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Fireman Sam (stop motion era, series 1-5)

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Fireman Sam
"🎵He's always on the scene, Fireman Sam!
And his engine's bright and clean, Fireman Sam!
You cannot ignore, Sam is the hero next door!
🎵"
"🎵So move aside make way, for Fireman Sam!
'cause he's gonna save the day, Fireman Sam!
'cause he's brave to the core, Sam is the hero next door!
🎵"
Genre: Stop-motion animation
Running Time: 10 minutes
20 minutes ("Snow Business")
Country: United Kingdom
Release Date: November 17, 1987 – 1994 (seasons 1-4)[1]
April 4 - December 25, 2005 (season 5)
Network(s): S4C (Wales)
BBC One (UK, 1987-2002)
ABC 4 Kids (Australia)
CBeebies (UK, 2002-2008)
Cartoonito (UK, 2008-present)
Milkshake (UK, 2008-present)
CITV (UK, 2009-2012)
PBS Kids Sprout (US, 2006-2014)
Qubo (US, 2019-2021)
Amazon Prime Video (International)
Created by: Rob Lee
Dave Gingell
Dave Jones
Distributed by: BBC (1987-2003)
HiT Entertainment (2003-2016)
WildBrain (2017-present)
Starring: John Alderton (seasons 1-4)
John Sparkes (season 5)
Joanna Ruiz (season 5)
Sarah Hadland (season 5)
Seasons: 13
Episodes: 200+


Fireman Sam (also known as Sam Tân) is a British children's television series. It is based around the inhabitants of Welsh town Pontypandy (a portmanteau of the names of two real-life towns, Pontypridd and Tonypandy), especially firefighter Samuel Peyton-Jones.

The show first aired on S4C on 15 September 1987 in Wales and 17 November 1987 on BBC One, four seasons were made until the show ended with the episode "Disaster for Dinner" on 15 October 1994 in Wales and 17th November 1994 in the UK. Nine years later after the original series ended, it would later be revived by HiT Entertainment for a 5th series, which first aired on S4C on 30 March 2003 in Wales and on CBeebies on 4 April 2005 in the UK, concluding on 25th December 2005 with the episode "Let It Snow". After that, re-runs of this season were repeated on CBeebies until 2008, when the show left the channel and soon started airing on Cartoonito and Channel 5's Milkshake block. Later in 2008, the show was revived again for a 6th series and it would be the first season of the show to use CGI instead of stop-motion.

These seasons are also commonly referred to as the "classic series" or "stop-motion series" by fans.

The show is usually considered to be one of the greatest British children's shows of all time, despite a massive decline in quality since the switch to CGI in season 6.

