Johnny Hawksworth’s jangly theme music, Bob Godfrey’s wobbly animation and the voice-over by Richard Briers, these are all the hallmarks of the Roobarb and Custard animation series that hit our TV screens in 1974. It was broadcast just before the BBC evening news - a slot that was previously inhabited by the surreal The Magic Roundabout stop-frame animation series.
Roobarb is an inquisitive and inventive shaggy green coloured dog, and Custard is a pink cat that lives next door. Roobarb has a naive child-like view of things and his actions amuse the birds in the garden, and are sent-up by the cynical Custard.
Like a child, Roobarb is always interested in the effects of the weather and animal behaviour. In one of the 5-minute long episodes, he makes a balloon for the birds to transport them on their winter migration, and in others he builds equally unsuccessful gadgets. His whimsical adventures, over 30 episodes, are spiced with pranks and visual gags that usually conclude with a punning punch line.
Such is their enduring popularity; a new series of 39 episodes was made in 2005, and is still broadcast in the UK on Channel 5. This underlines the shame that, unless you have children, you are unlikely to encounter these charmingly eccentric cartoons.
Surprisingly enough, Roobarb and Custard was the first ever British cartoon series and its style contrasted with the half-hour long US animation series, that were mainly produced by Hana Barbera. The marker pen lined and inked wobbly animation suits the style of the stories and characters, and it also made them far more cost-effective to produce. Fortunately, even with the use of computer animation for the 2005 series, they maintained the hand drawn style as much as possible.
For the first time all 69 episodes are now available on this 3-disc collection, so now you and (if you have any) your children can enjoy this much loved example of British animation at its quirky best.
ROOBARB AND CUSTARD / CERT: U / DIRECTOR (1974): BOB GODFREY / DIRECTOR (2005): JASON TAMMEMAGI / SCREENPLAY: GRANGE CALVELEY / STARRING: RICHARD BRIERS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW