Mattel Introduces Bruno the Brake Car, First Autistic Character in Iconic Thomas & Friends Series
Bruno will be seen in future episodes of ‘Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go!’
on Channel 5 Milkshake! from Wednesday 21st September at 7.00 am
– The Bruno character was developed in collaboration with the Autism Self Advocacy Network (US), and autistic writers and figures
– Bruno is voiced in the new episodes by nine-year-old actor Elliott Garcia from Reading, Berkshire, who is himself autistic and says he feels “really excited and happy” to bring the seminal new Thomas & Friends character to life on-screen
– Tom Purser, Head of Guidance, Volunteering & Campaigns at the National Autistic Society (UK), who helped cast Elliott for his role in the show, heralded the arrival of the new character as “an amazing moment for autistic people”
Mattel, Inc. (NASDAQ: MAT) today announces the introduction of Bruno, the first autistic character in the iconic Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go™ series and franchise. Mattel Television developed Bruno in collaboration with respected organisations including the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) and Easterseals Southern California, as well as autistic writers and spokespeople. Voiced by nine-year-old actor Elliott Garcia from Reading, Berkshire, who is himself autistic, the new character will make his debut on ‘Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go!’ on Channel 5 Milkshake! from Wednesday 21st September at 7.00 am.
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. Describing the character Bruno, Elliot Garcia, who voices the new character in the animated television series, says: “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.”
Elliot Garcia continues: “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 & Friends series and for there to be an autistic character makes me feel very happy and excited.”
Detail-oriented Bruno enjoys schedules, routine, and knows where all the tracks lead on Sodor. 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.. Together with key partners, Mattel has carefully curated Bruno’s character to ensure an accurate fictional representation of autism.
Experts from ASAN and Easterseals Southern California, alongside the creative and writing team at Mattel Television, leveraged years of experience dedicated to the understanding of 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 the Thomas & Friends brand has never done before. In the UK, the National Autistic Society, who have historically had a close relationship with Thomas & Friends brand over many years, helped cast Elliott for his role in the series, and have given their wholehearted endorsement of the character of Bruno.
Tom Purser, Head of Guidance, Volunteering & Campaigns at the National Autistic Society, says: “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 be autistic. 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 autistic children and their relationship with the Thomas & Friends brand has been massive and I think to really recognise the importance of reflecting neurodiversity and autism in Thomas & Friends series is an amazing moment for Mattel, for the Thomas & Friends brand, and for autistic people”, concludes Tom Purser.
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; experience intense anxiety around unexpected change and social situations; or become so overwhelmed that they experience debilitating physical and emotional ‘meltdowns’ or ‘shutdowns’.
“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,” says Zoe Gross, Director of Advocacy at Autism 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.”
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.
“Our commitment and contributions alongside Mattel have ensured that an honest version of Bruno is what kids and families across the world will experience,” says 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.”
“Bruno’s introduction organically embraces a global audience that is underrepresented and deserves to be celebrated in children’s programming,” says 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.”
Bruno will be seen on Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go! on Channel 5 Milkshake! from 21st September at 7.00am. Brake Car Bruno™ is available now and will also be included in a range of products available later in the year.
Promotional images and video assets to accompany the story:
STILLS : Elliott voicing Bruno in studio, episode stills of Bruno
VIDEO: Rough cut TV B Roll & edited video PKG strapped & clean inc. Elliott Garcia & NAS spokesperson
Notes to editors:
Mattel is a leading global toy company and owner of one of the strongest catalogs of children’s and family entertainment franchises in the world. We create innovative products and experiences that inspire, entertain, and develop children through play. We engage consumers through our portfolio of iconic brands, including Barbie®, Hot Wheels®, Fisher-Price®, American Girl®, Thomas & Friends®, UNO®, Masters of the Universe®, Monster High® and MEGA®, as well as other popular intellectual properties that we own or license in partnership with global entertainment companies. Our offerings include film and television content, gaming, music, and live events. We operate in 35 locations and our products are available in more than 150 countries in collaboration with the world’s leading retail and ecommerce companies. Since its founding in 1945, Mattel is proud to be a trusted partner in empowering children to explore the wonder of childhood and reach their full potential. Visit us online at mattel.com.
About National Autistic Society
The National Autistic Society is the UK’s leading charity for autistic people. We are here to transform lives, change attitudes and create a society that works for autistic people. Since 1962, we have been campaigning for autistic people’s rights and providing support and advice to autistic people and their families. To find out more about autism or the charity, visit autism.org.uk. Follow the National Autistic Society on Twitter @Autism or Facebook.
About Autistic Self Advocacy Network
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization run by and for autistic people. ASAN is a national grassroots disability rights organization for the autistic community. We fight for disability rights. We work to make sure autistic people are included in policy-making, so that laws and policies meet our community’s needs. We work to support all forms of self-advocacy and to change the way people think about autism. Our members and supporters include autistic adults and youth, cross-disability advocates, and non-autistic family members, professionals, educators, and friends.
About Easterseals Southern California
Easterseals is leading the way to full equity, inclusion and access through life-changing disability and community services. For more than 100 years, we have worked tirelessly with our partners to enhance quality of life and expand local access to healthcare, education and employment opportunities. Easterseals Southern California provides essential services and on-the-ground supports to more than 15,000 people each year—from early childhood programs for the critical first five years, to autism services, daily and independent living services for adults, employment programs, veterans’ services and more. Our public education, policy and advocacy initiatives positively shape perceptions and address the urgent and evolving needs of the one in four Americans with disabilities today. Together, we’re empowering people with disabilities, families and communities to be full and equal participants in society. Learn more at www.easterseals.com/southerncal.
Press contact for the story for more information or queries:
Mark Collins at MCPR