5 minute cuppa with the creator of CBeebies’ Pablo

Ever thought you could make a really cool kids’ TV programme? Well, busy mum Gráinne McGuinness did – she started her own production company from home!

We grabbed her for a cuppa to talk about new CBeebies show Pablo. Need 5 mins away from the kids to read it? Distract them with these Pablo games.

 Hi Grainne! What’s in your cup? Tea – and it’s a very big cup!

 Can you introduce yourself to 5MF? I run Paper Owl Films, which I started 5 years ago at my dining room table. When I became a mum [Gráinne has a daughter, 9 and a son, 6], I started having ideas about children’s content, so my husband and I took a risk and started our own production company. Pablo is my first show for CBeebies.

What is Pablo? Pablo is a programme about a little boy with autism who uses his magic crayons and animated friends to help him solve challenges that happen in real life. The writing looks at the world in different ways – it’s very original, very quirky and very funny.

Where did the idea for Pablo come from? Pablo was particularly close to my heart because my little nephew Lucas has Asperger syndrome. I thought it’d be great if kids around Lucas – including my own children – could understand more about where he was coming from.

Why will my children like Pablo? Pablo tells stories that all pre-schoolers will relate to and it’s funny. In one episode, Pablo turns into the Wild Wild Man because he refuses to have his hair cut. In another, a spider jumps out of a book and everyone is terrified of it.

How can the programme help children with autism? Each of Pablo’s animated friends is built around a trait that Pablo has in the real world. Wren is excitable; Mouse is sensitive to noise and smell; Tang has movement difficulties: Noa struggles with speech; Llama needs her own space; and Draff is a fact-boffin. The aim of the show is to put the traits of autism on screen for a wide audience to gain understanding and empathy.

Who came up with the story ideas? Pablo and his animated friends are all voiced by people with autism, who also worked on story ideas and co-wrote scripts. Our lead writer Andy Brenner (who has written for Thomas & Friends and Nelly and Nora) says it changed his life because he now looks at storytelling in a completely new way. For example, one story takes place inside a ball of fluff that comes out of the tumble dryer. They make you see things differently…

What was the best part of making the show? We’ve laughed a lot… Once we mentioned that a chairperson would be in a meeting and the writers started laughing. “There’s going to be a chair person? Oh, do we sit on the person?” Once you tap into that humour, it’s so funny.

And it’s been inspirational. Society is missing out on a great chunk of creative thinking. It’s a much more interesting world if we celebrate diversity and have access to it.

What do you do when you have 5 minutes just for you? We’ve just started making Series 2 of Pablo, and I’m a mum, so I won’t get 5 minutes! But if I do, I’ll go for a run.

Pablo is on CBeebies (Mondays to Fridays at 9am) and on RTEjr.