A new study from Ryerson University called “Examining Children’s Animated Television in Canada” has shone a light on the representation of people of colour in this medium in 2018-2019. In the findings, 51% of human characters were white, while 49% were people of colour. Representation has increased though, as the previous study revealed 74% of characters were white. However, in this study, only 6% of these characters were Indigenous.
Although the numbers are relatively low, Indigenous characters appear in a number of family–friendly TV shows and movies beyond Disney’s Moana and Coco. We’ve rounded up some of the best Indigenous-made kid-friendly shows, movies, and short films that showcase Indigenous folks’ traditional and modern tales.
Molly of Denali tells the story of Alaskan Native, Molly Mabray. She’s Gwich’in, Koyukon and Dena’ina Athabascan. Molly spends her time with her friends and her dog. They fish and hunt and learn new things through her smart phone and the Internet. Beyond Molly’s day-to-day activities, the show incorporates the history of Indigenous people. It is full of learning opportunities and new perspectives for viewers.
APTN’s Ananna’s Tent is a multimedia show starring Rita Claire, also known as Inuit throat singer Riit, as she teaches viewers Inuktitut values and the Inuttitut-language. Ananna’s Tent is the main stage of the show but it branches out into different animated shorts depicting Inuit stories and lessons. The show is available in both Inuktitut and English. You can stream it on APTN Lumi.
Victor and Valentino tells the story of two half-brothers living in a Mesoamerican village, Monte Macabre. Besides hanging out with their family and pals, the bulk of their adventures take place when they get caught up in traditional Aztec, Olmec and Mayan myths that come to life.
Pachamama is feature-length film sharing in the story of a young boy in the Andes Mountains with a dream of becoming a shaman. The story takes place during the Spanish Conquest and the Incan Empire.
Maq and the Spirit of the Woods is the tale of Maq, a young boy who thinks he isn’t too good at anything. But eventually learns to carve a stone figure from an elder. He wants to show it off to his grandfather so he ventures through the forest to bring it to him. On his journey, he encounters a man who he believes to be a traveller. However, he eventually learns it is Mi’gmwesu, the spirit of the woods. As the journey goes on, Mi’gmwesu imparts lessons and wisdom upon Maq.
Little Folk of the Arctic is a short film that tells the traditional Inuit story of the little folk that live in the north. Although these folk try to hide, over time, Inuit shaman and hunters have learned more about them.
Vistas is a series of thirteen animated short films by Indigenous directors. Two of these films offer family-friendly stories to viewers. Dancers of the Grass showcases the art and beauty of hoop dancing. Little Thunder is a humorous tale that shares the Mi’kmaq legend of the Stone Canoe.
The Mountain of SGaana is a short film that shares in a traditional Haida fable in modern times. In the film, a young man is stolen into the spirit world and a young woman rescues him. The film features traditional Haida art.
APTN’s award winning series, Wapos Bay introduces three Cree children, T-Bear, Talon and Raven living in Northern Saskatchewan. Their adventures bring them closer to their community and the lessons of their culture.
Qalupalik is an animated short from the Nunavut Animation Lab and tells the legend of the part-human, part-sea monster, Qalupalik, who takes children who don’t listen to their parents and elders. When a young boy, Angutii, is taken, his father sets out to rescue him.
What family-friendly Indigenous animated series and characters would you recommend for children to check out?
Image Credit: Ananna’s Tent, APTN