Belfast Telegraph

Review: CBeebies autistic Pablo in ground-breaking Northern Ireland-made show

By Jonathan Bell

A Northern Ireland film company has produced a ground-breaking children's television show set to air on the BBC and RTE next week.

Pablo tells the story of a five-year-old non-verbal autistic boy and his adventures in the animated world which help him deal with life in the real world and all based on experiences of those with the condition.

The 52-episode live action and 2D animation series, which was created and produced by pioneering Belfast production company Paper Owl Films, begins on Monday on CBeebies.

As well as being the first to have a lead actor who has autism, the programme, funded by NI Screen and BAI, is entirely cast with those with the condition.

Grainne McGuinness, creative director at Paper Owl Films, 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, and we want to thank NI Screen, BAI, CBeebies, RTÉjr. and everyone who shared an experience, wrote a story, acted, and otherwise played a part in getting Pablo onto our screens and into our homes, which is where, we believe, that new conversation should begin.”

Pablo was filmed in Northern Ireland with animation provided by Kavaleer Productions in Dublin. A second series has already been commissioned and the production company has been commissioned to make eight short films featuring the real world experiences o children like Pablo.

CBeebies controller Kay Benbow, described the show as "significant" for the channel.

She said: “Pablo reflects our desire to be as inclusive as possible and cementing our ‘Everyone's Welcome’ campaign. Only CBeebies would commission this show in this way – empowering young people with autism to tell their own stories and perform them.

"I have such respect for the team at Paper Owl for creating this distinctive and authentic series which will resonate with so many families. When I visited the team, and met the young people and their families, and could see the positive impact on their lives, I commissioned a second series there and then before a single episode was even complete.”

Pablo will be shown at 9am on CBeebies on Monday

Review: What does the expert think

When all is said and done, it's the audience that's the judge. We were given exclusive access to the first episode 'Big Purple Bird'. In it Pablo is dressed in different clothes (spoiler as he is going to a wedding) and he can't find his mother, but instead there's a "big purple bird" in his home.

Pablo tells the story of a little boy with autism and how he handles different situations.
Pablo tells the story of a little boy with autism and how he handles different situations.
Pablo tells the story of a little boy with autism and how he handles different situations.
Pablo tells the story of a little boy with autism and how he handles different situations.
Pablo tells the story of a little boy with autism and how he handles different situations.
Pablo tells the story of a little boy with autism and how he handles different situations.

Using his magic crayons Pablo conjures up his friends who help him make sense of the world.

And we put our resident reviewer to task.

"I liked it," said four-year-old Odin from Belfast.

"I liked all the things, the dinosaur, the mouse, the llama - all the things, it was good with lots of colours."

And he must have liked it as he sat in near silence through it, wanted to watch it again and sang the tune all the way to bed - which has been playing endlessly in his dad's head ever since.

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Thumbs up - Odin loved Pablo

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