usage: Molly's phone ringtone is the show's theme song.
  • Edutainment Show: It is a PBS series, after all. Specifically, it is meant to teach kids about Alaska, information-literacy skills, and typical Alaska Native values such as respecting your elders.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Mac McFadden's real name is Aloysius, something only Andie points out in "Molly and the Great One".
  • Episode Title Card: Every episode has one.
  • Exhausted Eye Bags: Molly, Tooey and Trini all get these in "Turn on the Northern Lights" because they stayed up late the previous night.
  • Extra-Long Episode: "Molly and the Great One" is the show's first 55-minute special. There are two plots, which eventually collide. Molly finds out about Walter Harper's expedition to the top of Denali, and wants Grandpa Nat to climb up there as well. An obnoxious reality TV outdoorsman, Mac McFadden, arrives in Qyah and is keen on climbing Denali as well, so Molly, Tooey, Kenji, Nat, Walter, Mac, and his assistant Andie all climb Denali together. Meanwhile, Trini's mom Joy comes home to Qyah after serving in the military. Trini shows her around and they have fun together until Joy reveals that soon she has to leave. The mountain climbers find out that a storm is approaching and decide not to make it to the summit, but foolish Mac goes it alone and is in danger. Joy uses her helicopter and rescues Mac and the others. Nat and Walter make it all the way to the top of Denali, and are lauded as heroes.
  • Fanboy: Oscar is one to Finnegan King, a music legend who is famous for playing the fiddle.
  • Fearless Fool: "Molly and the Great One" introduces Mac McFadden, a celebrity outdoorsman who has done multiple dangerous stunts, including diving into an active volcano. In the special, he tries to make it to the top of Denali amidst a blizzard and to make a long story short, it does not go well, and by the end, his leg is in a cast.
  • Fictional Video Game: Boltronoman vs. the Ice Freak, which Tooey brings up in "The Worm Turns".
  • Fictional Sport: Mollyball from the episode "Mollyball".
  • Fishing for Sole: In "First Fish", Molly can't wait to catch her first fish, but the only thing she catches is Tooey's missing boot.
  • Five-Token Band: Molly (Gwich'in/Koyukon/Dena'ina Athabascan), Tooey (Yup'ik, Koyukon, and Japanese), Trini (African-American), Oscar (unspecified native), Vera (Filipino-Athabascan), and Jake (token white).
  • Gender-Equal Ensemble: The students at Qyah Village School — three girls (Molly, Trini, and Vera), and three boys (Tooey, Oscar, and Jake).
  • Good Luck Charm: In "Dream Tube", Trini finds a rock, which she adopts as her "lucky rock". It later turns out to be an agate, which the kids sell to Auntie Midge for $30, meaning they now have enough money to buy a tube.
  • Greater Need Than Mine: In "Dream Tube", Auntie Midge wants the tube that the kids also want. When she discovers that Trini has an agate (and that the kids need $30 to buy the tube), she decides that since tubes come around every summer (and agates are rarer), that the kids deserve the tube more, so she buys the agate, meaning the kids now have enough money for the tube.
  • Grumpy Bear: Aunt Merna is grouchy and harsh compared to the rest of the cast, who are lively and cheerful. She's even uncomfortable when Molly (her own niece) gives her a hug.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: In "Culture Clash", Trini gets angry whenever Molly and Tooey unintentionally suggest that she's too short for the basketball team, that she's not tough enough, and that she doesn't know how to play, landing Molly and Tooey on her bad side. They try to get on her good side for the rest of the episode.
  • Hidden Depths: In "Have Canoe, Will Paddle", the kids find out that Connie has won awards for canoeing and has even been in the Olympics.
  • Homemade Sweater from Hell: In "Tooey's Hole-i-Day Sweater", it's revealed that in the Ookami family, you have to wear an ugly Christmas sweater until you outgrow it. Tooey's older brothers Jay and John both had to wear it before handing it down to Tooey. Tooey thought that this year would be the last year that he wears the sweater, but it gets a hole, is fixed, and he has to wear it for years to come.
  • I Can't Hear You: In "First Fish," the message that "salmon are running down by the bridge" gets misheard as "ham and onions down by the ridge" due to being shouted at a distance from a canoe and then misheard again as "Yams are drowning the fridge."
  • Informed Judaism: In "Tooey's Hole-i-Day Sweater", where we see Connie lighting a menorah for Hanukkah.
  • Innocently Insensitive: In "Culture Clash", Molly and Tooey try to make friends with Trini after accidentally getting on her bad side. After they find out that she's from Texas, they watch an old cowboy movie to get an idea of what Texas is like. Molly and Tooey then wear cowboy outfits and start speaking in stereotypical Southern accents, unaware that these are untrue Texas stereotypes. Trini then shows them that Texas is not really like that. Later, Molly and Tooey get a taste of their own medicine when Trini assumes that there are polar bears everywhere in Alaska. A trip to the library helps clear things up.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Tooey's parents when they were a bit younger. In particular, Atsaq used to let her hair grow out, before cutting it to a bob in the present day.
  • "Kiss the Cook" Apron: In the season one episode "Picking Cloudberries", Walter wears an apron that says "Kiss me, I'm from Qyah".
