Meet Bruno the Brake Car, Thomas the Tank Engine’s autistic friend
7 September 2022
London (CNN)Children’s TV show “Thomas & Friends” is introducing its first autistic character, in a bid to diversify on-screen representation.
In a 2017 report, the Centers for Disease Controland Prevention estimated that over 2% of US adults have autism.
Thomas and Friends introduces first neurodiverse character Bruno the Brake Car who enjoys ‘schedules and routine’ and will be voiced by a nine-year-old boy with autism
By Eve Tawfick For Mailonline
- Thomas and Friends is introducing first autistic character, Bruno the Brake Car
- Elliot Garcia, 9, from Reading, Berkshire, who has autism, will voice Bruno
- Detail-oriented Bruno enjoys schedules, routine and knows where tracks lead
Thomas and Friends is introducing its first autistic character, the show’s creators have announced.
Bruno the Brake Car will be voiced by Elliot Garcia, nine, from Reading, Berkshire, who is also neurodiverse.
Detail-oriented Bruno enjoys schedules, routine, and knows where all the tracks lead. Bruno has stairs and a lantern on his bright, red exterior that indicate 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.
Through his on-screen presence, Bruno’s rich friendships and important work introduces audiences to a positive, neurodivergent role model.
Elliot said: ‘Bruno is a Brake Car, and he is a new friend for Thomas and his friends, and he’s also autistic, like me. He is funny, smart, and he’s a very relaxed character.
‘He can get really overwhelmed, he can get worried, and he uses comedy to get past situations. Bruno loves schedules and timetables and when everything goes to plan.
‘He can flap his ladders to tell you if he’s upset or if he’s really excited, so he can use his items to show you how he’s feeling.
‘His ear defenders, I do relate to, because if there’s a really loud noise, I can’t cope. I can get quite worried about things, I have to think of new strategies, same as Bruno.
‘When I won the role of Bruno, I imagined that it was a dream, but it wasn’t! I felt really excited and happy.’
‘It’s great that they are representing autistic characters because I watch the Thomas and Friends series and for there to be an autistic character makes me feel very happy and excited to be a part of.’
Bruno the Brake Car was developed in collaboration with the Autism Self Advocacy Network in the US, as well as autistic writers and spokespeople.
Mattel says that together with key partners, they have ‘carefully curated Bruno’s character to ensure an accurate fictional representation of autism.
‘To create something the brand has never done before.’
Tom Purser, Head of Guidance, Volunteering & Campaigns at the National Autistic Society in the UK, was part of the casting process and chose Elliott for his role as Bruno.
He heralded the arrival of the new character as ‘an amazing moment for autistic people’.
Tom said: ‘It’s important that everyone sees autistic characters on our screens because there are 160,000 school-age autistic children in the UK and they want to see their stories told, but it’s also important that non-autistic children get insight and understanding into what it can be like to have the condition.
‘What Elliot brings to this role is his joy and enthusiasm, his autistic experiences and he just brings the character to life.
‘This is a real moment for autism because the history of children with the disorder and their relationship with the Thomas and Friends brand has been massive and I think to really recognise the importance of reflecting that in the show itself is an amazing moment for the brand.’
Bruno is described 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 the show.
Bruno rolls in reverse at the end of the train, which gives him a unique perspective on the world-something that is align with autism spectrum disorder.
The new character will make his debut on Channel 5 Milkshake! from Wednesday 21 September at 7.00am.
The beloved British show was first brought to screens in 1984 as Thomas the Tank Engine,the little blue anthropomorphized train that won hearts of children across the nation.
Well known characters from the show include Edward, Henry, Gordon, James, Percy, Emily, Molly, Lady,Rosie, Diesel and Toby.
The original show from the 80’s was based on a series of books called The Railway Series by Reverend W Awdry and his son Christopher Awdry.
It was then re-branded as Thomas The Tank Engine and Friends and in 2021 was changed to Thomas and Friends.
The series is currently owned by HIIT entertainment, which is under the Mattel umbrella – who also owns Barbie.
What is autism and what are the signs of autism?
Autism or ASD affects thousands of people in the UK.
The NAS or National Autistic Society has branches in each area to support autistic people and their families.
Autism is a developmental disability that affects how autistic people experience the world around them. There are at least 700,000 autistic adults and children in the UK.
Autism is a spectrum condition, which means it affects everyone differently including how autistic people think, communicate and interact with the world.
Although everyone is different, people on the autism spectrum may: be under or oversensitive to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours, which can make everyday life difficult; be unable to or find it harder to speak, face delays processing information or find it hard to hold conversations.
They can experience intense anxiety around unexpected change and social situations; or become so overwhelmed that they experience debilitating physical and emotional ‘meltdowns’ or ‘shutdowns’
Source: Daily Mail