Thomas & Friends has added the series' first autistic character. Mattel and Cartoonito announced the casting today in a release. Chuck Smith, an autistic actor, will play Bruno in the children's series. The brake car joins a host of Thomas' other vehicles in that world. Mattel worked closely with Autistic Self Advocacy Network and Easterseals Southern California. On Monday, September 12, Season 26 of Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go will get rolling on Cartoonito. Up in Canada, the train leaves the station on September 17. Bruno will help kids who may not see their experience reflected in a lot of children's media have a positive impression. The brake car inhabits a crucial role in keeping cargo steady, everyone loves and respects his contributions in getting their work done. He also has a lantern on his exterior that will help foster discussions about emotional states and how to cope with moments that might be stressful or scary for neurodivergent individuals.
"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."
“When I won the role of Bruno I imagined that it was a dream but it wasn’t. I felt really excited and happy.” Elliot, who is autistic, talks about bringing a new autistic @ThomasFriends character to life on-screen: https://t.co/kTfPDvOWM7 pic.twitter.com/4EIESgnLz6— National Autistic Society (@Autism) September 7, 2022
"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 be able 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 that Bruno will provide viewers with meaningful examples of inclusion in everyday life."
"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."
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