Fireman Sam is a British animated comedy children's series about a fireman called Sam, his fellow firefighters, and other residents in the fictional Welsh rural village of Pontypandy (a portmanteau of two real towns, Pontypridd and Tonypandy). The original idea for the show came from two ex-firemen from London, England, who took their idea to artist and writer Rob Lee who developed the concept, and the show was commissioned.
The logo from 2005 to 2014
|Genre||Stop motion (1987-2005)|
|Created by||Rob Lee|
|Voices of||John Sparkes|
Ifan Huw Dafydd
|Narrated by||John Alderton (1987–1994)|
|Music by||Ben Heneghan|
|Country of origin||Wales, United Kingdom|
|Original language(s)||British-English, Welsh|
|No. of series||11|
|No. of episodes||200 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||10 minutes (series)|
20 minutes (Christmas special episode)
|Production company(s)||S4C (1987-2005)|
HIT Entertainment (2005-2016)
Mattel Television (2017-present)
Bumper Films (1987–1994)
Siriol Productions (2005)
Xing Xing Management Group (2008–2017)
IoM Media Ventures Halifax (2017–present)
|Distributor||HIT Entertainment (2005-2016)|
|Original network||Wales - S4C|
BBC One (CBBC) (Seasons 1-4)
CBeebies (Season 5)
Cartoonito (Season 6-Present)
Channel 5 (Season 6-Present)
|Picture format||576i (4:3 SDTV) |
576i (16:9 SDTV)
1080i (16:9 HDTV)
|Original release||17 November 1987 –|
Fireman Sam first appeared as Sam Tân (Fireman Sam in Welsh) on S4C in 1987, and at the same time on BBC One. The original series finished in 1994, and a new series that expanded the character cast commenced in 2005. The series was also shown in Gaelic in Scotland. The series was sold to over 40 countries and has been used across the UK to promote fire safety.
The original idea came about from two ex-firemen from London, England – Dave Gingell and David Jones after purchasing the stop motion animation drawn by artist Anthony Miller and Will Vinton. They approached Mike Young, creator of SuperTed, in Barry, Wales, and asked them to further develop their concept. The idea was then brought to S4C's Director of Animation, Chris Grace, who had previously commissioned SuperTed, saw potential in the idea and commissioned the series. The characters and storylines were created by Rob Lee, an illustrator from Cardiff, and the programme was made using stop motion. It could take up to four days to produce one minute of this form of puppet animation. Fireman Sam has to this day been translated into over 25 different languages including Mandarin.
In the original series, all the character voices were performed by John Alderton. The later series used several actors' voices.
History of the series
Original series (1987–1994)
The original series comprised 32 ten-minute episodes and a 20-minute Christmas special. The narration and all the character voices were done by John Alderton. Fireman Sam is the main character of the show, and interacts with both colleagues at the fire station and fellow villagers. He is seen as somewhat of a hero in the village. Despite being so small, and with so little activity, the village sees its fair share of fires, which Sam and his team can easily handle. The vehicles at the fire station include a four-wheeled Bedford TK fire engine called Jupiter, a six-wheeled 1982 Range Rover Rescue Tender named Venus, and Trevor's Bus, a 1985 Ford Transit Dormobile. Fireman Sam's colleagues are Elvis Cridlington, Station Officer Basil Steele (renamed Norris Steele in the new CGI series) and later Penny Morris (who hailed from Newtown with the firetender). The villagers are bus driver/auxiliary firefighter Trevor Evans, Italian café owner Bella Lasagne, Norman Price, Norman's mother Dilys Price, and the twins Sarah and James Jones. The objects include M.O.P., Bentley the Robot, and Mechanical Master Chef.
The original series aired on BBC One, CBBC and CBeebies since it was launched in 1987, most commonly airing on CBeebies on a daily basis with repeats showing until 28 December 2007. In the original series produced by Bumper Films from 1987 to 1994, the firefighters had yellow and black uniforms, whereas in the 2005 series produced by Siriol Productions and Gullane Entertainment (Later HIT Entertainment) and the 2008 CGI series produced by HIT Entertainment (Later Mattel Creations, then Mattel Television), Xing-Xing, WildBrain and DHX Media, the firefighters now have yellow and blue uniforms.
