‘Thomas And Friends’ Introduces First Autistic Character
The Thomas And Friends franchise has always been known for being inclusive. The introduction of Bruno the Brake Car is no different. Bruno is the first autistic character ever included in the franchise, and it looks like the creators of the show went to great lengths to ensure that Bruno is an accurate representation of autism.
The show paired with the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, a non-profit organization that is run by individuals on the autism spectrum. Mattel's official character description for Bruno reads:
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.
Two representatives for Mattel also spoke to Variety, sharing some thoughts on the new character. They said:
Positive representation is so important and characters like Bruno can change this in two ways. Number one, he’ll show autistic kids that they have the right to exist and that their challenges are legitimate, their strengths are real, and they are just as valuable to their families and communities as anybody else. At the same time, neurotypical kids and families will gain new insight into their autistic friends and family as Bruno challenges their preconceptions and gives them ideas for ways they can genuinely help people to live their best possible lives.
This recent promo clip from the show features Bruno: