For those who grew up watching cartoons, Caillou is a hallmark of a Canadian child’s educational series. The main character, who is a four-year-old boy named Caillou, and his eponymous TV series has garnered backlash surrounding Caillou’s perceived obnoxious personality. The Medium spoke to Bryn McAuley, who voiced the main character Caillou for its first season which ran from 1997 to 1998, for insight into the production and reception of the show.
In terms of first getting the role, McAuley described her auditioning process. McAuley stated that she has forgotten particular details of preparing her audition due to the long period of the time that has elapsed.
“I auditioned for Caillou when I was seven-years-old. This was my very first cartoon voice audition. I had only done acting on camera prior to that. Initially, I was supposed to audition for Rosie, Caillou’s little sister. When I got to the audition, they asked me to read for Caillou as well. […] I can’t really say how I prepared, it was a long time ago and I was just a kid. When you’re a kid, you have an amazing imagination so auditions are more instinctive and fun. I know I prepare very differently and much more diligently now,” she says.
At the time of production, which was based in Montreal, McAuley lived in Ottawa. To make the recording sessions for the show, McAuley’s mother or family members had to drive her to Montreal. McAuley explained that after the first season of Caillou ended, she moved to Toronto. After this, the production replaced her due to the “unfeasible” distance.
When asked about the challenges she experienced while on set, McAuley stated that the experience has been generally positive.
“I don’t think faced many challenges outside of the travel for the job. I was one of the only kids on the show, so I mostly remember having a fantastic time and being treated really kindly by everyone on the production. I do remember being stuck in an insane snowstorm on the drive home from Montreal one time and my mom and I had to stop at the closest motel to spend the night there. There was no heating in the room and we slept in our winter coats.”
However, the backlash on Caillou, particularly on online forums, has been saturated with caustic comments labelling him as “whiny,” “bratty,” and “entitled.”
In an article to the Huffington Post, Brittany McGee also disparaged the coddling nature of Caillou’s mother. More specifically, McGee said, “My hate isn’t even because she raised that awful spawn [Caillou]. It’s because no matter how horrible he is, how rude he is to that poor little Rosie [Caillou’s sister] or the fact that he is four years old and still bald…she keeps her cool.”
When I asked McAuley what she thought about the online accusations branding Caillou’s character as a brat, she replied that she agrees with some of these negative perceptions. She described Caillou to be “quite a whiny character,” and said that she understood why some parents have an issue with the show.
However, when further questioned whether Caillou is supposed to be an example for kids, McAuley said that “Caillou is not supposed to be an example for kids. I think he is just very relatable. He has a lot of the same frustrations, fears, and anxieties that the audience of the show has. Caillou is targeted at a preschool audience, so kids who are two-to six-years-old. Caillou’s feelings are relevant to that age group.”
At the moment, McAuley is in her final year studying history and politics at Ryerson University. Commenting on the time she has spent at Ryerson University, McAuley explained that it enlarged her perspective in life to something “much larger than just the film and T.V. industry.”
“However, my studies have also made me enormously grateful for my work as a voice actor, and the respite it gives me from the intensity of my studies,” said McAuley, further expressing gratitude for her acting career and the nature of her job.
“My job is to prepare unique character voices and then walk into a studio to make people laugh. Last week I played a zany squirrel and a yoga-obsessed head of lettuce. I mean what?! Who gets to do that!? I feel very lucky,” she said.
McAuley’s has most recently played the role as Mavis on Hotel Transylvania: The Series, which premiered on Teletoon this past September. Additionally, she played the role of Bea and Shirley Squirrely on Top Wing, which premiered on November 6 on Nickelodeon.