In 2005, a new Fireman Sam series was produced by Siriol Productions for HIT Entertainment, comprising twenty-six episodes, each ten minutes in length. These episodes used more modern techniques of stop motion claymation including mouths that move with the dialogue. This series featured all the original characters, but also introduced some new faces, such as Tom Thomas, the Australian pilot of the rescue helicopter Wallaby One and the Mountain Rescue 4×4 Jeep, an unnamed photographer/news reporter, and the Flood family; consisting of Mike The Plumber, his wife Helen The Nurse, and their daughter Mandy. The updated Jupiter has six wheels, loosely based on a Bedford 6×4, and Venus is loosely based on a heavily modified 4x4 Mini Cooper. The characters in this series were voiced by John Sparkes, Joanna Ruiz and Sarah Hadland. The series also premiered on CBeebies in 2005 and repeats were shown until 2007.
CGI series (2008–present)
The series was revamped in 2008 which saw the show convert to CGI. Pontypandy is now a seaside fishing village instead of a village set deep in the hills, though most of the locations have retained their appearances. Another change in this series is that the twins' parents appear for the first time; their new-age mother Bronwyn, and fisherman father Charlie, Sam's brother, who runs a café/fish-and-chip shop called the 'Whole Fish Café'. The series was produced by Xing-Xing from 2008-2016 and DHX Media (Later WildBrain)/IoM Media Ventures Halifax for HIT Entertainment (Later Mattel Creations, then Mattel Television) from 2017–present
Jupiter was updated again, now with a front end taken from a Volvo FL6. A yellow stripe was added to the front of the fire engine. Minor changes were made to Venus which included a water nozzle added to the top of its roof. Trevor's bus was updated to a more modern look with angled headlights. New vehicles introduced included Mike Flood's Van in the sixth season onwards, as well as Mercury (fire quad bike), Saturn (infrared drone), The Pontypandy Flyer (Steam Locomotive), and Bessie (Steeles first fire engine) which were introduced from the eighth season onwards.
The outfits were updated throughout the series (except for Norman Price). This included an update to the firefighter's outfits which added reflective stripes and extra badges to their tunics. Dilys Price received a large makeover which saw her getting makeup, glasses, black hair, a necklace and an updated outfit. The rest of the characters also received minor updates to their clothing.
Many characters also had aspects of their personalities made more apparent. Norman Price is far more mischievous and inconsiderate than in the 2005 series where his pranks were often planned out and his accidents were due to badly planned ideas instead of outrageous schemes. For example, in the episode "Pontypandy Extreme", Norman gets trapped down a wishing well after attempting to climb down in order to retrieve the coins from the bottom. Other examples are Station Officer Steele's strictness and maturity and Elvis's decrease in general competence. For example, in one episode where a first aid training exercise is taking place, Elvis is told off by Steele for dancing with the dummy that is being used. At the same time, Steele is not afraid to unleash the child within him, showing an interest in kite flying and paper planes. He also occasionally causes emergencies himself and often gasps when an emergency comes in. Also, Station Officer Steele's name has changed to Station Officer Norris Steele.
Other changes include the removal of Bella, although her café can still be seen opposite Dilys' shop, now a 7-Eleven-esque convenience store called the "Cut Price Supermarket". It seems the Whole Fish Café and Bronwyn and Charlie have replaced them. Bella made her first appearance in CGI in the tenth season, where the reason behind her absence was revealed as her moving to Newtown. Penny also now has another string to her bow, as she is a trained ocean rescuer and the helmsman of Neptune (the village's lifeboat). Also, Rosa and Dusty have been replaced by Lion, Nipper, and Radar.
Since 2012, additional characters were introduced: Chief Fire Officer Boyce, one animal called Norris the Guinea Pig, five new villagers named Derek Price (originally introduced in season 6 as a minor character but then recurring since The Great Fire of Pontypandy), Moose Roberts, Gareth Griffiths, Lily, and Mrs Chen.
