‘Thomas and Friends’ announces Bruno, the first train car with autism

Bruno the Brake Car is the first Thomas and Friends character to have autism. (Photo: Mattel)

Never Thomas and Friends: All Engines Go returns for its 26th season, the iconic animated series will add an all-new, never-before-seen friend to the mix. He’s pumped for the new regular series, Bruno the Brake Car, the first Thomas and Friends character to have autism. Voiced by an actor with autism, the character was developed by Mattel Television in partnership with the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Easterseals Southern California and respected authors and figures with autism.

Actor Chuck Smith, 10, will voice the character of Bruno the Brake Car in the US, while in the UK, Bruno will be voiced by another young actor with autism, 9-year-old Elliot Garcia. The character will be featured across all areas of the franchise, giving future generations the chance to grow up alongside Bruno. Season 26 of Thomas and Friends: All Engines Go premieres Monday, September 12 on Cartoonito, Cartoon Network’s programming block for preschoolers. (The UK version of the show premieres on September 21.)

“Thomas and Friends: All Engines Go it’s all about friendship and collaboration,” Mattel’s director of preschool content, Monica Dennis, tells Yahoo Life. “Whenever stories about collaboration and teamwork are told, difference matters. Differences in strengths and skill sets and ways of thinking: so Bruno really has a unique contribution to make to the kinds of stories we tell All engines go.”

Bruno will join other beloved Thomas and Friends characters in appearances across the franchise, from the Thomas and Friends Storytime podcast to YouTube.  (Photo: Mattel)

Bruno will join other loved ones Thomas and Friends characters in appearances throughout the franchise, from Thomas and Friends Storytime podcasts on YouTube. (Photo: Mattel)

Bruno is fire engine red with black and yellow accents and has the number 43. He also has stairs and a lantern on his exterior that shows his emotional state, moving when he is excited or cautious. Bruno rolls backwards at the end of the train, which gives him a unique perspective. And his role is vital as he is responsible for keeping the heavy load of the train stable.

Mattel shares that the brake car’s personality is happy and playful, as it likes to make puns. The introduction of a neurodeviant pattern is projected through the character’s work ethic and fruitful relationships. His character was carefully created to ensure an accurate fictional representation of a child with autism in the real world.

The need for representation in children’s programming is more important than ever as the rate of autism diagnoses continues to rise each year. Mattel shares its goal in adding Bruno to help children and families learn how to live inclusively in everyday life through on-screen biological examples that are both authentic and thoughtful. As one of the leading global toy companies and owner of one of the strongest catalogs of children’s and family entertainment franchises in the world, Mattel understands that it has a great responsibility to get it right.

Bruno's outer lantern moves when he feels excited or wary.  (Photo: Mattel)

Bruno’s outer lantern moves when he feels excited or wary. (Photo: Mattel)

“Our commitment and contributions together with Mattel have ensured that an honest version of Bruno is what children and families around the world will experience,” said Dr. Paula Pompa Craven, Chief Clinical Officer at Easterseals Southern California, in a press release. “Audiences will be able to see the real 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.”

Daniel Share-Strom, a series author and consultant who has autism, tells Yahoo Life that some previous depictions of autism, especially in the children’s space, were based on harmful stereotypes. “It was a real pleasure to bring Bruno to life as a character with a great sense of humor, a lot of empathy – which he shows in his own way – and a range full of strengths and challenges that make him just as interesting, valuable and realistic as the rest of the cast.”

Bruno’s introduction will cover all content with appearances on a YouTube series, music album, the Thomas and Friends Storytime podcast, the upcoming Mystery at Lookout Mountain movies and consumer products are 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,” Christopher Keenan, senior vice president and executive producer of global content development and production at Mattel, said in a press release. “So much care and thought went into developing his character and we can’t wait for audiences to get to know and love Bruno as much as we do.”

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