|Narrated by||John Alderton|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||13|
|No. of episodes||231 (list of episodes)|
|Original release||17 November 1987 –|
Fireman Sam (Welsh: Sam Tân) is a British animated children's television series about a fireman named 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.
Fireman Sam first appeared on S4C on 1 November 1987, and a few weeks later on BBC 1 on 17 November. The original series finished in 1994, and a new series that expanded the character cast commenced in 2003. The series was also shown as Sam Smalaidh in Scottish Gaelic in Scotland. The series was sold to over 40 countries and has been used across the United Kingdom to promote fire safety.
The theme song was performed by Mal Pope in a classic rock style from 1987 to 1994, then by a different singer, Cameron Stewart, in a 2000s alternative rock style since the 2003 new episode broadcasts.
The original idea came about from two ex-firemen from London, England – Dave Gingell and David Jones after purchasing a stop motion animation book by artist Anthony Miller. They approached Mike Young, creator of SuperTed, in Barry, Wales, and asked him 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 the 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.
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 and interacts with both colleagues at the fire station and fellow villagers. 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 fire tender). The villagers are bus driver/auxiliary firefighter Trevor Evans, Italian café owner Bella Lasagne, troublemaker Norman Price, Norman's single mother Dilys Price, and the twins Sarah and James Jones. The objects include M.O.P., Bentley the Robot, and Mechanical Master Chef.
When it was launched in 1987, the original series aired on S4C, on BBC One, during Children's BBC timeslots. In the original series produced in 1987 to 1994, the firefighters had yellow and black uniforms, whereas in the 2005 series and the 2008 CGI series, the firefighters now have yellow and blue uniforms.
In 1988, the original series was nominated for a BAFTA Award for the Best Short Animated Film. The potential recipients were Ian Frampton and John Walker.
In November 2020, the full series (plus Series 5) was made available on BBC iPlayer. 
Series 5 (2005)
In December 2001, Gullane Entertainment announced they had purchased a 50% stake in the Fireman Sam property from S4C, with the intention of remastering the earlier episodes and producing a new series of twenty-six episodes, ten minutes in length like with the classic series. Gullane was soon purchased by HIT Entertainment in October 2002, bringing the Fireman Sam rights to them. On October 25, it was announced that the series would be animated by Siriol Productions, a subsidiary of Entertainment Rights, and that the episodes would be delivered to S4C and the BBC for a 2004 delivery.
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. Though still loosely based on a Bedford TK, the updated Jupiter has six wheels, with a slightly revised livery and appearance. Venus also received an update, with its design sporting a more generic modern appearance, though not based on any real-life model in particular. The main characters in this series were voiced by John Sparkes, Joanna Ruiz and Sarah Hadland.
Series 6 and 7 (2009)
On 22 March 2007, S4C announced they had sold their 50% share in Fireman Sam to HIT Entertainment. On the same day, the broadcaster announced that that development for a sixth series was underway with a DVD special and a 60-minute special, the latter of which would be sold for a 2009 delivery. Despite the sellout, S4C would continue to remain on board as an executive producer for the new series and would retain all Welsh-language rights to the property. On September 7, it was announced that Series 6 would be animated in CGI animation and in high-definition, with HIT announcing Hibbert Ralph Animation as producer and Chinese-based Xing-Xing outsourcing the animation. The production of the new series would be scheduled for a May 2008 delivery, with production occurring until January 2009. On 25 October, HIT announced that the first CGI season would be produced as two series, making up Series 6 and 7. Cartoonito also acquired UK pay-TV rights to both, alongside Series 5, while Five acquired the rights to the first four series.
The first five episodes of Series 6 were first released direct-to-DVD in November 2008 as an introduction to the new series, with Series 6's TV debut on Cartoonito occurring in February 2009. The British Terrestrial rights to Series 6 and 7 were purchased by GMTV in July 2009 for airing in the Autumn on the stand's The Fluffy Club block.
The CGI transition brought along a complete revamp of the series, with Pontypandy becoming a seaside fishing village instead of a village set deep in the hills, though the main locations remained in the same places. The season also saw the introduction of three new characters - the parents of Sarah and James - new-age mother Bronwyn, and fisherman father Charlie, who is Sam's brother, and Derek Price, Norman's cousin. New animals introduced were Lion, a cat owned by Charlie and Bronwyn, Radar, a rescue dog from the Fire Station, and Nipper, an energetic dog who belongs to Bronwyn's sister that the former looks after. The voice cast was also replaced, with the new voice actors for the series being Steven Kynman, Tegwen Tucker, David Carling and Su Douglas.
A new location - the 'Whole Fish Café' was added, which functions similarly to Bella's cafe from past series and is run by Charlie and Bronwyn, also functioning as their home. The Fire Station is refreshed with a double-door design, allowing for Jupiter and Venus to exit at the same time, as well as it becoming multi-floored. Dilys' shop was also turned from a simple corner store into a 7-Eleven-esque convenience store called the "Cut-Price-Supermarket".
New vehicles introduced were Neptune, a lifeboat which is normally piloted by Penny, and a green work van owned by Mike Flood. Some vehicles also received makeovers as well: Jupiter was updated with a front end taken from a Volvo FL6 and a yellow stripe was added to the front of the engine. Venus gains a water nozzle on its roof, and Trevor's bus was updated to be more modern with angled headlights.
