‘Thomas and Friends’ Introduces First Character With Autism
Thomas & Friends: All Engines Gois returning for Season 26 soon, and with new episodes comes a landmark new character.
An official Mattel Television press release describes Bruno as “a joyful, pun-making brake car. He is great at his job and keeps big, heavy cargo steady with his strong brakes—a vital role in Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go. Bruno rolls in reverse at the end of the train, which gives him a unique perspective on the world.”
The release further describes the character in detail, explaining that he “enjoys schedules, routine, and knows where all the tracks lead on Sodor. Bruno has stairs and a lantern on his bright, red exterior that indicates his emotional state, moving when he is excited or cautious. Bruno’s best day is one spent with his friends, who love and respect him for who he is, just as he loves them back.”
Chuck Smith, a 10-year-old actor with autism, voices Bruno in the U.K., while 9-year-old Elliot Garcia, another talented young actor with autism, voices Bruno in the U.S.
The new character will be a series regular on Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go when it returns on Sept. 12 in the U.S., Sept. 17 in Canada, and Sept. 21 in the U.K.
Mattel worked hard to ensure that Bruno is authentic and respectable. They “developed Bruno in collaboration with respected organizations including the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) and Easterseals Southern California, as well as writers and spokespeople with autism including Daniel Share-Strom and Aaron Likens.”
Zoe Gross, Director of Advocacy at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), said, “The most important aspect of Bruno’s development was getting autistic input throughout the process of creating the character and his interactions with his world.
She continued, “Autistic people have been involved in all aspects of creating Bruno, from us as consultants to writers on the show and Bruno’s voice actor—this makes Bruno ring true as an autistic character. I hope that Bruno will provide viewers with meaningful examples of inclusion in everyday life.”
While Bruno is an unprecedented character in the Thomas & Friends franchise and a major step forward in representation in children’s media, Mattel made sure to state in the press release, “While Bruno thoughtfully reflects the traits and preferences of some autistic people, one animated character could never encompass the real-life experience of every autistic person.”
“Bruno’s introduction organically embraces a global audience that is underrepresented and deserves to be celebrated in children’s programming,” said Christopher Keenan, Senior Vice President & Executive Producer, Global Content Development and Production at Mattel, explaining his excitement about the new character.
He concluded, “We can’t wait for audiences to meet and love Bruno as much as we do.”