Why This Era Is the Hero Next Door

  1. Similar to Postman Pat and Bob the Builder, it takes a simple of concept of a man having a profession and shows him doing his ordinary job while also interacting with the people around him, managing to do that concept pretty well.
  2. Each of the emergencies for each episode are all different from each other every time and they manage to avoid coming across as repetitive. When they do reuse an idea from an older episode, it doesn't feel too similar to the older one.
  3. The stop-motion animation in the first four series is really good, albeit cheap at times.
    • Season 5's animation is especially good, though, and is a massive step-up from the previous seasons.
  4. The designs of the characters are very good, and they seem to have a good mix of realistic and cartoon styles.
  5. Lots of the music that plays in each episode are all enjoyable and fun to listen to, such as the theme song and the rescue theme.
  6. Really good action, as it is done in a way that makes the viewer feel tense when the emergencies happen.
  7. The voice acting is very impressive.
    • Notably, in the first four seasons, every character was voiced by John Alderton.
  8. Sam himself is a likeable protagonist, a great firefighter and an amazing role model for children.
  9. Aside from Sam, lots of the characters in the show are very likeable, funny and/or enjoyable, such as:
    1. Elvis Cridlington, who is a hilarious sidekick to the Pontypandy Fire Service and a very friendly, yet slightly dimwitted man.
    2. Penny Morris, who is very likable and is always passionate about exercise and fire safety. She also has a cute romantic relationship with Elvis in seasons 3-4.
    3. Norman Price, who is a very enjoyable character and, despite him being a trouble-maker and an anti-role model, usually gets quite a bit of character development and usually learns from his mistakes.
    4. Dilys Price, who is very entertaining and a funny stereotype of town gossips.
    5. Bella Lasagne, who is very likeable and enjoyable, despite being a walking Italian stereotype.
    6. Sarah and James, who are likable and enjoyable in their own ways, and have a healthy relationship with their uncle Sam.
    7. Tom Thomas, who is an amazing addition to the crew beginning in season 5.
  10. There are tons of memorable episodes, such as:
    1. "The Kite" (which started the show on a high note)
    2. "Barn Fire"
    3. "Trevor's Training"
    4. "Flat Tyre"
    5. "Camping"
    6. "Norman's Tricky Day"
    7. "Lost Cat"
    8. "Sam's Day Off"
    9. "Chemistry Set"
    10. "Safe with Sam"
    11. "Snow Business"
    12. "Dilys' Forgetful Day"
    13. "Spot of Bother"
    14. "Halloween"
    15. "Norman's Pitfall"
    16. "Bentley the Robot"
    17. "Home from Rome"
    18. "Rich and Famous"
    19. "Deep Trouble for Sam"
    20. "What Goes Up"
    21. "Steele Under Par"
    22. "Disaster for Dinner" (which ended the classic seasons on a high note)
    23. "Danger Falling Sheep"
    24. "The Big Freeze"
    25. "Bug Eyed Boy from Venus"
    26. "Twitchers in Trouble"
    27. "Carnival of Junk"
    28. "Mummy's Little Pumpkin"
    29. "Fit for Nothing"
    30. "Deep Water"
    31. "Pizza Palaver"
    32. "King of the Jungle"
    33. "The Case of the Liquorice Shoelaces"
    34. "Fiery Finale"
    35. "Birthday Surprise"
    36. "Firefighter of Tomorrow"
    37. "Let It Snow" (which ended season 5, the stop-motion era (aka: the good seasons of the show) on a high note)
  11. The show typically has a very charming sense of humour, and there are quite a lot of hilarious moments in some episodes of the series, such as:
    1. Norman accidentally eating a chili pepper in "Pizza Palaver".
    2. Station Officer Steele getting knocked over by a runaway tyre in "Flat Tyre".
    3. Trevor commenting that Bella is "beautiful when she's angry", followed by Bella angrily looking at him in "Norman's Tricky Day".
    4. Trevor accidentally missing the tyre that Sam threw to him due to his coat getting stuck on the door in "Flat Tyre".
    5. Elvis accidentally throwing Station Officer Steele's medal in the wishing well and loudly yelling that he wished to be a rockstar, not realising that he wasn't supposed to wish out loud in "The Wishing Well".
    6. Norman's awful guitar performance in "Fiery Finale".
    7. Bella freaking out over Norman's alien costume in "Bug Eyed Boy from Venus".
    8. Elvis using Sam's popcorn machine after removing the lid, causing popcorn to get all over the kitchen in "Norman's Invisible Friend".
    9. Station Officer Steele attempting to play golf in his office, only for a trophy to land on his foot in "Trouble and Squeak".
