The Transporters series is commissioned and fully funded by Culture Online, part of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Culture Online was set up in 2002 to engage audiences with arts and culture using new technology.
The project is a partnership between Culture Online, Cambridge University's Autism Research Centre, Catalyst Pictures and the National Autistic Society.
The Transporters is a world of imaginary toy vehicle characters who have emotional experiences and adventures. It aims to help children enhance their understanding of the causes of emotions and of emotional expressions.
There are eight characters in the series, all toy vehicles with their own personalities and function. They are part of a toy set in a child’s bedroom; an environment that is designed to be predictable (since children with autism love predictability) but not distracting.
The characters come to life when their owner, Jamie, goes off to school in the morning. A narrator, popular actor Stephen Fry, helps children to focus on the facial expressions, rather than watching the characters talking. In the series, human figures are shown as static plastic toys in a deliberate attempt to keep human action simple and to avoid the type of movement (animated motion) that children with autism turn away from.
The series was created especially for children with autism spectrum conditions (autism for short) who find it hard to recognise causes of emotion and facial expressions of emotion.
This is the first time high−quality broadcast animation techniques have been used to produce a series aimed at an audience on the autistic spectrum. We hope The Transporters will act as a bridge between the mechanical world children with autism enjoy and the human world that they usually turn away from.
Children with autism tend to love vehicles, probably because they move predictably. They seem to dislike objects that move unpredictably. But children with autism love vehicles that are much more constrained in their movements - like trams, cable cars, trains and funiculars.
With The Transporters, children who don’t naturally want to look at peoples' unpredictable faces may be interested in the characters' faces. These are ‘grafted’ onto beautifully predictable, attractive vehicles. Then it becomes easier to learn to understand their expressions.
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