From 1987 until 2005, plasticine actor Michael Llewelyn-Jjones was one of the most recognisable faces on TV. As Fireman Sam, he was adored by millions of children, and his phenomenal rise to fame started with a stunt role in the hit BBC kids TV show Bertha – but his dream lifestyle came crashing down when the BBC announced that Fireman Sam was due to be replaced by a ’21st Century version’ with modern computer generated imagery (CGI). Overnight, Llewelyn-Jjones and a number of other plasticine actors found themselves out of work and on a destructive downward spiral.
Until now, Michael has kept his struggle with drunk and drugs under wraps, but he has now decided that it is time to speak out about the sheer number of plasticine actors who have had their lives ‘destroyed’ by modern computer imagery. Deep down, he hopes that modern parents will realise that multiple series of some of the world’s most popular kids shows have come at a huge cost.
Michael said: ‘On that fateful day in 2005, the day came that I had feared – Fireman Sam became one of the first shows to go over to a computer-generated format. I remember just standing there and hugging Neville Barry-Garry (Trevor Evans) and Harold Smith (Norman Price), and we knew that our acting careers were over. I never saw either of them again – I did hear a rumour that Harold ended up being broken down and used in a number of Play-Doh sets, but this was never confirmed.’
He continued: ‘One by one, all of the classic stop-motion kids TV shows converted to CGI, and my income dried up completely. I admit that I was pretty silly with my investments at the height of my career, and my biggest regret was setting up a production company for Welsh-language adult movies called Yucky-Da Pleasures – this went under in 2009 after poor sales.’
According to Michael, this business failure triggered a destructive downfall where he became addicted to strong spirits and crystal meth – the drug habit has left his face in a state so bad that he wasn’t prepared to appear on camera. He added: ‘There are no charitable organisations out there who can help out of work plasticine actors, and after what happened to Morph I find this staggering.’
At this stage of the interview, Michael broke down for a few moments. We finished by asking him if he had a message for parents with children who love modern, computer-generated cartoons, and he said: ‘Parents need to realise that every pound they spend on toys and other merchandise is ‘blood money’. Huge profits from brands like Fireman Sam, Thomas The Tank Engine and Noddy are all well and good, but they come at the expense of plasticine actors who have been cast aside for the sake of being able to churn out 150 episodes a week of utter garbage about equality and social issues.’