  • Meaningful Appearance: The kids' pajamas:
    • Molly has a puffin on her shirt, because she loves puffins.
    • Trini has an armadillo on her night-gown, because armadillos are the state animal of Texas, her home state.
    • Tooey has a wolf on his shirt, because his full name, Tookkone, is "wolf" in Koyukon Athabascan.
  • Meaningful Echo: In "Eagle Egg Hunt", Molly and Walter head to the Windsong Wildlife Area to fix an eagle cam. However, there are six cameras there, so they have to find out which one is the eagle cam. Along the way, they come across a bunch of caribou, but Molly is more concerned about the eagle cam. Walter tells her that "Watching nature on a laptop is one thing, but this is the real deal." Later, Molly comes across some cute foxes, but this time Walter is more concerned about the eagle cam, Molly tells him that "Watching nature on a laptop is one thing, but this is the real deal.", showing that she had learned her lesson.
  • Missing Mom: It is unknown where Trini and Tooey's mothers are. Averted later in Tooey's case, where his mother, Atsaq, is mentioned in "The Name Game" and "Fiddle of Nowhere" and makes full appearances in "Operation:Sleepover" and "Porcupine Slippers" with an Early-Bird Cameo in "Bye Bye Birdy". Trini's mom is briefly mentioned in "The Shortest Birthday" when Trini is seen talking to her via video chat on her laptop. We finally get to meet Trini's mom, whose name is Joy, in the one-hour special "Molly and the Great One" where it's revealed that she has been serving in the army for quite some time and hasn't had time to spend with her husband and daughter until the special when she takes a temporary leave to visit them in Qyah.
  • Monster-Shaped Mountain: A peak shaped like a bear's head and a nose-shaped rock are among the landmarks used for traditional navigation in "Canoe Journey".
  • Mr. Fixit:
    • Mr. Patak, who runs the woodshop in Qyah, can fix anything.
    • Connie, the town mechanic.
  • Multi-Part Episode: "Puppy Palooza" is a two-part, half-hour episode. It involves Tooey's dog Cali giving birth to multiple puppies.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: Trini tries to shoehorn her way into the theme song.
    "Together with [Molly's] best friend Tooey always by her side"
    "And Trini!"
  • The One Guy: While Tooey isn't the only guy in the show, he's the only one in his friendship group; Molly and Trini are both girls.
  • Potty Emergency: In "Bird in Hand", Molly and Tooey suffer one while Walter is fixing the bathroom. While there's another one available, they're too scared by a mysterious sound (actually an owl) coming from it, forcing Molly to use the (spider-infested) outhouse and Tooey to go in the woods.
  • Pun-Based Title:
    • "Turn on the Northern Lights" is a pun on "turn on the lights".
    • "Fiddlesticks" is a pun on how Molly finds herself in a predicament involving fiddles. Also, Oscar plays the fiddle, and Molly plays the drums, the latter of which involves drumsticks.
  • Quirky Town: Qyah, Alaska is a sweet little town where word travels fast, and all the residents are wacky in their own way. Anything and everything happens there.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: Most of the characters (being Alaskan Natives) use native words or phrases from time to time. Sometimes they'll translate them into English, but sometimes a non-Native viewer will only get the general idea from context.
  • Recycled Animation: The jig dance scene in "Fiddlesticks" is slightly recycled from "A Splash Of Mink".
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Where Molly is enthusiastic and spontaneous, Tooey is patient and thoughtful. As a testament to this, Molly wears a red hoodie while Tooey wears a blue shirt.
  • Repetitive Name: According to this image from the show's social media, Tooey is short for Tookkone — "wolf" in Koyukon Athabascan. His last name, Ookami, also means wolf, but in Japanese.
  • Ship Tease:
    • Molly and Tooey are best friends who hang out all the time, to the point where Tooey most likely spends more time with the Mabrays than his own family. However, Molly and Tooey are way closer than best friends probably should be.
    • In "Grandpa's Drum", Molly and Tooey find a picture of Grandpa Nat and an unnamed girl when they were kids. They were shown to be very close, and Nat apparently trusted her enough to give his drum to her. The girl also speaks very fondly of him, recalling how he loved to sing, dance, and joke a lot. When Molly and Tooey sing and drum together, Nat starts seeing visions of himself and the girl when they were younger, doing the exact same thing.
    • In "A Splash Of Mink", Vera and Jake, Nina and Maurice, and Nat and Midge are shown dancing together.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In "A-maze-ing Snow", the scene where Trini (and later Tooey) become lost in the snow maze references the horror film The Shining. (Specifically, the scene at the end of the movie where Danny is being chased in the snow maze by his father Jack and Jack later freezing to death in the maze where Danny makes his escape out of the maze. As you can see, both scenes of The Shining and Molly of Denali episode ended up in the same predicament.)
    • "Cabbagezilla":
      • There is a Running Gag where Molly has a hard time getting Sadie Albert’s name right (calling her names like “Sarah Matthews” and “Sabrina Andrews”), and has to be corrected by Trini. This is similar to how Gumball Waterson has a hard time getting Rob’s name right on The Amazing World of Gumball.
