Fireman Sam

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Fireman Sam
Fireman Sam logo
Genre Stop-motion
CGI
Created by Dave Gingell
Dave Jones
Rob Lee
Jonathan Lewis-Oliver
Patrick Lambton
Adam Lyons
Sam Lambert
Written by Nia Ceidiog
Rob Lee
Voices of Steve Kynman
John Sparkes (2003 series.)
Joanna Ruiz
Sarah Hadland (2003)
David Carling
Su Douglas
Tegwen Tucker (2008-present)Alex Lowe[citation needed]
Narrated by John Alderton (1985-1994)
Gareth Lewis (Welsh)
Music by Ben Heneghan
Ian Lawson
Country of origin United Kingdom (Wales)
No. of series 10
No. of episodes 167 (list of episodes)
Production
Producer(s) Ian Frampton
John Walker
Running time 10 minutes (series)
20 minutes (Christmas special episode)
Production company(s) Bumper Films and S4C (1987-1994)
Hit Entertainment (2002-present)
Release
Original channel S4C (Welsh)
BBC (English)
Picture format 4:3 576i (1987–1994)
16:9 576i (2004–present)
Audio format
Original release 17 November 1987

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.

Development[edit]

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.[1] 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.

Series history[edit]

Original series[edit]

The series originally comprised 32 ten-minute episodes and a 20-minute Christmas special. The narration and character voices were done by John Alderton (and by Gareth Lewis in the Welsh version).

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 and Station Officer Norris Steele (Station Officer Basil Steele in the original series). 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.[2]

2003 series[edit]

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).[3]

2008– series[edit]

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. Also in "Ultimate Heroes" or "Heroes of the Storm" There is Ellie Phillips and Arnold McKinley, new firefighter members. There is Hydrus (later Catfish or Wildcat) the 6-wheeled vehicle boat, and an unnamed Mobile Command Unit too.

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.

Main characters[edit]

Firefighters[edit]

  • Fireman Samuel 'Sam' Peyton Jones is referred to as the "hero next door", Charlie's older brother and Bronwyn's brother-in-law. He is the brave archetypal fireman and protector, who remains composed in an emergency and unfailingly offers assistance to all those in need. Sam is single, but maintains a close relationship with his nephew, James, and niece, Sarah. He lives at 3 Vale Road next to Trevor Evans. Sam spends his spare time in his "inventing shed", in which he makes devices ranging from a potato picker made from old bicycle parts to a machine capable of replacing the town band. On occasion his inventive streak can undermine his emphasis on fire safety. His catchphrase is "Great fires of London." and "Action stations everybody."
  • Fireman Elvis Cridlington who is named after the King of Rock and Roll Elvis Presley for his Pompadour hairstyle and his admiration of Rock n roll provides a stark contrast to Sam in both competency and demeanour. His catchphrase is "Great balls of fire." (2008–present season).
  • Station Officer Norris Steele previously Station Officer Basil Steele is the chief of Pontypandy Fire Station. As a former army officer, he insists upon a high standard of both hygiene and efficiency in the fire station. His catchphrase in the old series was "Now who needs the fire service." but in the new series it is "Action stations men.", which fell out of use in the CGI series.
  • Firefighter Penny Morris is the only female member of the Pontypandy fire brigade. In the original series, she only visited occasionally (hailing from Newtown fire station), although in the new series, she seems to work at Pontypandy full-time. Penny doubles as a mechanic. Her ideas are often unconventional and at odds with her male colleagues, but she usually turns out to have been right. Penny is often known to go on adventures with the town's children – James and Sarah, Norman Price and Mandy Flood. A relationship between her and Elvis has been hinted more than once. It is also hinted that Penny is a vegetarian. Her catchphrase is: "Action stations at last" and "Stand by everybody".
  • Chief Fire Officer Boyce hails from Newtown, and visits Pontypandy.

Townspeople[edit]

  • Trevor Evans is a West Indian former auxiliary fireman with the Pontypandy brigade. His job is as the town's bus driver. He is known for his fondness for cricket, his fear of heights, his awkward manner and general bad luck streak, but nonetheless exhibits a great devotion to the welfare of others (especially Dilys). In the 2005 and 2008 seasons, Trevor is no longer an auxiliary firefighter but is still the bus driver, and the spark between him and Dilys still holds strong.
  • Dilys Price runs the town grocery store. She is a well known gossip, and has great affection for Trevor, the bus driver (something which poor Trevor is too shy to act upon). Dilys is the mother of town mischief-maker Norman Price, but is frequently blind to her son's troublesome ways. She dotes on her only child, or "Mummy's Little Darling" or My Little Treasure as she sometimes calls him. In earlier series', Dilys is shown to be more snobbish than later. She also appears to use Malapropisms in her speech (EG: 'Inhalation' becomes 'Installation', 'Hysterical' becomes 'Historical'). She is also known to be self-centered; when she and Bella think they are going to be abducted by aliens, Bella says "It's-a coming straight for us!", to which Dilys replies "Stands to reason, if they want an intelligent life forms." while looking disapprovingly at Bella.
  • Bella Lasagne (1985-2003, 2012 onwards) - Bella is the absent-minded town cafe owner, hailing from Italy. Bella appears to be based on the real Welsh Italians who ran cafes known as "Bracchis" in South Wales Valleys.
  • Charlie 'Charles' Jones (2008 onwards) - Charlie is a fisherman, Bronwyn's husband, Fireman Sam's brother and father of Sarah and James. He is running his fishing boat.
  • Bronwyn Jones (nee Griffiths) (2008 onwards) - Bronwyn is a Pontypandy citizen who runs the Wholefish Cafe.
  • Gareth Griffiths (2012 onwards) - Gareth is Father of Bronwyn, Metarnal Grandfather of Sarah and James, Charlie's Father-in-Law.
  • Moose Roberts (2012 onwards) - Moose is a famous mountain climber who works at the Mountain Activity Centre.
  • Mrs. Chen (2012 onwards) - Mrs. Chen is mother of Lily.

