A ground-breaking new children’s TV series featuring a child with autism in the starring role for the first time will be broadcast on RTÉjr and CBeebies next month.
Pablo, a 52-episode live action and 2D animation series, was created and produced by pioneering Belfast production company, Paper Owl Films.
It tells the story of a five-year-old boy on the autism spectrum who uses his creativity – and magic crayons – to invent an imaginary Art World filled with animal characters which help him make sense of social situations and process confusing or anxious thoughts and feelings.
"Every child will love Pablo. He’s funny and smart and has a terrific imagination which takes him on wonderfully colourful adventures, which young audiences will want to share. He also sees the world differently, and thinks and processes things differently<" said Grainne McGuinness, Creative Director at Paper Owl Films.
"The series celebrates that difference, inviting viewers to see the world through the eyes of a child with autism, and to be enthralled and entertained by the view. The hope is to begin a new, more optimistic conversation about autism."
Made with funding support from Northern Ireland Screen and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), with animation services provided by Kavaleer Productions in Dublin, Pablo was filmed on location in Northern Ireland.
Pablo is also the first ever TV programme with an all-autistic core cast. Its content is entirely authentic, with every episode grounded in the real-life experiences of autistic children, and each one devised, co-written and voiced by young autistic talent.
Pablo’s uniquely authentic credentials and highly original premise provide fresh insight into what everyday life is like for children on the autism spectrum, with the aim of facilitating better understanding of their experience.
The current rate of autism in Ireland is 1 in 100. The number of young children coming into the system each year is significantly greater than in the past and that the autism community in Ireland is growing and ageing.
More than 300 children are diagnosed with Autism every year in the North. Rates of children being diagnosed there have quadrupled since 2002.
"RTÉjr has been pleased to support and champion Pablo from development stage. It has been a long journey and we're very excited to bring it to our viewers. Paper Owl's, and in particular, Grainne's commitment to enabling people with autism to tell their stories and to bring an understanding of their perspective to all has been as steely as it has been impressive," said Pauline MacNamara, Executive Producer with RTÉJr.
"Pablo is funny, authentic and altogether charming and a welcome opportunity for RTÉjr to further exercise our mission to reflect the lives of all of our audiences."
The series will premiere on RTÉjr on Monday, October 2 at 9am.
A second series was commissioned by CBeebies in November 2016, a year ahead of delivery, which is a first for the children’s channel.
BBC has also commissioned Paper Owl Films to make: eight short films featuring Real World ‘Pablos’ – children with autism talking about their daily lives; four visual-effects films which reconstruct the everyday experiences of a pre-schooler from an autistic perspective, and six mini-games, featuring Pablo and his imaginary animal friends.