Fireman Sam

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Fireman Sam
Fireman Sam logo
Genre Stop-motion
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 (2003-05 series.)
Lloyd Langford
Joanna Ruiz
Sarah Hadland (2003)
David Carling
Su Douglas
Tegwen Tucker (2008-present)
Narrated by John Alderton (1987-1994)
Gareth Lewis (Welsh)
Country of origin Wales
No. of series 10
No. of episodes 167 (List of episodes)
Producer(s) Ian Frampton
John Walker
Running time 10 minutes (series)
20 minutes (Christmas special episode)
Production company(s) Bumper Films, S4C, (1985-1994) Hit Entertainment (1996-present)
Original channel S4C
CBeebies (United Kingdom)
Sprout (United States)
ABC (Australia)Cartoonito
Original run 7 November 1987  – present

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. They took their idea to artist/writer Rob Lee who developed the concept for them. The finished concept was then presented to S4C who saw potential in the series and commissioned it.

Fireman Sam first appeared in Welsh on S4C in 1987 and later in English on BBC1 in 1987. The original series finished in 1994, but 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 has been sold to over 40 countries, from Australia to Norway and is used across the United Kingdom to promote fire safety.

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

Fireman Sam has recently been adapted into a Live musical theatre show, which began touring the UK in June 2011.[1]

The show was broadcast in English and Welsh at the same time, but on two different channels – in English on the BBC, in Welsh on S4C. The show's Welsh title is "Sam Tân". The theme tune (excluding the lyrics) and characters are the same.[2]

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]

In 2009, Fireman Sam teamed up with over 100 animated characters, such as Big Chris (from Roary the Racing Car), Bagpuss, Postman Pat, Peppa Pig, Angelina Ballerina: The Next Steps, Ben 10, Thomas the Tank Engine and SpongeBob SquarePants for a Children In Need single. The single was put together by Peter Kay.[4]

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.[5]


The original idea for Fireman Sam came about from two ex-firemen from Kent – Dave Gingell and Dave 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.[6] Remarkably, 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.

English-language version of series one to four[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, 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 1985 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]

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 series also airs on Milkshake and Cartoonito.

2008–present 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 'Raj's Wonderful Fish Bar'.

Jupiter was upgraded again, now loosely based on a Volvo FL6 Fire Engine, with a grille between the sirens and rectangular headlamps on the bumper it was also given a portable curry serving station. 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 pants. James Jones, has a green sweater and olive green pants. Sarah Jones has a pink shirt, sky blue vest, and bright blue pants. 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 and has been given an ASBO, 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.

To follow up the series, the show saw its first feature-length episode, The Great Fire of Pontypandy, released straight to DVD and shown in select cinemas during 2010. It was also released on the UK iTunes Store on 6 April 2010.

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.

But, in 2014, awaiting characters were introduced: one lifeguard named Ben Hooper, one mechanic named Joe Sparkes with his wife Lizzie Sparkes, and her daughter Hannah. Also, awaiting 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.

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,[7] and also the originals outfit Calling Madison.

The theme song from the 2003 version was re-used for the CGI Series, albeit shortened.


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."[8]

The Entertainment Store Group described the show as, "The ultimate rescue show for preschoolers [that] has been on-air for over 16 years and can be seen in over 80 countries worldwide in 31 different languages. Particularly strong with boys aged two to six years, Fireman Sam promotes responsibility, respect for others and a can-do attitude." They added that "Entertainment Store Group is proud to represent Fireman Sam exclusively in Australia!"[9]

Fireman Sam: The Great Fire of Pontypandy was given a critical analysis on the website Raising Children Network. The film was rated G, and was advised for children aged 5 and up. The genre was children's animated adventure, the length was 63 minutes and the release date was 28 October 2010. It commented on the prevalent themes, namely "the threat of fire; accidents and rescues". The review continued by stating some of the scenes which could potentially scare or disturb children under 5, such as when "Mike falls off the roof of a house into the harbour, and struggles to stay afloat". The review concluded by stating some discussion points for parents with their children: "The main messages from this movie are about helping people in need and pulling together as a community. The movie also looks at the bad things that happen when you do the wrong thing. Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include selflessness, and care and concern for others. This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues such as stealing, lighting fires, and ignoring safety instructions."[10][11]