    10. Elvis fooling Station Officer Steele by making him think that he hunted dinosaurs when he was younger in "Carnival of Junk".
    11. Dilys accidentally mixing up Norman's school mouse, Squeaky, with a regular mouse, causing her to freak out and try and shoo him away in "Trouble and Squeak".
    12. Norman trying to count sheep in "The Big Freeze".
    13. Norman getting soaked by water dropped from Tom's helicopter in "Twitchers in Trouble".
  12. Each of the characters have different catchphrases and pieces of dialogue that are all memorable and never get old, such as:
    1. "Great fires of London!" - Fireman Sam
    2. "Now who needs the fire service?" - Station Officer Steele
    3. "Norman!" - Dilys Price
    4. "Great balls of fire!" - Elvis Cridlington
    5. "Oh, ma'am!" - Norman Price
    6. "Practice makes perfect!" - Penny Morris
  13. It teaches kids good morals and each episode always teaches good lessons about fire safety, some of these include:
    1. "Get out, stay out and call the fire brigade out!"
    2. "Never mess around with things you don't know how to use."
    3. "Some jobs are best left to the experts."
    4. "Don't leave candles unattended."
    5. "Always make sure your smoke alarm's working properly."
    6. "Don't wander off without telling an adult where you're going."
    7. "Never try to fight an electrical fire with water."
  14. The show always knows when to be serious when there's an emergency, as they're often portrayed as realistically as possible and it always tries to treat the situation in a serious matter like they're supposed to.
  15. Despite being a preschool show, the episodes often have creative and interesting plots, with lots of unique stories that manage to be enjoyable to both kids and even adults alike.
  16. Great use of camera angles, especially in season 5.
  17. In 2005, HIT Entertainment brought the series back with a fifth season. Not only did it manage to be a great attempt at reviving the show, but it also managed to be a massive improvement to the series:
    1. As mentioned earlier, the stop-motion animation looks absolutely brilliant and is a huge step-up from the first four seasons, as the sets look way more realistic than they were in the original seasons and they manage to faithfully represent the same designs as the sets for the original show, except in a higher quality.
    2. Unlike the show since season 6, it successfully modernised the show without trying to be too different from its original source material by keeping the charm from the first four seasons and having the character redesigns resemble the designs in the first four series.
      • Speaking of the character designs, they actually look pretty good in this season and they still do a great job at trying to mix realistic and cartoonish designs for the characters.
    3. Despite not being in HD, it was the first series of Fireman Sam to be displayed in 16:9 (though some DVD releases and most international releases have the episodes cropped to 4:3).
    4. The new voice actors are amazing, and they do wonderful jobs at trying to give the characters their own distinctive voices. What makes it more impressive is that all the characters were only voiced by three actors, with John Sparkes playing every single male character in the season (with the exception of James), including Dilys and Dusty. Although it is not as impressive compared to John Alderton's voice acting in the first four seasons, the voice acting is still very impressive and it's also interesting to see how John Sparkes managed to play every male character in this season and properly give them their own distinctive voices.
    5. The season introduced a lot of enjoyable and likeable characters including Tom Thomas, Mandy Flood, Woolly the Lamb, Dusty the Dog, Mike Flood and Helen Flood.
    6. The new theme song is very catchy and is fun to listen to like the original theme song, and it tries to go for a more action-packed tone to compared to the original theme song.
    7. The season mostly does a great job at keeping continuity from the first four seasons, which is a nice bit of fanservice for fans who grew up and remember watching the first four series. For example, in the episode "High Jinx", Elvis finds Sam's Patented Potato Picker from "Barn Fire" and the remote control for the plane from "Lost Ring". Another example of continuity can be seen when Station Officer Steele tries to play golf again in "Trouble and Squeak", and is still just as bad at it as he was in "Steele Under Par".
  18. The 20-minute winter special "Snow Business" is wonderful. It also has a beautiful message at the end of the episode claiming that "you're as young as you feel".

