Letterkenny native Grainne McGuinness is the innovative woman to thank for the ground-breaking new children's TV series coming to our screens.
Pablo explores the world through the eyes of a 5-year-old boy with autism, with a central character and cast who are all on the autism spectrum.
Grainne McGuinness is the Creative Director at Paper Owl Films in Belfast who led the creation and production of the cartoons. Pablo launches on RTEjr and CBeebies next Monday, October 2nd at 9am.
Grainne was inspired by her nephew Lucas, 11, to create the show. She saw Lucas, who has Asperger’s, having difficulties in his early years and having regular meltdowns.
“I was looking at a situation when he was playing with his cousins and thinking wouldn’t it be great if the kids around him understood a bit more about what his perspective on the world was.
“I just thought, ‘wouldn’t it be great to have a TV show that would do that’ and so that’s what Pablo is,” Gráinne told Belfast Live.
Pablo is named after the genius artist Pablo Picasso, reflecting the creative mind of the central character.
The 52 episode series 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.
Pablo is not based on experts’ accounts of autism, but on the real life experiences of people with autism. It is the first ever programme to have an all-autistic core cast.
Schoolboy Jake Williamson, aged 11, voices the central character. The show is based in Northern Ireland and contains many local young people as voice actors.
Grainne said: “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.”
“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.”
Pauline MacNamara, Executive Producer with RTÉJr said: “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.”
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.