Fireman Sam (2004) was given an analysis at commonsensemedia. It was advised for ages 3 and up, and was given a rating of 4/5 stars. The show was given a "The Good Stuff" rating of 3/5, which the site stating, "Sam shows how to stay calm in a crisis. He also relies on his team to help him solve problems." Under the section entitled "violence & scariness", the site comments that "Some of the fires and other crises that Sam faces may frighten the youngest viewers, but everyone is always safe in the end." The site explains that parents need to know that "Young viewers will be delighted by the stop-motion animation (which creates soft visuals), the colorful backdrops of the charming Welsh village, and the funny dialogue. Sensitive viewers may need a parent nearby to help them understand that all of the characters are safe in the end." On a potential language barrier, the site comments, "The distinctly Welsh characters, community, accents, and expressions may pose some minor comprehension problems for kids on this side of the pond, but overall it's good exposure to another part of the world."[12]

FIREMAN SAM: Cat Magic was given a negative review at website Trick or Treat Tales, "Cat Magic", from the last season, sees the stop-motion replaced with generic, poorly-executed CGI animation, and the series loses all interest (the stop-motion was the main draw of the series in the first place). The new voice work is particularly grating, as well. And worst of all: this story has zero to do with Halloween or trick-or-treat...You can skip Trick or Treat Tales."[13]

The 1987 set Fireman Sam To the Rescue! (released on DVD on 1 July 2008 by HIT Entertainment) was given a review at, summarised with "If you have a toddler or preschooler who likes Bob the Builder, there's a chance this one will also be a hit. Though there are less vehicles, there are more children, and the plots are just as rescue-based." The DVD was assessed on 4 qualities: Video (7), Audio (7), Extras (1) and Film value (7).[14]

Foreign broadcasters[edit]

Country Title Network
UK Fireman Sam Sam Tan or Sam Smalaidh CBBC
BBC Alba
Germany Feuerwehrmann Sam KiKA
Super RTL
France Sam le pompier France 5
Australia Fireman Sam ABC
Hungary Sam, a tűzoltó Minimax
Italy Sam il pompiere Rai Yoyo
Rai 2
Netherlands Brandweerman Sam VARA
New Zealand Fireman Sam TV2 (New Zealand)
Poland Strażak Sam TVP1
Portugal, Czech Republic, Romania, Switzerland O Bombeiro Sam
Požárník Sam
Pompierul Sam
Feuerwehrmann Sam
Norway Brannman Sam NRK Super
Slovenia Gasilec Samo RTV Slovenia
Qatar سامي رجل الإطفاء (Sami ragul al-Itfaa') Baraem
Israel סמי הכבאי (Sami ha-kabai) Hot
Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia Fireman Sam JimJam Asia


  1. ^ "Fireman Sam News". Retrieved 4 January 2011. 
  2. ^ "Trivia for "Fireman Sam" (1987)". Retrieved 4 January 2011. 
  3. ^ "Company credits for "Fireman Sam" (1987)". Retrieved 4 January 2011. 
  4. ^ "Kay "proud" of Children In Need song". Retrieved 4 January 2011. 
  5. ^ "Awards for "Fireman Sam" (1987)". Retrieved 4 January 2011. 
  6. ^ "About Sam". Retrieved 4 January 2011. 
  7. ^ "The Ultimate Wedding and Function Band". SessionUK. 2013. Retrieved 2013. 
  8. ^ "Fireman Sam at ABC". Retrieved 4 January 2011. 
  9. ^ "Fireman Sam at Entertainment Store Group". Retrieved 4 January 2011. 
  10. ^ "Fireman Sam: The Great Fire of Pontypandy at Raising Children Network". Retrieved 4 January 2011. 
  11. ^ "Fireman Sam: The Great Fire of Pontypandy at Hoyts". Retrieved 4 January 2011. 
  12. ^ "Fireman Sam at commonsensemedia". Retrieved 4 January 2011. 
  13. ^ "Trick or Treat Tales (Barney, Thomas & Friends, Bob the Builder, Angelina Ballerina, and MORE)". Retrieved 4 January 2011. 
  14. ^ "Fireman Sam To the Rescue! [TV show] (DVD)". Retrieved 4 January 2011. 

External links[edit]