Carl the Collector, PBS Kids‘ newest series about a warm-hearted raccoon, will be its first led by a character on the autism spectrum.
Created by New York Times best-selling illustrator and author Zachariah OHora, the animated TV show will celebrate the diverse ways kids think and express themselves, and help them develop a sense of self and community. The series is geared toward children 4 to 8, and will premiere in the fall of 2024.
“My hope for Carl and his diverse group of Fuzzytown friends is that they will inspire neurodiverse and neurotypical kids alike to foster a world in which neurodiversity is not only recognized as a benefit to society, but is celebrated as exemplifying the full spectrum of what it means to be human,” said OHora, the show’s creator and executive producer.
Produced by Fuzzytown Productions and the studio behind Donkey Hodie, Spiffy Pictures, Carl the Collector follows the everyday adventures of Carl, a raccoon who loves to collect things. On the spectrum, Carl’s talents have led to an impressive collection for nearly every occasion — whether it’s the perfect fake mustache or a soft plushie for a friend in need. Those same talents also help him solve problems with his friends around the neighborhood.
A raccoon whose energy matches his penchant for logic and precision, Carl the Collector will see its titular character address his anxiety within new situations and handling issues when things don’t go according to plan. With a laser-focus pursuit of his goals, impressive attention to detail and a distinctive way of looking at and experiencing the world, Carl will learn with audiences that like all of his friends, there is no right or wrong way to be himself.
“Carl the Collector values inclusion and empathy, while modeling relationship-building and social skill development, wrapped up in humor, heart and incredible visual design,” Sara DeWitt, PBS Kids’ senior vice president and general manager, said. “We are excited for children to get to know Carl and his group of friends, who believe that the best experiences occur when we honor the things that make each of us unique.”
That group of friends will feature characters who are both neurodiverse and neurotypical, illustrating the breadth of traits, behaviors, learning preferences and challenges young viewers can experience. Among Carl’s inner circle is his best friend, Sheldon, a beaver described by the series as a flexible thinker who not only has a knack for connecting people but looking out for the underdog.
Another is Lotta the fox — a quiet and self-assured autistic artist and musician who can experience hypersensitivity to loud sounds, powerful smells and certain food textures. Then there’s Fuzzytown’s Nico and Arugula, twin bunny sisters who, while identical in appearance, are quite different in their personalities. And finally is Carl’s hyperactive and impulsive squirrel friend Forrest, who has a tree nut allergy but is always up for an adventure or two.
To bring together Fuzzytown’s residents, Carl the Collector turned to the Emmy- and Annie-nominated Yowza! Animation studio for the series’ animation, and a production team of neurodiverse and neurotypical writers, advisors and voice talent.
Among the show’s advisors are Dr. Geraldine Oades-Sese, Ph.D, a licensed psychologist, children’s book author, and adjunct associate professor of pediatrics at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School; Dr. Stephen Shore, professor at Adelphi University and adjunct professor at New York University Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development; and Deborah Farmer Kris, M.A., educator, author, parenting columnist, and consultant for PBS Kids for Parents.
“As an autistic person, I continue to be amazed at the level of detail and effort the team expends to assure that Carl and Lotta are authentic to the autistic experience,” said Shore in a statement. “In addition to being an interesting series, Carl the Collector will become a great tool for both autistic and non-autistic people to gain insight on autism.”
“The show doesn’t shy away from having its main characters experience common mental health challenges such as anxiety, fear, sadness and the need for acceptance and belonging,” added Oades-Sese, of the show they say not only teaches empathy, understanding and compassion, but how to extend that to others. “It is about time for a children’s show like Carl the Collector, which embraces the diversity of children’s experiences and showcases an inclusive and relatable world.”
Caroline Bandolik serves as the series’ supervising producer, with Jesse McMahon as content producer. Adam Rudman, co-founder of Spiffy Pictures, is head writer. Contributing writers include the TV and picture book writer Samantha Berger; advocate and actress Ava X. Rigelhaupt; writer, director and puppeteer Joey Mazzarino; as well as children’s book authors Kelly DiPucchio and Bob Shea.
“In today’s world, inclusivity and representation in programming is more important than ever, especially for the youngest of viewers,” said Caroline Bandolik, supervising producer and vice president of production for Spiffy Pictures. “We instantly fell in love with this beautiful Fuzzytown world Zachariah created, filled with engaging and relatable characters and funny, heartfelt stories.”