Bruno the Brake Car First Autistic Character in Thomas & Friends Franchise
Author: Easterseals Southern California | Contact: easterseals.com/southerncal/
Peer-Reviewed Publication: N/A
Additional References: Films, Radio and TV Publications
Synopsis: Voiced by an autistic actor, Bruno is the first autistic character in Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go developed in collaboration with respected writers and figures with autism. Bruno is 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. 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.
- Thomas & Friends
Thomas & Friends (originally known as Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends and later Thomas the Tank Engine and Thomas & Friends: Big World! Big Adventures!) is a British children's television series that aired across 24 series from 1984 to 2021. Based on The Railway Series books by Rev. W. Awdry and his son Christopher, the series was developed for television by Britt Allcroft. On 12 October 2020, it was announced by Mattel that the series would be rebooted with Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go and that Nelvana would co-produce and animate the series.
Voiced by an autistic actor, the newest character in Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go was developed in collaboration with the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Easterseals Southern California, and respected writers and figures with autism.
Mattel, Inc. announced today the introduction of Bruno, the first autistic character in the iconic Thomas & Friends franchise. Mattel Television 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. Voiced by Chuck Smith, an autistic actor, the new series regular will make his debut on the Season 26 premiere of Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go on Monday, September 12 at 8:30 am ET/PT on Cartoonito on Cartoon Network in the U.S. and on September 17 at 8:50 am ET/PT on Treehouse and STACKTV in Canada.
Bruno is 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. Detail-oriented Bruno enjoys schedules and routines 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 spent with his friends, who love and respect him for who he is, just as he loves them back. Bruno's rich friendships and important work introduce audiences to a positive, neurodivergent role model through his on-screen presence. Together with key partners, Mattel carefully curated Bruno's character to ensure an accurate fictional representation of an autistic child in the real world.
"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," said Zoe Gross, Director of Advocacy at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN). "It was great to contribute to that as part of a team of consultants from ASAN. 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 Bruno will give viewers meaningful examples of inclusion in everyday life."
Experts from ASAN and Easterseals Southern California, alongside the creative and writing team at Mattel Television, leveraged years of experience dedicated to understanding autism to respectfully and artistically create an accurate, on-screen representation. Through their hard work, dedication, and care, Bruno opens the door for global audiences in a way Thomas & Friends has never done before.
"Our commitment and contributions alongside Mattel have ensured that an honest version of Bruno is what kids and families across the world will experience," said Dr. Paula Pompa Craven, Chief Clinical Officer at Easterseals Southern California. "Audiences will be able to see the real-life experiences of an autistic child through Bruno, including opportunities to learn and grow alongside him as he demonstrates his ability to give and receive support from his friends."
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. A key character within the Thomas & Friends franchise, Bruno's introduction will span across all content with appearances in a YouTube series, music album, the Thomas & Friends Storytime podcast, the upcoming Mystery of Lookout Mountain special, and consumer products set to debut later this year.
"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. "So much care and thought went into the development of his character, and we can't wait for audiences to meet and love Bruno as much as we do."
In its upcoming season on Cartoonito on Cartoon Network in the U.S. and Treehouse and STACKTV in Canada, Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go is back on track with big adventures fueled by friendship. Thomas and the gang will face surprises and discover more about one another as they play, learn, and grow together. Featuring new original songs and even bigger adventures, the latest season of Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go welcomes everyone to the Island of Sodor for a toot-ally awesome journey!
Bruno the Brake Car Fact Sheet
- Bruno marks the first time an autistic character has been introduced to the "Thomas & Friends " franchise.
- Bruno is a detail-oriented, pun-making Brake Car. As a Brake Car, he serves as a vital component to the everyday function of Thomas & Friends. The only one with the ability to naturally roll in reverse, Bruno offers the group a unique perspective of the world.
- Bruno will join the crew during the Season 26 premiere of Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go on Cartoonito on Monday, September 12 at 8:30 am ET/PT in the U.S. The character will remain a series regular and continue making appearances throughout episodes, many of which include him in the starring role. New episodes of Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go will air on Cartoonito every Monday at 8:30 am ET/PT.
- The introduction of an autistic character is a milestone moment for the "Thomas & Friends" brand. It provides an opportunity to celebrate differences and let all kids know they are welcome on the Island of Sodor.
- Mattel Television 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.
- Bruno is voiced by Chuck Smith, an autistic actor with incredible voice talent. Chuck couldn't be more pleased that his acting debut is with this show. From an early age, he has had a deep love affair with trains and was thrilled to be chosen to give Bruno a voice that is true to the character. As a 10-year-old Autistic boy from Toronto, Chuck has always loved to light up a room with his personality and charm. And the odd train joke, of course.
- The introduction of Bruno continues to reinforce the core values of the "Thomas & Friends" franchise which includes friendship, diversity, empathy, and kindness.
- Stories and episodes do not single out autistic character traits; they showcase how Bruno is part of everyday life on Sodor.
- Bruno is not treated differently by his friends because he is autistic. He has individual relationships with each character, and they treat Bruno the way he would like to be treated like any friend would.
- Bruno reflects the traits and preferences of some autistic people, but one character could never encompass the experience of every autistic person.
- Mattel believes that we are at our best when every team member feels respected, included, and heard - when everyone can show up as themselves and do their best work every day. Mattel is committed to fostering a culture where all employees have the opportunity to realize their full potential. We value and share an infinite range of ideas and voices that evolve and broaden our perspectives with a reach that extends to all our consumers, customers, business partners, and suppliers.
Bruno the Brake Car Video Trailers and Previews
- Percy Disappears Promo Clip 1 from Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go S26
- Shake Rattle and Bruno Promo Clip1 from Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go S26
- Shake Rattle and Bruno Promo Clip 3 from Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go S26
- Shake Rattle and Bruno Promo Clip 5 from Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go S26
Fans can find and interact with Thomas & Friends at @thomasandfriends on Instagram, @ThomasandFriendsUS on Facebook, and @ThomasFriends on Twitter.
Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go is co-produced by Mattel and Nelvana, a world-leading producer, distributor, and licensor of children's animated and live-action content, and is executive produced by Christopher Keenan and Fred Soulie for Mattel and by Colin Bohm, Doug Murphy, and Pam Westman for Nelvana. Nelvana is the exclusive licensing agent representing non-toy categories for Thomas & Friends in Canada.
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