|Created by||Dave Gingell
|Written by||Nia Ceidiog
|Voices of||Steve Kynman
John Sparkes (2003 series.)
Sarah Hadland (2003)
Tegwen Tucker (2008-present)Alex Lowe
|Narrated by||John Alderton (1987-1994)
Gareth Lewis (Welsh)
|Country of origin||United Kingdom (Wales)|
|No. of series||10|
|No. of episodes||167 (List of episodes)|
|Running time||10 minutes (series)
20 minutes (Christmas special episode)
|Production company(s)||Bumper Films and S4C (1987-1994)
Hit Entertainment (2002-present)
|Original channel||S4C (Welsh)
|Original airing||17 November 1987 - 20 November 2014|
Fireman Sam (Welsh: Sam Tân) is a Welsh animated children's television series about a fireman called Sam, his fellow firefighters, and other townspeople in the fictional Welsh rural town of Pontypandy (a portmanteau of two real towns, Pontypridd and Tonypandy, which are situated approximately 5 miles (8.0 km) apart in the South Wales valleys). The original idea for the show came from two ex-firemen from Kent, who took their idea to artist and writer Rob Lee who developed the concept, and the show was later commissioned by S4C.
Fireman Sam first appeared in Welsh on S4C as Sam Tân in 1987, and later in English on BBC1 in 1987. The original series finished in 1994, and a new series which expanded the character cast commenced in 2003. The series was also shown in Gaelic in Scotland, where it was known as Sam Smalaidh. The series was sold to over 40 countries and has been used across the United Kingdom to promote fire safety.
The original idea came about from two ex-firemen from Kent – Dave Gingell and David Jones. 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 saw potential in the idea and commissioned the series. Grace had previously commissioned Superted, which had achieved success across the United Kingdom and worldwide. The characters and storylines were created by Rob Lee, an illustrator from Cardiff, and the program was produced using stop-motion. It could take up to 4 days to produce 1 minute of this form of puppet animation. Fireman Sam has to this day been translated into over 25 different languages including Mandarin. In the first four series, all the character voices were performed by John Alderton (in English) and Gareth Lewis (in Welsh). The later series used several actors' voices. Voice direction in Welsh was by Pat Griffiths.
Sam is the protagonist in the show, and interacts with both colleagues at the fire station and local townspeople. He is seen as somewhat of a hero in the village. Despite being so small, and with so little activity, the town 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. Sam's colleagues are Elvis Cridlington, Station Officer Basil Steele, and Penny Morris. The townspeople are Bus Driver/Auxiliary Firefighter Trevor Evans, Italian Cafe Owner Bella Lasagne, Norman Price, Norman's mother Dilys Price, and the twins James and Sarah Jones. The objects include Bentley the Robot, trash can robot, and Mechanical Master Chef.
In the original television series produced by Bumper Films between 1987 and 1994, the firefighters had yellow and black uniforms, whereas in the new CGI television series produced by HIT Entertainment and Hibbert Ralph, the firefighters had yellow and blue uniforms.[clarification needed]
In 1988, the series was nominated for a BAFTA TV Award for Best Short Animated Film. The potential recipients were Ian Frampton and John Walker.
In 2003 a new Fireman Sam series was produced by Siriol Productions (now known as Calon TV), comprising twenty-six episodes, each ten minutes in length. These episodes used more modern techniques of stop-motion animation 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 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 Mini Cooper. The characters in this series were voiced by John Sparkes, Joanna Ruiz and Sarah Hadland. The Welsh version aired on S4C in 2003, and the English version premiered on 4 April 2003 and aired on CBeebies.
The show's production companies were Bumper Films and Siriol Productions (2002–present), and its distributors were British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Sianel 4 Cymru (S4C).
Pontypandy is now a seaside fishing village instead of a village set deep in the hills as in the early series, 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 run a cafe/fish-and-chip shop called 'Whole Fish Cafe'.
Jupiter was upgraded again, now loosely based on a Volvo FL6 Fire Engine, with a grille between the sirens and rectangular headlamps on the bump. Venus was still the same vehicle like the 2003 to 2005 series, but it can now shoot water out of a mounted water cannon. Trevor's bus was new but with triangular headlamps. New vehicles introduced were Mike Flood's Van in the sixth season onwards, and Mercury, Saturn, Pontypandy Flyer, and Bessie introduced from the eighth season onwards.
The outfits were updated throughout the series (except for Norman Price): Every firefighter have white lining on the sleeves and the fire badges on the left sleeves and on the back. Dilys Price has eye shadows, glasses, black hair, necklace, green shirt with pink polka dots, and blue trousers. James Jones, has a green sweater and olive green trousers. Sarah Jones has a pink shirt, sky blue vest, and bright blue trousers. Mike Flood has green overalls, white shirt and a blue cap. Tom Thomas has orange rescue suits. Mandy Flood has a yellow shirt with a blue tank top with flowers, and a purple skirt with flowers.
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 rather than 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 always seems to gasp 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 cafe can still be seen opposite Dilys' shop, now a 7-Eleven-esque convenience store called the "Cut Price Supermarket". It seems the Whole Fish Cafe and Bronwyn and Charlie have replaced them. Penny also now has another string to her bow, as she is a trained lifeguard and the driver of Neptune (the town's lifeboat). Also Rosa and Dusty have been replaced by Lion, Nipper, and Radar.
Since 2012, additional characters were introduced: a firefighter named Chief Fire Officer Boyce, one animal called Norris the Guinea Pig, five new townspeople named Derek Price, Moose Roberts, Gareth Griffiths, Lily, and Mrs. Chen, and two new objects were the ukelele named Marjorie, AKA Marjorie Stays With Me, and a thermal heating tracking device named Saturn.
In 2014, other characters were introduced: one lifeguard named Ben Hooper, one mechanic named Joe Sparkes with his wife Lizzie Sparkes, and their daughter Hannah Sparkes. Also, new vehicles were introduced: a jet ski named Juno and a fire boat named Titan.
The characters in this series were voiced by Steven Kynman, Tegwen Tucker, David Carling, and Su Douglas. Also in 2014, John Hasler, Ifan Huw Dafydd, Alex Lowe and Nigel Whitmey joined the cast.
The series had a theme tune composed by Ben Heneghan and Ian Lawson. The lyrics were written by Robin Lyons, and sung by Maldwyn Pope. A full-length version was also released on BBC Records, which was the same as the TV series version, albeit without the slap bass which was heavily featured. The verse of the song alternates between notes a fifth apart – the intention being to suggest the sound of a fire engine siren.
The same composers wrote a new arrangement of the theme tune for the 2003 remake, although this time in straight quavers rather than the 'swung' twelve-eight of the original theme. Robin Lyons also updated the lyrics. This version was sung by Cameron Stewart, singer and guitarist with the Cardiff-based function band Session, and also the originals outfit Calling Madison.
The theme song from the 2003 version was re-used in a shortened form for the CGI series.
In 1996, a stage production was turned into a feature, Fireman Sam In Action, and released on BBC Video.
Fireman Sam was adapted into a live musical theatre show, which began touring the UK in June 2011.
Common Sense Media recommended the 2004 series for ages 3 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.
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