Fans of “Thomas & Friends” will get to meet a new character, as Bruno the Brake Car joins Thomas the Tank Engine as the franchise’s first character with autism. Mattel announced the addition to the beloved British children’s show Wednesday.
The company described Bruno in a news release as a “joyful, pun-making brake car” and plays a “vital role” in the show, which also airs in the United States, Canada, Australia and other countries. He also has stairs and a lantern on his bright red exterior that indicates his emotional state and moves when he is excited or cautious.
“Bruno rolls in reverse at the end of the train, which gives him a unique perspective on the world,” the release said. “Detail-oriented Bruno enjoys schedules, routine, and knows where all the tracks lead on Sodor.”
Mattel said through his on-screen presence, Bruno introduces audiences to “a positive, neurodivergent role model.” The company said it worked with organizations such as the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and Easterseals Southern California as well as writers and spokespeople with autism to create Bruno and ensure he represents an accurate fictional representation of an autistic child.
Getting “autistic input” was the most important aspect of Bruno’s development, said Zoe Gross, director of advocacy for the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.
“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,” said Gross. “I hope that Bruno will provide viewers with meaningful examples of inclusion in everyday life.”
Bruno will be voiced by actors with autism in the U.S., U.K. and Italy, with storylines written by neurodivergent writer, according to Mattel. Ten-year-old Chuck Smith was cast in the U.S. in his first role.
Christopher Keenan, senior vice president and executive producer for global content development and production at Mattel, said Bruno’s integration into the franchise embraces a global audience that is “underrepresented” and “deserves to be celebrated” in children’s programming.
“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,” Keenan said in a statement.
Bruno will appear as a new series regular and debut in the season 26 premiere of “Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go.”