Since late last week, Marvel Studios has been debuting a new episode of the award-winning animated series What If…? daily. The sixth episode in Season 2, “What If… Kahhori Reshaped the World?” premieres on Disney+ today and introduces audiences to an original Super Hero, Kahhori, a young Mohawk woman on a quest to discover her power.
Written by Ryan Little and directed by executive producer Bryan Andrews, the episode was created in close collaboration with members of the Mohawk Nation, including historian Doug George and language expert Cecelia King, to ensure cultural authenticity. As the characters speak in the Mohawk language, the episode is completely subtitled, and the story is informed by the history of the Akwesasne region in what is now upstate New York.
Wanting to do the story justice, the creative team first pitched the idea to The Walt Disney Company’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion team in April 2020. “We told them about the episode, and they said, ‘We’re going to call The Smithsonian. They have the National Museum of the American Indian, and they have a rolodex. Let’s get them involved,” executive producer AC Bradley recalled during the What If…? Season 2 screening event at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California. “From day one, we were talking to people. We brought them in for everything from design and story to costuming and music. It was really amazing and beautiful. I’m very proud we were able to pull it off.”
The episode explores what would happen if the Tesseract fell to Earth and landed in the sovereign Haudenosaunee Confederacy before the colonization of America. There, the Tesseract takes on a new life and mythology, transforming a lake into a portal to the stars. “What bigger ‘what if’ is there than, ‘What if colonialization didn’t happen? What if the Europeans didn’t come here?'” Andrews said. “That’s what I keyed into, but it needed more. Talking with our consultants and getting into their belief system, we were able to find an in that was solid and worked.”
Andrews added that Little “was instrumental” in shaping the episode. “He worked with the consultants a ton to bring this character to life,” he said. Andrews also praised the visual development team and the artists, whose thoughtful work “amazed” the consultants. “They wrote us a letter saying how they felt for the first time that their people were honestly being represented in media. That was huge, and they were no bones about it: ‘This is legit.'”
Prior to the episode debuting on Disney+, the creative team screened the episode early for “hundreds of members of the of the First Nations tribal community,” Andrews continued. “The whole episode is subtitled, and they were like, ‘That’s never been done for us before.’ From the very beginning I was like, ‘It’s going to be in their language; I’m not budging.'” Executive producer Brad Winderbaum, Marvel Studios’ Head of Streaming, Television and Animation, and everyone else at the studio was “supportive in every way,” Andrews added.
Devery Jacobs—who next stars as Bonnie in Marvel Studios’ live-action series Echo, streaming Tuesday, January 9, on Disney+ and Hulu—voices Kahhori (pronounced “KAH-HORTI”). The episode also features the voice talents of Kiawentiio as Wahta, Jeremy White as Atahraks, Gabriel Romo as Conquistador Rodrigo Alphonso Gonzolo, Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange, and Carolina Ravassa and Queen Isabella, among others.