‘Molly of Denali’ episodes getting translated and dubbed in the Gwich’in and Koyukon languages

Two girls are sitting in front of a TV that says "Molly of Denali."
Nanibaa’ Frommherz (left) and Isadora Kizer participated in a voice acting workshop led by creators of “Molly of Denali,” organized by the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, on Aug. 9, 2019. (Zoe Grueskin/KTOO)

“Molly of Denali,” the show about a 10-year-old Interior Alaskan girl and her friends, has been airing in English since 2019. Now, the Doyon Foundation is working to dub two episodes of the show into the Gwich’in and Koyukon languages.

The language revitalization program of Doyon Foundation put out a call for actors who can speak two of the languages of the region. The Foundation is working with WGBH Boston, which produces the fictional PBS Kids’ cartoon, to create episodes representing all the real Mollys out there.

The “Molly of Denali” project is just one effort of Doyon Foundation’s language revitalization program, which works to preserve the ancestral languages of the Doyon region.

Allan Hayton, director of the language revitalization program, said the episodes of the show called “King Run” and “Grandpa’s Drum” will be dubbed into Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa, or Gwich’in.

Lynnea Frank was cast as Molly in the Gwich’in episodes of “Molly of Denali.” (Photo courtesy of Doyon Foundation)
Adriel Ginnis will be the voice of Tooey, Molly’s best friend, in the Gwich’in episodes of “Molly of Denali.” (Photo courtesy of Doyon Foundation).

“We did have quite a number of auditions,” he said. “I’ve been reviewing those, and we were able to nail down the Gwich’in cast. We’re still working on the second cast, the Denaakk’e, or Koyukon.”

Children have been cast in the lead roles. Lynnea Frank will play Molly and Adriel Ginnis will play her friend Tooey.

Gwich’in cast members will rehearse to perfect the language pronunciations and the emotions of the stories. Then they will record at KUAC’s radio studio in Fairbanks.

“And then, once we have the audio, we’ll have to make sure it times out as well,” Hayton said. “Because Athabaskan language is very different than English and a word in Athabaskan could be full sentence length, especially the verbs. So you have to time it with the actual animation, because we can’t change that. That’s going to stay the same.”

When the Gwich’in audio is correctly timed with the animation, the tracks will be sent to Atomic Cartoons in Vancouver, Canada, which will integrate the audio into the existing “Molly of Denali” episodes. Hayton said he’s consulted on the show and trusts folks in British Columbia and Boston to represent Alaska faithfully.

“They do a really good job at WGBH and integrating culture and making sure that they vet things, including all those cultural elements that maybe most people would miss, but people that are here in Alaska watching the show would definitely know,” he said.

The cartoons will be used in Doyon region language revitalization efforts. They will likely air across the state and perhaps in the Athabascan-speaking areas of Canada.

The Denaakk’e/Koyukon group chose the episodes “Have Canoe Will Paddle” and “Main Game.” Hayton said the cast for the Denaakk’e episodes will be chosen soon.

The second season of “Molly of Denali” began on Nov. 1.

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