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Roobarb & Custard

If you were around in the 1970s, the familiar sound of the Roobarb and Custard theme song is sure to evoke happy memories of the BBC's famous cartoon about a dog and cat who are always getting into scrapes.

What many people may not know is that Roobarb was actually based on a real dog - a Welsh border collie who was writer, Grange Calveley's pet. Calveley, now aged 74, wrote Roobard and Custard as an antidote to the endless stream of American cartoons that were imported for UK television in the early '70s.

The artist and writer reportedly grew tired of watching the slick animations of shows like Top Cat and The Jepsons and decided to go back to basics. Using a technique called "boiling", he created the wobbly, bouncy, colourful style of Roobard and Custard that fans grew to love.

After Calveley wrote the script for the BBC, he and the other animators painstakingly drew the cartoon using old-fashioned marker pens on paper. Animators included the BAFTA award winner Bob Godfrey, whose career as an animator spanned more than 50 years.

First broadcast on 21st October 1974, the result of the collaboration was a totally unique animated series that has a bit of a cult following more than four decades later. Although it ran for only 30 episodes, these are often repeated to this day and are much loved by new generations of viewers.

Calveley's own dog was the inspiration for the cartoon character - a green dog whose pal in the animated series was Custard, the pink cat who lived next door. Custard too was based on a real-life cat - a huge feline who belonged to Calveley's own neighbour.

Roobarb

Each episode was five minutes in length and the story was narrated by actor Richard Briers, who also provided the characters' voices. They all began with the famous theme tune, written by Johnny Hawksworth.

With a shaggy tail, Roobarb was a rather wild looking dog who loved bones, adventures and eating various rather odd foods such as coal, books, shoes, chairs and carpets. He is a kind-hearted canine who befriends everyone he meets. His rival and friend is the chubby cat, Custard, who lives in a small, cosy house next door.

Custard often tries to sabotage Roobarb's day by playing pranks, but despite tormenting the dog, he cares about him deep down and does kind deeds for his pal, such as dressing up as Father Christmas for Roobarb's party.

The cartoon's gentle humour, small garden setting and suburban accents provided an alternative to other animated programmes, such as The Magic Roundabout. Perhaps surprisingly, it was as popular among adults as it was with the kids.

Calveley wrote a book in 2013 entitled 'Roobarb: An Illuminated Biogwoofy', in which he described the antics of the real life Roobard, his collie dog, who was so energetic he used to leap into the air and land in the fork of a tree. His antics were incorporated into the cartoon's opening sequence.

The animated Roobarb was very much like the real-life version. Calveley said both were happy in a sunny garden with plenty of trees, bone-holes, "things that sniffed good" and "things that bounced."

As if proof was needed that Roobarb and Custard had stood the test of time, a new series entitled Roobarb and Custard Too was broadcast on Channel 5. Running for 39 episodes, from 8th August 2005, it was again written by Calveley and narrated by Briers, with animation by Monster Animation and Design.

Although modern methods of computer animation were used, the cartoon retained the "wobbly" look. The new series had some new characters, including Mouse, who helped with Roobarb's home-made computer, with the play on "computer mouse", of course!

The original series had seven million viewers in its old slot, immediately before the BBC1 Six o'clock News. The BBC went on to sell the series to more than 40 countries. It has been re-run in the USA on the Nickelodeon children's network and in Australia on ABC. There is even a Roobarb and Custard website.

If you care for dogs and cats yourself, particularly if you run kennels or a cattery, Coruba's top-quality animal rubber matting products add insulation and comfort to their living environment – they are also simple to install and conveniently easy to clean! Please contact us for information.



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