How the second series of Pablo will make thinking differently cool again
Was it really two years ago when Pablo hit the screens? On the 01 October, Paper Owl Films‘ and Kavaleer Productions‘ part-animated part-live action series broke new ground when it was aired on CBeebies and RTEjr. It is the first television series to look at life with an autism spectrum condition beyond the lazy clichés – and at a perspective that is appealing for adults as well as young children.
Pablo is unique in that many of its writers and co-writers – as well as its voiceover artistes – have autism spectrum disorders themselves. This is what sets the programme apart from many others where the portrayal of characters with autism spectrum conditions is far from authentic. Among the writers who have contributed is the late Donna Williams, who some of you may remember for Nobody Nowhere and her lecture tours. (Oh, and some bloke from Dukinfield who is the genius behind East of the M60).
From the 01 October 2017, the first fifteen episodes of the first series were shown. The first episode is entitled Big Purple Bird, written by Andrew Brenner and based on an idea by Paul Isaacs. During its original run, it was aired on weekdays only, with repeats during the weekend. After episode fifteen (Big Coat, Small Coat – 20 October 2017), Pablo had a break till the 13 November. On its return came Tummy Talk, written by Andrew Brenner and based on an idea by Paul Isaacs. The last episode of 2017 was Into The Fluff (28 November 2017 – Andrew Brenner, based on an idea by Donna Williams).
On the 03 April 2018, the second instalment of Pablo‘s first series opened with Crisps Everywhere, a fantastic episode co-written by Andrew Brenner and Sumita Majumdar. Before embarking on a summer break, the last episode was The Smell Gobbler, written by Tony Finnegan (aired on the 20 April 2019). Two days before then was the airing of my co-written episode, Around the Houses.
From the 10 September to the 19 September 2018, the last ten episodes were shown, starting with Feeling Floaty (Sumita Majumdar and Andrew Brenner) and closing with Water Boy (Sumita Majumdar and Andrew Brenner – based on an idea by Paul Isaccs).
Since then, all of Pablo‘s 52 episodes have been repeated on CBeebies, RTE Jr, and numerous channels around the world. It has also been nominated at the 2018 British Academy Children’s Awards in Digital, and won the Best Preschool Programme at the 2019 Broadcast Awards. During its first series, it was never out of the Top Ten in CBeebies’ viewing figures.
It has also been shown on Netflix, ABC Kids, CBC Kids and Universal Kids, with clips shown on Pablo‘s very own YouTube channel.
The reception from parents, professionals and adults on the autism spectrum has been encouraging. There has been a favourable response from its core demographic (under-fives) who have enjoyed the pacy story telling and its calm yet vivid animation techniques. Older viewers who may be – or know somebody – on the autism spectrum are able to identify themselves with any of the Book Animal characters and Pablo.
The second series aims to make more of an impact than the groundbreaking first series. This time, we may see Pablo in slightly more complex situations based on real life experiences. There are already plans for a theatre show next year, books due next spring and a possible third series.
Once again, from the inside…
Having co-written one of the second series episodes with Andrew Brenner, I was present at the launch on Tuesday 01 October 2019. This time, at the William Whitla Hall, at Queens University Belfast. Being a post-1945 architecture geek, I thought my birthdays came at once (and I thought I was in one of my own drawings!).
The day began with Gráinne’s overview of the new series prior to dinner time and the Writers’ Panel. Instead of a Question and Answer session, each writer talked about a favourite clip from their works. Each table was festooned with a prop from the series, a bowl of random buttons, some crayons, and balloons. Every guest had a free reusable Pablo water bottle.
During my stint on the Writers’ Panel, I was a little nervous and thought my performance was nowhere near as good as any of my compering work for Boarshurst Silver Band’s concerts. On the other hand, my fellows from the show and invited guests were impressed with my performance.
In an era where fresh thinking should be welcomed instead of berated, a series like Pablo is all the more important. If you have never seen an episode, you can visit the official Pablo YouTube channel or the CBeebies YouTube channel to see what you have missed.
Who’s Who in Series Two of Pablo?
- Pablo: Jake Williamson (William Burns and Oliver Burns in live action cast);
- Pablo’s Mum: Rosie Barry (in live action cast)
- Wren: Sumita Majumdar;
- Draff: Scott Mulligan;
- Llama: Rosie King;
- Tang: Michael White;
- Mouse: Rachael Dickson;
- Noa: Tony Finnegan;
- Creator: Gráinne McGuinness;
- Chief Writer: Andrew Brenner;
- Also written/co-written by: Sumita Majumdar, Michael White, Stuart Vallantine, Rosie King, Paul Isaacs, Abel Diaz, Constantine Nemo Verum, Tony Finnegan, Rachael Dickson;
- Music: Performed by the Ulster Orchestra;
- Creative Director (Paper Owl Films): Sheila de Courcy;
- Executive Producer (RTÉJr): Pauline MacNamara.
52 x 11 minute episodes, a Paper Owl Films/Kavaleer Productions/Ingenious/CAKE Entertainment co-production.
In the Belfast Telegraph, their story included a video by Jake Williamson (Pablo). Halfway through his clip, he gave us this impressive quote:
“You can’t label autism. You can’t label any learning difficulty because they are all individuals.”
The Irish Mirror has a more pithier take on Pablo’s return to CBeebies and RTE Jr. This time with a photograph of the cast and another one with Gavin Halpin, Stephen Petticrew and Gráinne McGuinness from the Paper Owl Films team.
Mercedes Milligan’s article in Animation Magazine covers much of the same ground as the previous two newspapers. This time with emphasis on Pablo’s quest for world domination.
One more thing…
The first Series Two episode of Pablo is entitled The New Sofa. Written by Michael White, it will be aired at 2.35pm on CBeebies on the 07 October. On RTE Jr, this episode will be aired at 6.00pm on the same day.
All subsequent episodes will be aired at 2.35pm on CBeebies, seven days a week. On RTE Jr, 6.00pm on weekdays and 12midday on weekends. Whatever you do, don’t forget to set the reminder on your digital decoder. Failing that, put a ring around Pablo in the CBeebies column in this week’s Radio Times.
Oh, and before I go, you can always watch the episodes on BBC iPlayer and RTE Player. Which is good to keep in mind if you are nowhere near a television set or in work.
S.V., 02 October 2019.