The character's outfits were updated throughout the series (except for Norman Price), which included an update to the firefighter's outfits which added reflective stripes and extra badges to their tunics. Existing characters have had makeovers as well, Penny gains an extra bow and is now a qualified Coast Guard, normally piloting Neptune in ocean emergencies, and Dilys Price received a large makeover which saw her getting makeup, glasses, black hair, a necklace and an updated outfit. Bella Lasagne was removed from the series, although her Cafe is still seen opposite Dilys' shop. Rosa (Lasagne's cat) was also removed, alongside Dusty the dog.
With the revamp and going onwards to this day, many of the characters also had aspects of their personalities made more apparent. Norman Price is far more mischievous and inconsiderate than in the 2003 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.
The Great Fire of Pontypandy (2010)
The franchise's first 60-minute movie - The Great Fire of Pontypandy was released straight-to-DVD in March 2010, and introduced a new character - Chief Fire Officer Boyce, a Chief Officer who hails from Newtown, and a new location - the Lighthouse.
Series 8 (2012)
On 22 February 2011, HIT announced an eighth Series of Fireman Sam for a 2012 delivery consisting of 26 10-minute episodes, as with the previous two series. Xing-Xing Animation fully took over control of the animation production, with the series now being fully produced in HD.
Series 8 introduced a new environment - the Pontypandy Heritage Railway, which lines up to the base of Pontypandy Mountain and is run by new character Gareth Griffiths, who is Bronwyn's Dad. A new location near Pontypandy Mountain, the Mountain Activity Centre is introduced, ran by Moose Roberts, a famous mountain climber hailing from Canada. Mrs. Chen, a schoolteacher, and her daughter Lily Chen, the youngest character in the series so far were also introduced in the series.
Three new vehicles were introduced - the Pontypandy Flyer Train, Mercury, a quad-bike, and Bessie, a rail-based fire engine that was Station Officer Steele's first fire engine when he was younger, which lives in a shed near the Train Station. A quat-copter drone called Saturn was also introduced.
Series 9 (2014)
In March 2013, a ninth season was announced which was pre-sold to Cartoonito for a 2014 release. Series 9 features 24 10-minute episodes, alongside a 22-minute special and a new 60-minute special.
The main location added for this series was the new Ocean Rescue Centre, run by new character Ben Hooper, who is a coastguard. Alongside housing Neptune, which was updated to feature a proper siren, two new water-based vehicles were introduced: a jet ski named Juno and a fire boat named Titan. Other locations added were Pontypandy Island, and the Garage, ran by Joe Sparkes, a mechanic & inventor who is as problematic and accident-prone as Mike Flood is. Joe's wife Lizzie Sparkes, a vet, and their daughter Hannah Sparkes, who is the first disabled character in the series, were introduced as well.
Heroes of the Storm/Ultimate Heroes (2014/2015)
On October 2, 2013, HIT greenlit several DVD specials of their properties, including a new Fireman Sam' special for a 2015 release titled Heroes of the Storm.
Series 12 (2020)
In 2020, the twelfth series aired, introducing Pontypandy's first Police Officer to the cast - PC Malcolm Williams, who is Helen Flood's brother.
Colin McFarlane joined the cast, voicing Malcolm.
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||8||17 November 1987||5 January 1988|
|2||8||1 September 1988||22 December 1988|
|3||9||15 October 1990||10 December 1990|
|4||8||21 October 1994||17 November 1994|
|5||26||4 April 2005||25 December 2005|
|6||26||11 February 2008||17 March 2008|
|7||26||18 January 2009||20 April 2009|
|8||26||3 March 2012||10 November 2012|
|9||25||7 April 2014||3 September 2014|
|10||25||15 February 2016||26 August 2016|
|11||13||18 November 2017||9 May 2018|
|12||13||26 October 2020||9 December 2020|
|13||11||4 October 2021||5 November 2021|
In 1996 there was a stage show which was later released on video, titled Fireman Sam In Action. It was interspersed with scenes of children learning about fire safety with Gary Lewis, the actor playing Fireman Sam in the stage show.
The show saw its first feature-length movie, The Great Fire of Pontypandy, released to DVD and iTunes in 2009, 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 redubbed 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. This cast includes the voices of Andrew Hodwitz, Jonah Ain, Chris D'Silva, Margaret Brock, Lily Cassano, Dave Pender Crichton, Jacob James, Scott Lancastle, Ashley Magwood, Michael Pongracz, Becky E. Shrimpton, Sarah Lynn Strange, Carter Treneer, Mark Ricci, Joe Marth (later replaced by Dave MacRae), Adam Turgeon and Christa Clahane.
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.
Common Sense Media recommended the 2005 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 6 called "Troubled Waters" – 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." It was at first thought that this episode would have to be removed from broadcast circulation, but instead was censored by having the scene edited to show Elvis just slipping on a blank piece of paper, so the television networks were still able to broadcast it. 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 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.
- Known as DHX Studios Halifax during Season 11. Credited as an outsourcer in Series 12.
- Vancouver studio.
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- Crump, William D. (2019). Happy Holidays—Animated! A Worldwide Encyclopedia of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year's Cartoons on Television and Film. McFarland & Co. p. 105. ISBN 9781476672939.
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- 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. 17 October 2017.
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