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Western Animation / Roobarb

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Left to right: Roobarb and Custard.

Roobarb is a cult British animated series (a milestone due to being the first fully hand drawn one of its region) that ran for 30 episodes in 1974. Each of the five-minute stories involves the antics of eccentric lime green dog Roobarb, often taking on some new elaborate pastime and letting his imagination get the best of him, often dragging his sometimes antagonist-sometimes friend, Custard the next-door cat, into the misadventure, while the unruly birds act as a Greek Chorus to whole endeavour.

The series was created and written by Grange Calveley and directed by animator Bob Godfrey, who utilized a distinctive rough style with a sketchy felt marker technique (a style he would retain for a later project, Henry's Cat).

The show had a more obscure run in the US, with dubbed episodes appearing as segments of Eureeka's Castle.

The show would be revived in 2005 as Roobarb and Custard Too, a 39 episode series (also penned by Calveley) which was thoroughly loyal to the original, outside a few extra characters and modernized plots. A series of books have also been published. Both series were narrated by Richard Briers, who passed away on February 17th 2013, with Bob Godfrey following four days after.

When there were tropes:

  • Ascended Extra: Custard only had brief cameos or passing mention in the first few episodes, rarely even having a speaking role outside his manic laughter. As time passed, his roles got larger, to the point he became the second most prominent character on the show (and was promoted to co lead for the revival).
  • Animation Bump: Roobarb and Custard Too is digitally animated so, while trying to replicate the original felt marker style as much as possible, it is clearly smoother and crisp in comparison to the original hand drawn series.
  • Breakout Character: Custard, who gained his own leading roles and was promoted to title character for the revival.
  • British Brevity: Downplayed. It originally only got one season, but of 30 episodes. And Custard Too was similarly one season of 39 episodes, bringing it up to 69 episodes.
  • Butt-Monkey: Roobarb is often the target of heckling by Custard and the other animals whenever his zany schemes go awry. Custard himself sometimes gets the short end of the straw as well, if usually in karmic fashion.
  • Canines Primary, Felines Secondary: the titular character is a dog and the main focus of the series, while Custard, a cat, started off a minor antagonist but slowly became the Deuteragonist and eventually co-lead in the revival.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: In the episode, "When There Was Someone Else", the Shadow Boxer gets beaten up pretty badly by Custard's shadow. At the end of the episode, Custard finds himself on the receiving end of one by Cobber the Kangaroo.
  • Depending on the Artist: Due to the loose nature of the animation, the animators were given free leverage by Bob Godfrey to draw the characters in their own style, resulting in some rather unusual interpretations.
  • The Gadfly: Custard always tries to find a way to poo-poo Roobarb's schemes.
  • Gainax Ending: The final episode of the original series, "When There Was a Big Mix Up", ends with Roobarb inadvertently hypnotizing everyone, with insane consequences.
  • Hiccup Hijinks: In "When the Day Wouldn't Keep Still", Roobarb gets the hiccups and thinks there's an earthquake happening. He then creates what he calls an "Earthquake survival machine" which he hangs from the tree. After everyone laughs at him, they all wind up getting the hiccups, causing the Earth to tremble.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each episode begins with the prefix "When..."
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Custard usually ends up getting punished whenever his heckling gets too mean spirited. A key example is "When Custard Got Too Near The Bone", where Custard sells Roobarb's yard to a bunch of other dogs after finding out he buried bones everywhere. As it turns out, they were only rubber toys, leaving Custard having to answer to several large and angry Prospector dogs.
  • Not So Above It All: Custard usually acts as a cynical heckler to Roobarb's antics, though isn't immune to the odd make-believe himself. Roobarb takes much amusement out of this in the Swapped Roles episode "When Custard Stole The Show".
    Roobarb: Carry on like this and one day you might get your own TV series.
  • Promotion to Opening Titles: Custard in And Custard Too!. Amusingly, he tries to frolic with Roobarb as in the original sequence, but runs out of breath shortly in.
  • Theme Naming: Rhubarb and Custard is a popular sweet flavor.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: The cartoons would typically end with Roobarb making a fool of himself and everyone laughing at him, but once in a while, he would come out on top.
  • Troll: Custard often takes pleasure sabotaging whatever odd scheme Roobard is currently up to.


Video Example(s):


Roobarb Theme

The intro to the animated series Roobarb, one of the defining examples of the line boil technique.

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5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / LineBoil

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