Another key part of its popularity is the vehicles. Pontypandy’s implausibly well-resourced station boasts not just fire engines (“nee-nars”, as toddlers often call them) but aircraft, lifeboats, 4x4s, quad bikes and other child-wowing equipment.
“And of course, that makes for great toy ranges,” grins Young. “It helps that there are firefighters wherever you go in the world. It’s not a parochial thing, it has global appeal. Even here in LA, you could go down the road to Target today and buy a Fireman Sam toy. I wish I’d hung onto all the rights forever.”
Original artist Rob Lee, now a writer of crime thrillers, shakes his head in disbelief: “Had you said to me when I was first drawing Sam and co that it would be aired in over 150 countries and endure all these years later, I’d have been amazed. Naturally I was proud to hear of Prince George’s love of the series. It’s akin to a royal seal of approval.”
He sent some original Fireman Sam artwork to the thrilled Prince George and in return, received a warmly appreciative letter from Kensington Palace. “I had a very nice communication with the royal household which, needless to say, impressed my family – not to mention the postman!” he laughs.
Prince George’s affinity for Fireman Sam isn’t the first time that Young’s work has received the Windsor seal of approval. In fact, his royal links go back to George’s grandfather, Prince Charles. “We produced The Old Man of Lochnagar, the animated BBC adaptation of his children’s book, so we hobnobbed with the Royal family a bit during the Eighties,” he recalls.
“The Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend had a SuperTed children’s ward and Diana came down to open it. I presented her with two SuperTed bears for the princes. She turned to her lady-in-waiting and said ‘Please make sure these go in the car with us.’ She wanted to ensure her boys got them. Years later, both William and Harry remember having their SuperTeds. They’ve obviously passed on that love of animation to their own children.”
“Fireman Sam has endured and expanded tremendously,” concludes Young cheerfully. “It’s just phenomenal that it’s made its way through to royalty. Although at the end of the day, Prince George is a little boy. If it works for him, then it works for all little boys and girls.”