TUGS: Wikis


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Genre Animated television series
Created by Robert D. Cardona
David Mitton
Voices of Patrick Allen
Nigel Anthony
John Baddeley
Sean Barrett
Timothy Bateson
Lee Cornes
Mike Mulloy
Simon Nash
Shaun Prendergast
Chris Tulloch
Narrated by Patrick Allen
Theme music composer Junior Campbell
Mike O'Donnell
Country of origin  United Kingdom
Language(s) English
No. of series 1
No. of episodes 13
Producer(s) Robert D. Cardona
Camera setup Multi-camera
Running time approx. 15 - 20 minutes
Original channel United Kingdom ITV
Australia ABC
Picture format PAL (576i)
Audio format Monaural
Original run 1988 – 1989[1]
Related shows Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends
Salty's Lighthouse''
Theodore Tugboat

TUGS is a British children's television series, first broadcast in 1988. It was created by the producers of Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, Robert D. Cardona and David Mitton, and only 13 episodes were made. It deals with the adventures of two subanthromorphized tugboat fleets, the Star Tugs and the Z Stacks, who compete against each other in the fictional Bigg City Port. It is set in the 1920s, during the booming business era of the "Roaring Twenties". It was produced by Tugs Ltd, for TVS and Clearwater Features.[1] Music was composed by Junior Campbell and Mike O'Donnell, who also wrote the music for Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends.

Following the initial airing of the series throughout 1988, television rights were sold to an unknown party, with all models and sets from the series being sold to Britt Allcroft. Heavily modified models were used in Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends from 1991 onwards, and some footage from the original program was dubbed over and repackaged in American animated television show Salty's Lighthouse. Both producers later moved on to other projects, and although a second series was discussed, there were no further episodes.


Format and Production

The series consists of nine fifteen-minute and four twenty-minute episodes, each told by the show's narrator, Captain Star (voiced by Patrick Allen). Filming and production of the series took place throughout 1987-1988, in West London's Shepperton Studios.[2] The series was animated using live-action models, which were seen as the most realistic method of portraying real tugboats.[3] The set featured the Clearwater Periscope lens system, a type of professional video camera used to film at the models' eye level.[4] Each model was mounted on a wheeled chassis, which were then pulled through the water using transparent string. Remote control devices were initially tested in operating the machines, but the tugboats became too heavy and unable to move through the water. Remote controls were instead used to power other devices, such as the moving eye features of the models and some static cranes.[3]


TUGS first aired on CITV in the United Kingdom, and then on Australia's ABC Network. Talks of a second series were never finalised, and eventually all plans to create a follow-up were dropped. Redubbed and heavily edited footage later resurfaced as part of another children's series, Salty's Lighthouse. The series also aired in Japan with Japanese voice-overs.

The series was considerably darker in tone than many other children's television programmes, with plots involving crime, violence, and underhanded tactics. The characters' dialogue, too, was somewhat mature for a children's series, featuring slang and terminology not normally directed at children. Characters would often insult each other, as well as use historical and maritime terms.

The series, as described on TV.com, aired as follows:

  1. "Sunshine"
  2. "Pirate"
  3. "Trapped"
  4. "Regatta"/"4th of July"
  5. "Munitions"
  6. "Warrior"
  7. "High Tide"
  8. "Quarantine"
  9. "Ghosts"
  10. "Jinxed"
  11. "High Winds"
  12. "Up River"
  13. "Bigg Freeze"


List of Characters


Star Fleet

Star Tugs: Big Mac and Sunshine

The Star Fleet are considered the show's protagonists, who aim to work together to achieve contracts in the port. The models were styled upon the Crowley Maritime Corporation, founded in San Francisco in 1892.[5] They are led by Captain Star, who narrates the series. The fleet, in order of smoke stack, are as follows:

  1. Ten Cents
  2. Big Mac
  3. O.J.
  4. Top Hat
  5. Warrior
  6. Hercules
  7. Sunshine

Another tugboat, Boomer, is briefly a member of the Star Fleet after being found floating at sea. Boomer believes himself to be jinxed, and he certainly seems to bring trouble with him wherever he went. After numerous nasty accidents, Captain Star sells Boomer, who is later made into a houseboat. It is unknown whether he remains part of the fleet after this. The adventures of Boomer are centric to the episode "Jinxed".