      • The title of the episode is a reference to Godzilla.
      • The name of Trini’s cabbage plant, “Big Green”, can make a reference to Big City Greens.
    • "The Worm Turns":
      • The episode title is also the name of a Mickey Mouse cartoon.
      • When the kids search up images of giant ice worms, they find a picture of a video game character called Boltronoman, who kinda resembles Optimus Prime from Transformers. It could also be a reference to other types of Humongous Mecha franchises.
    • "Little Dog Lost":
    • "Mollyball":
      • The game of Mollyball is a reference to Calvinball.
      • When Trini mentions aliens from other planets, that's a reference to Ready Jet Go!, as Sydney (who shares the same actress as Trini) hangs out with an alien (Jet).
    • In "Visit Qyah", Maurice admits to having met celebrity weatherman Clark Newman who bares a strong resemblance to Arataka Reigen, "The Greatest Psychic of the 21st Century" from Mob Psycho 100.
    • The intro to "Qyah Spy" is a parody of James Bond.
  • Slice of Life: The show's primary focus surrounds everyday life in Alaska.
  • Slumber Party: Molly, Tooey, and Trini have a slumber party in "The Worm Turns".
  • Smelly Skunk: Molly and Trini encounter a mink (another animal who sprays a stinky smell when scared, like a skunk) in "A Splash Of Mink". It sprays them, and they're smelly for the rest of the episode.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: According to supplementary materials released on the official social media for the show, Tooey is a dog whisperer who helps run his family's kennel, and hopes to become a musher like his father some day.
  • Sports Hero Backstory: In "Have Canoe, Will Paddle", Connie is revealed to have raced in the Olympics and won a gold medal in the Women's C-1 200 meter race
  • Story Arc: The podcast is serialized, and it focuses on Molly's 10th birthday, the mystery of who stole her birthday cake, and her family taking over the Denali Trading Post.
  • Strawberry Shorthand: In the podcast, Molly was going to have a strawberry cake for her birthday. She really wanted to eat it, but then it went missing. The podcast focuses on her and Tooey trying to find it and solve the mystery of who stole it.
  • The Dentist Episode: "Tooth Or Consequences", where the kids are scared to go to the dentist because of a sensational video.
  • Tagalong Kid: Averted. Trini is three years younger than Molly and Tooey — a huge age difference for children ten years old and under — but they've treated her as an equal since the day she arrived.
  • ¡Three Amigos!: The main cast of kids are Molly, Tooey, and Trini.
  • Title Theme Tune: Molly of Denali, she's Molly of Denali..
  • Token Black Friend: While the rest of the main cast are Alaskan Natives, Trini is African-American, and is also a newcomer to the community, along with her father. She is Molly and Tooey's best friend.
  • Tomato Skunk Stink Cure: In "A Splash Of Mink", Molly and Trini were sprayed by a mink. They find an online article that says that tomato juice gets rid of mink smell, but when Molly and Trini try it, it doesn't work. Nat tells them not to believe everything they read.
  • Totally Radical: In "Dream Tube", tubes are being sold at the Denali Trading Post, and the sign above it says "Totally Tubular".
  • Training from Hell: In "Have Canoe, Will Paddle", Connie forces Molly, Tooey, and Trini to undergo rigorous training with odd tasks such as balancing water balloons and trying to lift watermelons covered with butter.
  • Trauma Button: For Grandpa Nat, it's talking about the time he was sent off to boarding school.
  • Tropey, Come Home: In "Little Dog Lost", Tooey's newest dog Anka goes missing. The episode involves him and Molly trying to recover Anka.
  • Truncated Theme Tune: The official podcast shortens the theme song and removes some lines.
  • Two Girls and a Guy: Molly, Trini, and Tooey.
  • Two Shorts: Uses the ABA format, with the 'A' segment being an 11-minute episode of the show, and the 'B' segment being a segment where Molly answers a kid's question.
  • Very Special Episode:
    • "Grandpa's Drum" talks about the racism that Alaskan Natives experienced as part of a boarding school assimilation campaign.
    • "Molly and Elizabeth" is another episode about racism. Molly and Tooey experience discrimination when tourists tell them that they aren't Native enough. They learn about Elizabeth Peratrovich and how she stood up for Alaska Native people.
  • Wax On, Wax Off: In "Have Canoe, Will Paddle", Connie tries to train the kids to use canoes by having them do planks, balance water balloons and lift watermelons covered with butter and the kids find it very strange. After realizing that she's actually an accomplished canoer, they begin to understand her methods more. The planking was for upper body strength, the water balloons were for core muscles, and the watermelon game taught them to balance in the canoe.
  • When You Coming Home, Dad?: Trini's mother is never around because she's too busy serving the United Nations. Trini laments that she can't always stay and always has to leave.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: "Culture Clash" is a flashback in its entirety, detailing the time when Trini moved to Qyah.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Trini is terrified of polar bears. She originally assumed that they were everywhere in Alaska.
  • Women Are Wiser: In "Molly and the Great One", Mac McFadden's producer/possible romantic partner Andie is far more intelligent and sensible than he is.


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