The new CBeebies and RTÉJr series is the first animated TV series to star an autistic character and the first TV programme with an all-autistic core cast.
Magic crayons, animated friends and a wonderful imagination... these are the tools that five and a half year-old Pablo uses to turn life’s little challenges into big adventures.
The animation, produced by Paper Owl Films, sees the smart, funny and creative Pablo draw imaginary animal friends which come to life to help him handle situations which make him feel anxious, such as going for a haircut or to the supermarket. Pablo is on the autism spectrum.
To cope with the challenges he faces, Pablo enters into an animated art world, the world of his imagination where he is able to explore things that confuse him. With the help of his animal friends, Pablo is free to work through things and figure them out, having lots of fun along the way.
Every episode of Pablo is grounded in the real-life experiences of autistic children, with autistic young writers and contributors helping to bring ideas and perspectives to life in an honest and humorous way.
Pablo will air on CBeebies and RTEjr in October.
There are also 12 short films for the CBeebies website from the point of view of people with autism giving a snapshot of their lives and explaining how they see the world.
In addition, there are six games for the CBeebies website, each game is based on a core personality trait of each autistic character in the show. Interacting with the games will bring a wide audience ever closer to the traits of autism in a hands-on way. Autistic children, alongside their carers, families and medical experts, were consulted during the conception of the games to ensure children could better understand the lives of people with autism.The games also achieve a new ‘gold standard’ of accessibility.
BBC Learning will broadcast an inclusive and interactive Live Lesson for 5-7 year old primary school children inspired by Pablo, helping children to use art to express their thoughts about day to day life and create their own imaginary worlds.
The characters in Pablo’s Art World reflect aspects of his own personality and of course, his autism.
Mouse is organized, reliable and dependable.She is perfectionist and hates it when things are untidy or out of sequence and will always try to restore order, which is very soothing for the group. Mouse is also sensitive to sounds and smells.
Noasaurus is a small dinosaur, who is gentle and kind. He struggles with speech but he has very good spatial awareness and is great at recognising patterns. Noa can’t read social cues or facial expressions very well but his maths and sequencing abilities are quite advanced. Noa is sometimes a little clumsy, but this can often turn up a solution to a problem or help find a missing item.
Tang swings effortlessly through branches, but once out of the trees, he can’t control his limbs very well. However, he loves to dance and is full of love and kindness. Tang is not great at reading social cues or gauging how another person is feeling. This, coupled with his natural propensity for the dramatic, can lead to quite chaotic confusion at times.For all of his natural chaos and his ability to sleep in whatever tree he chooses, Tang is resistant to real change, which can make him feel very anxious.
Wren is very excitable and has lots of energy which she channels by flapping her wings. Flapping calms her down if she is frustrated and helps to accentuate her good feelings when she is excited. Wren often lacks concentration and focus, being distracted by the next wonderful thing.
Sensitive Llama is a thinker. She is very careful to protect her personal space and doesn’t do physical displays of affection. Language is not something that comes easy to her and she has echolalia, she repeats things that people say, as does Pablo in the real world. Llama loves details. She can often become absorbed in a detail for ages and will be fixated by a shiny button or interesting object.
Draff loves facts and knows a lot of them. His most commonly used phrase is ‘in point of fact’. He makes pronouncements very confidently but his outward bravado covers an inner insecurity and sensitivity. We don’t need to scratch the surface too far to see that Draff needs reassurance like the rest of us.
The writing process
When making the series, the creators wanted to ensure they reflected the authentic voices of young people on the autism spectrum. Pablo and his animated friends are all voiced by people with autism, who also worked on story ideas and co-wrote scripts. Creatively, the team found that they discovered stories from new perspectives which resulted in really original and funny stories which young children will be able to relate to.
Andrew Brenner, Head Writer
Andrew has specialised in writing children’s animation since 1995, working on titles including Thomas and Friends and Nelly and Nora, amongst many others. He undertook extensive research before embarking on the writing for Pablo, reading huge amounts and reaching out to people on the spectrum, learning their experiences and crafting them into funny stories for a preschool audience. He worked with a team of brand new writers, on the autism spectrum, guiding them through the process of turning their ideas into stories and their stories into scripts.
Sumita Majumdar, voice of Wren and writer
Sumita studied music and songwriting and she loves to create and perform songs. She is particularly interested in the therapeutic values of the creative arts, as, similar to Pablo, her own personal art worlds help her to make sense of the external world and her internal feelings. As a late-diagnosed autistic person, co-writing and voice acting on Pablo has helped Sumita to accept and embrace her autistic qualities in a positive manner and to discover her potential as a writer.
Rosie King, voice of Llama and writer
Rosie is studying creative writing in London and hopes to become an English teacher in a school for disabled children. Rosie has autism and has younger siblings who are both severely autistic. As a family, the Kings have done a lot of work to raise awareness and acceptance for autistic people, including various TV appearances and public speaking events, so when Rosie was asked to be a part of Pablo she jumped at the opportunity.
Tony Finnegan, voice of Noa and writer
Tony studied film at university and is a movie fanatic. He was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of 8 which has presented him with both advantages and disadvantages in life. He spends much of his spare time working on scripts of his own and hopes to continue this work as a professional screenwriter/voice artist in the future.
Michael White, voice of Tang and writer
Michael White enjoys story/script writing and is currently studying Creative Media & Animation. It was Michael’s Asperger’s mentor at university who read about Pablo and suggested that he audition for a role. As a result of his experience on Pablo, Michael got the opportunity to work on Thomas and Friends, a show of which he has been a life-time fan.
Rachael Dickson, voice of Mouse and writer
Rachael was diagnosed with autism when she was three and feels that her autism has given her many gifts. She loves Pablo and feels that it is a very honest portrayal of autism. She hopes she will inspire fellow autistic girls to know how special they are.
Scott Mulligan, voice of Draff
Scott enjoys theatre, and has recently taken a number of lead roles with his local theatre school. He hopes to pursue further acting roles in future.
Story Consultants Paul Isaacs, Stuart Vallantine and Donna Williams also drew on their own experiences of autism to contribute to the writing of Pablo.