Bad Qualities

  1. The show went downhill after the switch to CGI beginning with season 6.
  2. The stop-motion animation in seasons 1-4, while good, is a bit flawed and cheap looking at times. For example, the very first episode, "The Kite" had a scene where a tree can be seen moving in the background and it also had a scene where Norman grabs a piece of fruit and the silver bowl next to the fruit basket can be seen moving. Fortunately, as mentioned above, the animation quality improved significantly in season 5.
    • In addition to some animation errors, some characters look a bit older than how they are supposed to be portrayed as. Sarah and James in particular both look older than five-year olds in series 1-4.
      • Similarly, Norman looks a lot older than 7 in season 5.
  3. While season 5 is still an amazing season, it does have its fair share of hiccups:
    1. Whilst the voice acting in season 5 is still impressive like the previous seasons, some of it can be a little iffy, such as the voices for Dilys and Bella.
    2. Sometimes, the season creates some continuity errors by accident at times:
      • In the season 4 episode "Disaster for Dinner", Elvis remembers to turn off the electricity before putting out the fire on an electrical object, but in the episode "A Real Live Wire", he's suddenly forgotten all of that and tries to put out an electrical fire with a bucket of water, not knowing that he was supposed to turn the electricity off before putting out the fire.
      • In the season 3 episode "Lost Ring", Station Officer Steele was sent home due to him having the flu, but in the season 5 episode "Trouble and Squeak", he hurts his foot and chooses to not go home, despite being unfit to be on duty.
      • In "A Real Live Wire", Helen Flood mentions how she is allergic to fur and even has an allergic reaction with the squirrel in the episode. However, in the previous episode "Twist of Fate", she did not get an allergic reaction to Dusty.
      • In "Firefighter of Tomorrow", James claims that he and Sarah have never seen a firefighter rescue before, which is actually incorrect because they have seen Penny being rescued in "Bentley the Robot" and Sam being rescued in "Deep Trouble for Sam" (though, it was likely that he might have said it sarcastically).
    3. Despite staying true to the first four seasons, some elements from the first four seasons are inexplicably absent. For example, Trevor Evans is no longer an Auxiliary Fireman in this season for unknown reasons, and it's never explained why.
    4. Most episodes usually reuse stock footage, which is usually done to cut corners from taking too long to create one episode of the show. Most of the time, it is understandable because stop-motion is not easy to create in real life and it prevents all the time and stress for producing just one singular episode of the show, but the main problem with this is that reusing stock footage can sometimes cause notable goofs or errors:
      1. In "The Case of the Liquorice Shoelaces", the team comprises of Sam, Elvis and Penny, but when the crew arrive at Dilys' shop, Station Officer Steele is aboard Jupiter instead of Penny.
      2. In "Mummy's Little Pumpkin", the team comprises of Sam, Elvis and Penny, but because stock footage from "Bug Eyed Boy from Venus" is used, only Fireman Sam and Elvis can be seen in Jupiter when they leave the fire station.
      3. Sometimes, they even blatantly reuse stock footage from some of the emergency scenes of previous episodes of the same season at times, which is notable in "The Case of the Liquorice Shoelaces", as it completely reuses the scene where Dilys gets rescued by Sam in "Mummy's Little Pumpkin", as well as "Norman's Invisible Friend", which completely reuses the scene where Mandy gets rescued by Sam in "A Real Live Wire" (coincidentally, these scenes were also used in the intro of this season).
    5. There are a couple of weak episodes, such as "Neighbourhood Watch Out". This episode is not terrible, but it is a bit boring and the characters act somewhat unlikable in it. It doesn't help that this episode also started the "three strikes, you're out" formula which would later plague other HiT Entertainment shows.
  4. With season 5 getting US DVD releases in 2008 (and keeping the original UK English track), series 1-4 never saw potential for US home media releases for a long time. The only one the US ever got was a rare VHS tape named "The Hero Next Door" (which is the same title as the UK 1988 VHS release). Only three episodes were bothered to be localised to the US and the series was hardly brought to the US ever again until 2008, when HiT Entertainment released a couple episodes of the fifth series into the US market through either the HiT Favorites US DVDs, the "Engines and Escapades" US DVD (the episode "Fiery Finale" was only released as a special feature), or even giving a few episodes from the same series their own DVD releases.
    • Unlike season 5, however, seasons 1-4 were hardly localised to the US at all. Proving they were not common to watch outside the UK or Australia until YouTube came along, all the episodes from the first four series are available to watch on YouTube. Thankfully, not everyone in North America has to worry about buying a UK Region 2/Australia Region 4 PAL DVD copy (as well as a Region 2/4 or multi-region DVD player) or a PAL VHS copy off a shopping website. You can also buy and watch the old episodes on YouTube and Amazon Prime for $0.99 each.[2] Though, seasons 1-3 are $8.99 a whole season, season 4 is $19.99 (about $20.00), and season 5 costs only $9.99. The streaming website Roku has also added seasons 1-4 to their line-up in the US.
    • Speaking of US DVD releases, season 5 is cropped to 4:3 in the US DVDs, despite the fact that widescreen TVs were becoming much more common by then.