Grampus, a naval submarine who appears throughout the series, is purchased from the navy by Captain Star to work for the Star Fleet. It is also unknown whether this remains after the conclusion of the series.


The Z-Stacks are the show's antagonists, who can be seen frequently trying to sabotage the good work of the Star Fleet. They take on the more risky contracts in the port, at the attraction of a higher pay. The models' design was taken from the Moran Tugs of New York.[5] They are led by Captain Zero.

  1. Zorran
  2. Zebedee
  3. Zak
  4. Zug
  5. Zip

As above, Boomer also briefly works for the Z-Stacks, following being dropped by the Star Fleet. Again Boomer is cast out from the fleet, after a further accident.

Other notable characters


TV.com describes the following as the credited cast:

Voice Actor Character(s)
Patrick Allen Captain Star
Nigel Anthony Big Mac, Hercules, Zebedee
John Baddeley Top Hat, Zip
Sean Barrett Warrior, Mighty Moe, Scuttle Butt Pete, Blair
Timothy Bateson O.J.
Lee Cornes Grampus, The Coast Guard
Mike Mulloy Captain Zero, Zug, Izzy Gomez
Simon Nash Ten Cents
Shaun Prendergast Sunshine, Zak
Chris Tulloch Zorran


Japanese voice cast

In the Japanese version of the show, dubbed voices were used. Those credited were:

Fleet Character Voice Actor
Star Fleet Ten Cents Shigeru Nakahara
Big Mac Keiji Fujiwara
O.J. Masaaki Tsukada
Top Hat Masashi Ebara
Warrior Mitsuaki Madono
Sunshine Yūko Mita
Captain Star Rokurō Naya
Z-Stacks Zorran Hazime Ozeki
Zebedee Kōji Ishii
Zak Hideyuki Umezu
Zug Taro Arakawa
Zip Masashi Ebara
Captain Zero Masaaki Tsukada


Range of TUGS merchandise available in Japan

A number of items of TUGS merchandise was produced surrounding the series' release in the early 1990s. Some of the merchandise includes:

  • Ertl models - Ten Cents and Sunshine models were produced[7] by toy company Ertl. The full Star Fleet cast were originally to be produced, but only the above two were made. In addition, none of the Z-Stacks were produced.
  • Photo Books - The books were centred around the same storylines as the television episodes, some with slightly different titles, such as "Ghost Fleet" ("Ghosts"), "Warrior's Longest Day" ("Warrior") and "Bigg City Freeze" ("Bigg Freeze").
  • 2 hardback annuals
  • 1 hardback dot-to-dot book[8]
  • A jigsaw set
  • A bed cover
  • A TUGS-themed board game
  • Collectors edition thimbles
  • Card Game
  • Publicity Pack

In line with the series being released in Japan, a range of Japanese merchandise was also released, such as models of the set and characters, videos, books and an LSD video game.

VHS Release

A number of VHS versions of the series were released between 1988 and 1993 in Australia, Japan and the United Kingdom. Some of these were edited from the aired television episodes, for unknown reasons. As well as this, a number of original scenes were extended/deleted for the videos, including an alternate opening title sequence. Those released included:

  • "Sunshine"/"Pirate"
  • "Trapped"/"Ghosts"/"High Winds"
  • "Jinxed"/"Quarantine"/"Up River"
  • "Bigg Freeze"/"Warrior"/"High Tide"
  • "Munitions"/"4th of July"

A four episode, 65 minute version was released in 1993:

  • "Trapped"/"Ghosts"/"High Winds"/"4th of July"[9]


External links


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