For Immediate Release
Mattel Introduces Bruno the Brake Car, First Autistic Character in Iconic Thomas & Friends Franchise
Mattel Television developed Bruno in collaboration with respected organizations including Easterseals Southern California
EL SEGUNDO, Calif, September 7, 2022
VIcki Greenleaf, Greenleaf & Associates
EL SEGUNDO, Calif., (September 7, 2022) – Mattel, Inc. (NASDAQ: MAT) announced today the introduction of Bruno, the first autistic character in the iconic Thomas & Friends franchise. Mattel Television developed Bruno in collaboration with respected organizations including the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) and Easterseals Southern California, as well as writers and spokespeople with autism including Daniel Share-Strom and Aaron Likens. Voiced by Chuck Smith, an autistic actor, the new series regular will make his debut on the Season 26 premiere of Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go on Monday, September 12 at 8:30 am ET/PT on Cartoonito on Cartoon Network in the U.S. and on September 17 at 8:50 am ET/PT on Treehouse and STACKTV in Canada.
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. 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 carefully curated Bruno’s character to ensure an accurate fictional representation of an autistic child in the real world.
“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."
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 Thomas & Friends has never done before.
“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.”
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.
“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.”
In its upcoming season on Cartoonito on Cartoon Network in the U.S. and Treehouse and STACKTV in Canada, Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go is back on track with big adventures fueled by friendship. Thomas and the gang will face unexpected surprises and discover more about one another as they play, learn, and grow together. Featuring new original songs and even bigger adventures, the latest season of Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go welcomes everyone to the Island of Sodor for a toot-ally awesome journey!
Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go is co-produced by Mattel and Nelvana, a world-leading producer, distributor, and licensor of children’s animated and live-action content, and is executive produced by Christopher Keenan and Fred Soulie for Mattel and by Colin Bohm, Doug Murphy, and Pam Westman for Nelvana. Nelvana is also the exclusive licensing agent representing non-toy categories for Thomas & Friends in Canada.
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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 The 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.
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.
Entertaining kids for over 50 years, Nelvana is a world-leading international producer and distributor of children's animated and live-action content. Nelvana produces a stable of award-winning and globally renowned brands that focus on comedies, preschool and action series, and ancillary consumer products programs. Nelvana's content airs on Corus Entertainment's kids channels in Canada and in over 180 countries around the world. The Nelvana library has over 4,800 episodes of programming and has received over 70 major international program awards including Emmys® and Canadian Screen Awards. Visit the Nelvana website at nelvana.com. Follow Nelvana Enterprises on Twitter @NelvanaEnt.