Thomas the Tank Engine to introduce first autistic character

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ASPartOfMe
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07 Sep 2022, 7:25 am

The Guardian

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Thomas the Tank Engine will get its first autistic character in the latest move to diversify on-screen representation in the hit TV series.

Bruno the Brake Car, voiced by nine-year-old autistic actor Elliott Garcia from Reading in the UK, will start appearing in episodes of the latest Thomas & Friends series from later this month.

Mattel, the US toy giant behind franchises including Barbie and Hot Wheels that acquired Thomas the Tank Engine in 2011, said it had “carefully curated Bruno’s character to ensure an accurate fictional representation of autism”.

The company says that Bruno rolls in reverse at the end of the train – “giving him a unique perspective on the world” – and loves schedules, routine, timetables and “when everything goes to plan”.

Bruno can signify to other characters when he is overwhelmed, worried or excited by “flapping his ladders” and has a lantern to “indicate his emotional state”. He sometimes wears ear defenders when there is a loud noise.

Mattel worked with organisations including Autistic Self Advocacy Network and National Autistic Society UK (NAS UK), which helped cast Garcia in the role of Bruno, to bring the character to the series, which is popular with many autistic children.

The company said its collaborative efforts meant “Bruno opens the door for global audiences” with the character also due to appear in a YouTube series, music album, the Thomas & Friends Storytime podcast and an upcoming special, as well as a range of merchandise due to launch later this year.

NAS UK said that with 700,000 autistic adults and children across the country, the inclusion of a character in the show was an “amazing moment for autistic people”.

“But it is also important that non-autistic children get insight and understanding into what it can be like to be autistic.”

Other popular children’s TV series have taken similar steps in recent years to improve representation on screen. In 2020, the hit show Paw Patrol introduced a disabled puppy called Rex, although he only appears sporadically.


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rowan_nichol
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09 Sep 2022, 12:06 am

Perhaps one should be grateful that they didn't make a "Token" autistic character who stood on the platform end at the big station taking the numbers down and talking to the engines at length.....



CockneyRebel
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13 Sep 2022, 8:46 pm

That's very good news. I've been looking forward to this.


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AardvarkGoodSwimmer
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14 Sep 2022, 7:48 pm

And I bet, with just a little bit of skillful writing, they’re have another character who partially connects with Bruno and partially conflicts with him.

Now, Thomas and Friends is aimed at younger children like age 4, right?



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15 Sep 2022, 11:48 am

rowan_nichol wrote:
Perhaps one should be grateful that they didn't make a "Token" autistic character who stood on the platform end at the big station taking the numbers down and talking to the engines at length.....


Truly a missed opportunity. :cry:


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15 Sep 2022, 1:08 pm

Does it need to be that stereotypical?

Mind you how can you have an autistic character without using some sort of stereotype?


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15 Sep 2022, 1:22 pm

Joe90 wrote:
Does it need to be that stereotypical?

Mind you how can you have an autistic character without using some sort of stereotype?


I don't think I have ever seen an autistic character that isn't type cast and stereotyped to an outlandish level.

Most times directors and writers attempt it to be more inclusive but they come across as extremely crude and offensive.

That autistic guy in Holby City honestly done my head in. The other chargers were so condescending towards him treating him like a 4 year old.



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16 Sep 2022, 12:07 am

Kudos to the folks at Mattel for having great taste in Autism organizations to collaborate with in the development of this character. Let’s hope they don’t get greedy like the folks at Sesame Street did.


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