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In recent decades, producers of movies, TV series and other forms of art have been trying not only to reach out to new audiences, but to make sure new audiences are represented in their stories. As Nicole Ellis reveals, 'Thomas and Friends' recently added its first character with autism.
In recent decades, producers of movies, TV series and other forms of art have been trying not only to reach out to new audiences, but to make sure new audiences are represented in their stories.
As Nicole Ellis reveals, one popular children's animated series recently added a new character.
Elliott Garcia, Actor:
Do you want try that again? Give me a brake.
Give me a brake. Get it?
Thomas the Tank Engine has been capturing the imagination of millions of people for decades.
Bruno is a brake car, and he. And he is — and he's a new friend for Thomas and his friends. And he's also autistic, like me.
For British audiences, Bruno the Brake Car is voiced by 9-year-old Elliott Garcia.
Sometimes it takes Julia a while to answer.
Like other kids shows, including "Sesame Street," producers are introducing new characters to better reflect the differences among children across society, in this case, Bruno the Brake Car.
Oh, Percy, where are you. Oh, Bruno, hi.
Why aren't you at your celebration, Thomas? It's scheduled for now.
Well, he is funny, smart, and he's a very relaxed character. He can get really overwhelmed. He can get worried.
I have lost Percy. I thought he might be here.
He's not here, Thomas. What was your last stop?
What do you mean?
It's good to remember every stop you have made. Then, if you lose something, you know exactly where to look for it.
He loves schedules and timetables, and when everything goes to plan and when there is no changes to the schedule and timetable.
Tom Purser, National Autistic Society, United Kingdom:
It's a real moment, I think, for autism, because the history of autistic children and their relationship with Thomas and Thomas and friends has been massive.
Tom Purser is head of guidance, volunteering and campaigns at the National Autistic Society in the United Kingdom.
What Elliott brings to this role is his joy and enthusiasm, his autistic experiences, and just brings the character to life.
Diesel is a shunter. He's not a steamroller.
It's greater that they are representing autistic characters, and it makes me feel very happy of that they — of that — now there isn't — because I watched "Thomas and Friends," and for there to be an autistic character, it makes me feel very happy and very — and the very excited.
Thank you. And, Bruno, you go with Diesel.
As a brake car, you will keep him safe from the silly risks he seems to enjoy taking.
For American and Canadian audiences, Bruno the Brake Car will be voiced by 10-year-old autistic actor Chuck Smith from Toronto.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Nicole Ellis.
That is terrific. Can't wait to watch that one with my girls.
Watch the Full Episode
Nicole Ellis is PBS NewsHour's digital anchor where she hosts pre- and post-shows and breaking news live streams on digital platforms and serves as a correspondent for the nightly broadcast. Ellis joined the NewsHour from The Washington Post, where she was an Emmy nominated on-air reporter and anchor covering social issues and breaking news. In this role, she hosted, produced, and directed original documentaries and breaking news videos for The Post’s website, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Facebook and Twitch, earning a National Outstanding Breaking News Emmy Nomination for her coverage of Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Ellis created and hosted The Post’s first original documentary series, “Should I freeze my eggs?,” in which she explores her own fertility and received the 2019 Digiday Publishers Award. She also created and hosted the Webby Award-winning news literacy series “The New Normal,” the most viewed video series in the history of The Washington Post’s women’s vertical, The Lily.
She is the author of “We Go High,” a non-fiction self-help-by-proxy book on overcoming adversity publishing in 2022, and host of Critical Conversations on BookClub, an author-led book club platform.
Prior to that, Ellis was a part of the production team for the Peabody and Emmy Award-winning series, CNN Heroes. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and Human Rights from Columbia University, as well as a Master’s in Journalism from Columbia Journalism School.
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