In 2014, other characters were introduced: a coastguard named Ben Hooper, a mechanic & inventor named Joe Sparkes with his vet wife Lizzie Sparkes, and their daughter Hannah Sparkes. Also, new vehicles were introduced: a jet ski named Juno and a fire boat named Titan. Also in the movie "Heroes of the Storm", there is Ellie Phillips and Arnold McKinley, new firefighter members. There is Hydrus (previously Catfish or Wildcat) the six-wheeled vehicle boat, and an unnamed Mobile Command Unit, and from 2017 onwards, Bella Lasagñe makes her CGI debut and the fire station has a new vehicle; Phoenix, the animal rescue 4X4. & Wallaby 1's replacement, is a search & rescue helicopter, Wallaby 2.
The characters in this series are voiced by Steven Kynman, Tegwen Tucker, David Carling, and Su Douglas. Also in 2012, John Hasler, Ifan Huw Dafydd and Nigel Whitmey joined the cast. Alex Lowe and Jo Wyatt joined the cast in 2014.
In 1996, a stage production was turned into a feature, Fireman Sam In Action, and released on BBC Video.
The show saw its first feature-length movie, The Great Fire of Pontypandy, released to DVD and iTunes in 2010, and was shown in select cinemas.
Fireman Sam was adapted into a live musical theatre show, which began touring the UK in June 2011.
In 2014, Amazon Prime released Fireman Sam using American voices instead of British voices for children in the US. However, the characters of Tom Thomas, Moose Roberts and Bella Lasagna have their regular, respective Australian, Canadian and Italian voices (instead of their being dubbed them with a US voice actor) due to their accents.
In 2015, the show's second feature-length movie Heroes of the Storm (also known as Ultimate Heroes in the US) was due to be released in September 2015; however, it was released for American audiences in November 2014.
International Broadcast for Original Series (1987-1994)
United Kingdom Wales Finland Iceland Ireland Australia Poland South Africa Germany Singapore New Zealand Sweden Gibraltar United Arab Emirates Italy Norway Jordan Canada Malta Brazil
International Broadcast for 2005 Series
International Broadcast for CGI Series (2008-present)
United Kingdom Wales United States Hungary New Zealand France South Africa United Arab Emirates Ireland Norway Australia Canada Hong Kong Southeast Asia
The ABC website said of the series, "All the characters blend together into an appealing mixture of fun and entertainment for children everywhere."
Common Sense Media recommended the 2003 series for ages three and up, praising it for showing how to "stay calm in a crisis" and rely on a team to solve problems. The American website found that the "distinctly Welsh characters, community, accents, and expressions may pose some minor comprehension problems for kids on this side of the pond", but considered it a useful example of life in another part of the world.
In July 2016, it emerged that in Series 9, Episode 7 - in which the character Elvis slips on a piece of paper and falls into a stack of paper, causing them to fly everywhere - one of the flying pages that briefly came into view was identified as a page from the Quran: "Surah Mulk (67), verses 13–26". The production company Mattel apologised for this accident, removed the episode from broadcast, and ceased work with Xing Xing, the animation company responsible for the error. Mattel stated: "Someone from the production company thought they were just putting in random text. We have no reason to believe it was done maliciously." The BBC received more than 1,000 complaints and forwarded them to Channel 5 as the BBC has not aired Fireman Sam since 2008. In the aftermath, it was revealed that many newspapers misrepresented the facts by stating that Elvis trod on the Quran, when in fact on closer inspection the paper he stepped on was blank.
In October 2017, the London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton highlighted Fireman Sam in a campaign fighting sexism and promoting the gender-neutral term firefighter. She proposed that Fireman Sam should be renamed "Firefighter Sam", and said that research showed that women are put off a career in the fire service because it is seen as a job for men. She also claimed that as Fireman Sam is seen by children from an early age, he reinforces this stereotype.
- Shuttleworth, Peter (17 November 2017). "Happy 30th birthday Fireman Sam" – via www.bbc.com.
- "About Sam". Retrieved 4 January 2011.
- "Awards for "Fireman Sam" (1987)". Retrieved 4 January 2011.
- Fireman Sam: Heroes of the Storm (Video 2014), retrieved 16 January 2018
- "Fireman Sam at ABC". Retrieved 4 January 2011.
- "Fireman Sam at commonsensemedia". Retrieved 4 January 2011.
- Evans, Patrick (27 July 2016). "Fireman Sam episode pulled amid Quran row". BBC. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
- "Why We Are Campaigning To Shake Off The Outdated Term 'Firemen'". HuffPost UK.
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