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Chronicle Live
Naomi Clarke & Simon Meechan

Thomas & Friends adds first autistic character Bruno the Brake Car

Thomas the Tank Engine has a new friend as the much-loved kids TV series is introducing its first autistic character, developed in collaboration with autistic writers and organisations.

Bruno the Brake Car will join the characters in Thomas & Friends. He will be voiced by Elliot Garcia, a nine-year-old autistic actor from Reading, Berkshire, who was cast with help from the National Autistic Society.

Bruno is described as a "joyful, pun-making brake car" who is detail-orientated and enjoys schedules, routine and knows where all the tracks lead in the area.

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He rolls in reverse at the end of the train, which gives him a unique perspective on the world, as he helps the other engines by keeping heavy cargo steady with his strong brakes. The engine car also uses his lantern on his red exterior to communicate his emotional state, moving when he is excited or cautious and he can create ear defenders by puffing out steam if he feels sensitive to loud noises.

Actor Elliot said: “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.”

He added that he can relate to the character in some ways, explaining: “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.”

The character and storylines were developed by Mattel Television in collaboration with US autism organisations including the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) and Easterseals Southern California as well as autistic writers and spokespeople.

Autism is a developmental disability which affects how people communicate and interact with the world, as described by the National Autistic Society.

Tom Purser, head of guidance, volunteering and campaigns at the National Autistic Society, 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 be autistic.

“What Elliot brings to this role is his joy and enthusiasm, his autistic experiences and he just brings the character to life.”

He added: “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 the Thomas & Friends series is an amazing moment for Mattel, for the Thomas & Friends brand, and for autistic people.”

Bruno will be seen in future episodes of Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go! on Channel 5’s Milkshake from September 21 at 7am.

The character’s introduction will also feature in the show’s YouTube series, music album, the Thomas & Friends Storytime podcast and the upcoming feature-length special Mystery Of Lookout Mountain.

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