Media watchers are keen to emphasize how Apple beat Netflix to the Best Picture Oscar prize when the TV+ film CODA took home the coveted award at last month’s Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles. In addition, Troy Kotsur won Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of fisherman Frank Rossi. As for the telecast, this year’s Oscars were only the second in history to be captioned. To top it off, interest in sign language has surged since CODA made Hollywood history.

When it comes to disability representation in film and television, what the Deaf and hard-of-hearing communities have experienced over the last few months has been incredible. The popularity of CODA, as well as another TV+ property in El Deafo, have thrust the Deaf community into the spotlight in ways unprecedented. The level of awareness is stratospheric right now; disabled people, despite being the world’s largest marginalized group, typically sees a pittance of the attention when talking about diversity and inclusion—even from its most ardent supporters. That cultural juggernauts like Apple and the Academy pushed CODA and the deaf community, for instance, into the mainstream consciousness is no small feat. Whatever criticisms Deaf people have of CODA—and there are a bevy of them—there can be no doubt the film has propelled awareness to heretofore unknown heights.

Where Apple has CODA and El Deafo, Melissa Malzkuhn and Marina Martins have Here Comes Mavo. Although currently without a permanent home—Malzkuhn and Martins are engaged in discussions with potential distributors—Here Comes Mavo is being lauded as the first-ever animated television series to feature a Deaf protagonist and three-dimensional avatars speaking sign language. The show has been developed through a collaboration between Gallaudet University’s Motion Light Lab, of which Malzkuhn is founder and director, and Pigmental Studios, where Martins is chief executive and creative director. The pair met in 2015 and since have worked together to, according to the Here Comes Mavo website, “change the perception of Deaf culture in what [is depicted] in media and entertainment.”

In a press release issued this week, Gallaudet and Pigmental Studios officially introduced Here Comes Mavo. The organizations announced series contains 52 eleven-minute episodes. “[Here Comes Mavo is] centered on the magical land of the Baobab Universe. It is here, in her hometown, where Mavo, a curious eight-year-old Deaf girl, stumbles into the roots of a tree, learning how to cope with her emotions and finding ways to communicate her feelings with the other characters in this adventurous world,” wrote Gallaudet and Pigmental in the release.

“Three years ago, Melissa and I began using the world and character of Mavo from The Baobab storybook as the basis for a ‘fictional’ TV series to use in my class’s work,” Martins said of Here Comes Mavo’s beginnings in a recent interview with me conducted over email. “It was soon clear that the vibrancy, deaf perspective, and clarity of insight of ‘growing up deaf’ stories that emerged from the students’ own experiences and imagination gave us the confidence to say, ‘let’s make this into an actual series,’ and Here Comes Mavo was born.”

Both women agree with the sentiment that the Deaf and hard-of-hearing communities are indeed having their moments in the sun right now. All the more reason to push hard on Here Comes Mavo and keep the momentum going. Malzkuhn noted it’d been over three decades since CODA star Marlee Matlin became the first Deaf performer to win an Academy Award, winning Best Actress for her portrayal of Sarah Norman in 1986’s Children of a Lesser God. With Here Comes Mavo, the plan is to keep telling stories of the Deaf community, as Matlin and Kotsur did with CODA and Cece Bell with El Deafo. “What we’ve experienced in the recent months is unprecedented, and we don’t want this to be a fleeting moment. Truly, we hope this means things are shifting and that we have more representation than ever before, and that this will continue,” Malzkuhn said. “We will see authentic casting, casting deaf people for deaf roles, and we will see more Deaf-led stories out there in the mainstream, and that we will see more roles and opportunities in front of the camera and behind the camera both.”

She added: “[The] Deaf community has many compelling stories to share.”

The origins of Here Comes Mavo lie in an educational background with film students. For the past five years, Martins has been teaching a storytelling class from the Pigmental Studios offices, located on Gallaudet’s Washington DC campus. The Storytelling in Animation class teaches students how to create an animated television series from conception to character development to plot structure and more. “My focus [is] always to provide the students with the tools with which to tell their stories, while gaining experience and confidence that they are valuable team members in the work environment. They became part of the Pigmental family and engaged in all aspects of the studio,” she said. “The opportunity is to give students a pathway to contribute to creative or noncreative workspaces fully confident in their talent and, once graduated, [know] they belong and will add value to the working community.”

Martins explained Pigmental has a “voluminous slate of feature and animated TV series in its portfolio” and Here Comes Mavo grew from a learning exercise for students to a full-blown series that is being shopped around. Martins said the hope is to have the show “lead the way for a wider body of Deaf-led work to provide authentic, meaningful, and appropriate content for deaf children and their families.” But the overarching goal is not to merely serve Deaf people; the goal is to get hearing children exposed to a new language and a different group of people from their own. In essence, Here Comes Mavo strives to be as educational as it is representational. “Through Mavo, who models linguistic and cultural diversity, hearing children will grow their knowledge of different languages and cultures, and they too will learn and use signed language and gestures,” Martins said. “Learning signs within this engaging series will be seamless, entertaining, and the coolest thing for both Deaf and hearing kids. One of my goals is to make sign language an in-demand language for the hearing community.”

Technologically speaking, a hallmark of Here Comes Mavo is the three-dimensional avatars that use sign language. Malzkuhn’s Motion Light Lab is responsible for their creation. “[We work] to develop fluent-signing 3D characters. We’ve been shaping, honing, and improving our approach through a custom motion capture technology that replicates the fluency and complexity of sign language in animation, particularly 3D animation,” she said. “We have arrived at a point where we are capable of building and creating compelling characters that sign and can be understood clearly by all people who know sign language.” The Lab’s work in this regard is “groundbreaking,” Malzkuhn told me, because it’s difficult to realistically capture grammatical nuances—the finger and hand movements and facial expressions. The work, however challenging, “[sets] a very high bar for more content to come,” Malzkuhn said.

Martins concurred with the power of the Lab’s technical might, saying making the avatars using standard practices was “untenable.” Malzkuhn and team had the skills necessary to make them in their image. This was critical because both women wanted Here Comes Mavo to work with the many signed languages around the world. “Our custom technology is ready, the audience is ready, and our formidable, experienced, and passionate team is more than ready to deliver,” Martins said.

Mavo resonates with Malzkuhn, who’s dreamed forever of such a character. “As a Deaf person, for the longest time, I’ve always yearned for this character,” she said. “Growing up, I watched and enjoyed many animated shows and movies, but in all of them, all the characters speak. With the technology we have now, especially those created in the Motion Light Lab, the time has come for an animated character to finally sign. Now we truly can make signing characters possible for all kids.”

Scripts for Here Comes Mavo are in the final stages, Martins said, with production “past the very intensive development stage.” She noted there are negotiations going on involving merchandising and a game. The series has gone through rigorous review in terms of it being developmentally appropriate for young children. The team has worked with several experts in early childhood education to ensure content is approachable and educationally sound for audiences. The plan is to deliver the show in “approximately 20 months,” according to Martins, and to have worldwide broadcast distribution. Updates on these processes will be announced in the future as they happen.

For the women, Mavo’s future is clear. “Our [long-term] goal with this show is to make this run for multiple seasons, and to see both Deaf and hearing children embrace Mavo as a hero and a fun character to learn from and with in many ways,” Malzkuhn said. “I want to see parents engage with their children through this show, especially hearing parents with Deaf children. Learning to sign is fun and it is for everyone!”

Written by Steven Aquino, Contributor for Forbes