Fireman Sam
Fireman Sam logo.png
Created by
Written byLaura Beaumont
Paul Larson
Voices of
Narrated byJohn Alderton (1987-1994)
Music by
  • Ben Heneghan
  • Ian Lawson
  • David Pickvance (2008-2019)
  • Blain Morris (2020-present)
  • Mike Shields (2021-present)
  • Amanda Cawley (2021-present)
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languages
  • Welsh (Series 1-4)
  • English
No. of series13
No. of episodes238 (list of episodes)
Production
ProducerVarious
Running time
  • 10 minutes (series)
  • 20 minutes (Christmas special episode)
Production companies
Distributor
Release
Original network
Picture format
Audio format
  • Stereo
  • 5.1 Surround Sound
Original release17 November 1987 (1987-11-17)[2] –
present

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,[3] 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.

Development

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.[4]

In the original series, all the character voices were performed by John Alderton. The later series used several actors' voices.

Episodes

Main article: List of Fireman Sam episodes

SeriesEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
1817 November 1987 (1987-11-17)5 January 1988 (1988-01-05)
281 September 1988 (1988-09-01)22 December 1988 (1988-12-22)
3915 October 1990 (1990-10-15)10 December 1990 (1990-12-10)
4821 October 1994 (1994-10-21)17 November 1994 (1994-11-17)
5264 April 2005 (2005-04-04)25 December 2005 (2005-12-25)
62611 February 2008 (2008-02-11)17 March 2008 (2008-03-17)
72618 January 2009 (2009-01-18)20 April 2009 (2009-04-20)
8263 March 2012 (2012-03-03)10 November 2012 (2012-11-10)
9257 April 2014 (2014-04-07)3 September 2014 (2014-09-03)
102515 February 2016 (2016-02-15)26 August 2016 (2016-08-26)
111318 November 2017 (2017-11-18)9 May 2018 (2018-05-09)
121326 October 2020 (2020-10-26)9 December 2020 (2020-12-09)
13114 October 2021 (2021-10-04)5 November 2021 (2021-11-05)

Characters

Main article: List of Fireman Sam characters

Spin-offs

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.

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

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.

Reception

The ABC website said of the series, "All the characters blend together into an appealing mixture of fun and entertainment for children everywhere."[5]

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.[6]

Controversies

A page from the Quran appearing in Fireman Sam.
A page from the Quran appearing in Fireman Sam.

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".[7] 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.[7] 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.[7] The BBC received more than 1,000 complaints and forwarded them to Channel 5 as the BBC has not aired Fireman Sam since 2008.[7]

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.[8]

Notes

  1. ^ Known as DHX Studios Halifax during Season 11. Credited as an outsourcer in Series 12.
  2. ^ Vancouver studio.

References

  1. ^ "Wildbrain and Mattel TV Come to the Rescue with Fireman Sam season 12". WildBrain.
  2. ^ Shuttleworth, Peter (17 November 2017). "Happy 30th birthday Fireman Sam". BBC News.
  3. ^ Regional Television Variations. Date: Saturday, Oct. 31, 1987 Publication: The Times (London, England) Sunday: 1st 7.20. Sam Tân
  4. ^ "About Sam". Retrieved 4 January 2011.
  5. ^ "Fireman Sam at ABC". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
  6. ^ "Fireman Sam at commonsensemedia". 16 October 2006. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
  7. ^ a b c d Evans, Patrick (27 July 2016). "Fireman Sam episode pulled amid Quran row". BBC. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  8. ^ "Why We Are Campaigning To Shake Off The Outdated Term 'Firemen'". HuffPost UK. 17 October 2017.