Children and Teenagers[edit]

  • Sarah Jones & James Jones are the relatively well-behaved five-year-old daughter and son twins of Charlie, niece and nephew of Fireman Sam. They are often more sensible in an emergency than Norman. When they grow up they want to be firefighters like their uncle Sam. They started acting more like naughty twins in the 2008 series (i.e. insulting each other, having arguments, and sometimes being the cause of an emergency, but it is made clear they still care for each other).
  • Norman Stanley Price is a seven-year-old boy with a love of practical jokes and skateboarding. Unfortunately, Norman regularly fails to set appropriate limits on his own behaviour, and has been known to cause mischief and sometimes causes havoc at the fire station, and for many of Pontypandy's residents. He has shown interest in becoming a firefighter himself one day. In the 2008 series, his intelligence went down. In the same series, he received a palette-swap cousin, Derek (see below).
  • Mandy Flood is a character in the series.
  • Derek Price is Norman's cousin, Mr. Price's Son.
  • Lily Chen is the three year-old daughter of Mrs. Chen and youngest child on the show.
  • Hannah Sparkes is Joe and Lizzie's daughter.
  • Itay Levy (2015 onwards) - Itay is Eitsik and Osnat's son, Shahaf's brother, Nir's cousin, Haim's grandson.
  • Shahaf Levy (2015 onwards) - Shahaf is Eitsik and Osnat's son, Itay's brother, Nir's cousin, Haim's grandson.
  • Nir Kusan (2015 onwards) - Nir is Eli and Gila's son, Itay and Shahaf's cousin.

Theme tune[edit]

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,[4] 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.

Episodes[edit]

Spinoffs[edit]

In 1996, a stage production was turned into a feature, Fireman Sam In Action, and released on BBC Video.

In 2009, Fireman Sam appeared with other animated children's television characters in a Children In Need single. The single was put together by Peter Kay.[5]

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.[6]

In 2015, the show's second feature-length movie "Heroes of the Storm" (Ultimate heroes in the USA) due to be released September 2015 however it was released for US audiences December 2014.[citation needed]

Chief Fire Officer Boyce announces that the old Pontypandy fire station will be closed down to make way for a new, more modern fire station and two new members of the firefighting crew. In the meantime, the team will have to co-ordinate rescues from a Mobile Command Unit whilst the new fire station is being built.

Up at the mountains, Penny is taking Norman, Mandy, Sarah and James on a pot-holing trip in the old mines. And at the Mountain Activity Centre, Moose and Tom are using Moose’s new amphibious vehicle to take wildlife photographs, but they haven’t quite mastered the controls and it’s not long before they’re swept out to sea and Sam has to come to their aid.

Elsewhere at sea, Charlie and coastguard Ben see a hurricane has rapidly developed and is heading straight for Pontypandy; they immediately warn Sam. So it’s action stations as Sam has to rescue Penny and the kids from the old mines, Elvis helps prepare Pontypandy for the storm and Station Officer Steele gathers everyone at the new fire station.

But when a fire breaks out at the new fire station, it’s a race against time as Sam has to hurry back to Pontypandy to help the rest of the team and save the day.

The hurricane passes, Pontypandy made it through. As life goes back to normal in Pontypandy, Moose donates the amphibious vehicle to Sam and the team – newly painted in fire station colours and re-named Hydrus.

Critical response[edit]

The ABC website said of the series, "All the characters blend together into an appealing mixture of fun and entertainment for children everywhere."[7]

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.[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "About Sam". Retrieved 4 January 2011. 
  2. ^ "Awards for "Fireman Sam" (1987)". Retrieved 4 January 2011. 
  3. ^ "Company credits for "Fireman Sam" (1987)". Retrieved 4 January 2011. 
  4. ^ "The Ultimate Wedding and Function Band". SessionUK. 2013. Retrieved 2013. 
  5. ^ "Kay "proud" of Children In Need song". Retrieved 4 January 2011. 
  6. ^ "Fireman Sam News". Retrieved 4 January 2011. 
  7. ^ "Fireman Sam at ABC". Retrieved 4 January 2011. 
  8. ^ "Fireman Sam at commonsensemedia". Retrieved 4 January 2011. 

External links[edit]