Reception

The first four seasons of Fireman Sam were met with positive reception for its incredible use of stop-motion animation, wonderful story-telling and great morals on fire safety.[3]

Season 5 garnered mostly positive reviews from parents, which was praised for its faithfulness to the original seasons and the upgraded stop-motion animation, as well as it showing how to "stay calm in a crisis" and to rely on a team to solve problems. Some parents 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.[4] The season originally gained a mixed reception at release by fans, who criticised it for very minor and biased things, like its usage of modernisation and character redesigns, but it soon started to have a more positive reception in later years.

Since season 6, Fireman Sam has received a mixed reception from parents and television critics, but was heavily panned by fans of the first five seasons for having no connection to the previous series, unnecessary character redesigns, poor attempts of modernisation, terrible new voice acting, and flanderization of several characters. The decline wasn't too noticed until James A. Williams made a whole video discussing on how the series went downhill after the switch to CGI in series 6.[5]

Overall, Fireman Sam is a very popular show in the United Kingdom, with the show being Prince George's (Prince William and Kate Middleton's child) favourite cartoon,[6] as well as the fact that Fireman Sam himself was a Top 10 UK best-selling character toy according to NPD Group in April 2011.[7]

Trivia

  • The first five seasons of the show were added to BBC iPlayer in November 2020 to celebrate CBBC's 35th anniversary.[8]
  • Season 5 was the only season by HiT Entertainment that was created with stop-motion animation and was the only season to be animated by Calon (formerly known as Siriol Productions).
  • Whilst the first four series are usually considered to be a part of the "classic series", whilst the CGI series are considered to be a part of the "new series", season 5 is the only season where fans are not quite sure which era it falls into:
    1. Some fans debate that season 5 is a part of the classic series, mainly due to it still using stop-motion animation, as well as the fact that most of the elements from the first four series are still present in this one.
    2. Other fans also debate that season 5 is a part of the new series because it's a revival of the original show and it modernises many elements to make it seem new.
  • A number of props from series 5 were later sold on the online props website The Prop Gallery, including 2 warning signs (from Danger Falling Sheep and Bug Eyed Boy from Venus), Wallaby 1's control panel, Woolly the Lamb, and a fire extinguisher.[9]
  • The theme song was originally performed by Mal Pope in a new wave style for seasons 1-4, then Cameron Stewart in an alternative rock style since season 5.
  • Some foreign dubs of the show use different theme songs compared to the original English and Welsh dubs:
    1. The Polish dub of the first four seasons uses a completely different arrangement, with the singer being out of sync with the music.[10]
    2. The Slovak dub of the first four seasons uses a synth piano cover of the original instrumental, but later versions of the Slovak dub use the original theme music from the English and Welsh versions.[11]
    3. The Italian and Hebrew dubs of season 5 use the theme song from seasons 1-4.[12][13]
    4. One of the Persian seasons 1-4 dubs used a heavy metal song over the theme song during the introduction.[14]
    5. One of the Persian season 5 dubs actually used the theme from Mickey Mouse Club, with all the sound effects being replaced as a result, but surprisingly Disney did seemingly nothing to stop them from using it.[15]
  • When HIT Entertainment re-released the original four seasons for DVD releases, digital distribution and streaming services, there was a notable difference in terms of the colours, where the original versions of the four seasons had a sepia tone, whilst the DVD releases are more colourful and the part at the end of the intro is also different too.
  • Fireman Sam made a cameo in the "Children's Party at the Palace", an event that included over 80 children's literature characters and was made to pay honour of Queen Elizabeth II's 80th birthday.
  • Sam, Elvis, Penny and Station Officer Steele all made appearances on the "The Official BBC Children in Need Medley" music video by Peter Kay's Animated All-Star Band for Children in Need in 2009, Sam joins in the single after Bob the Builder and Postman Pat sing their verses.

References

Comments

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