Roobarb and Custard

Roobarb (left) and Custard (right)According to Wikipedia, the program was just called Roobarb (the dog’s name) but we used to call it Roobarb and Custard, obviously a common error or it wouldn’t be mentioned in the fount of all knowledge. Custard was pink and Roobarb was yellow but apparently not, apparently he was green. I beg to differ. You see in reality, custard is yellow and stewed rhubarb is pink, so the logic is that the cat called Custard will be pink and the dog called Roobarb yellow. No-one ever heard of green custard unless it was that gross school dinners thing where a chocolate cornflake cake would be covered in green mint sauce which we used to call ‘hedgehogs and toothpaste’. I rest my case.

I loved this cartoon because the cat was so sarcastic and there were also loads of groany awful puns. “Roobarb shook off his disguise as he decided the whole idea of being a piece of bread had gone a bit stale.” It was basically battles between a cat and dog which was closer to my experience than the Tom and Jerry cat and mouse thing. And the birds were hilarious. I loved the music too, used to sing it loudly.

According to the creator Grange Calveley on roobarbandcustard.tv, the first Roobarb film was When Roobarb Made a Spike. He based the character on his own dog (who wasn’t yellow or green but a border collie) and stalked the BBC until they agreed to let him make some animations. They contracted him for 30 5-min episodes after watching the Spike pilot. Wow. Imagine that now? Another fave is When Roobarb Didn’t See The Sun Come.

It was narrated by Richard Briers and animated badly (deliberately according to Wikipedia) giving it a homespun feel. Animated by Bob Godfrey, this pair also wrote Noah and Nelly in the Skylark which was one of my favourite cartoons due to the knitting (and I’m sure will make an appearance on Popandcrisps soon). Kids now think it’s bad (see some comments on the youtube vids) but what they may not realise is that we thought it looked bad back then as well – compared to American slick animations – but it was cult-tacky and we loved it because it was so bad. The fabulousness was the story and character, the simple images firing our imagination. Slick animation with a boring plot doesn’t get close. In fact, the shaky animation was part of the appeal, and I would vibrate with excitement in a very good imitation of Roobarb.

There’s a new series now Roobarb and Custard Too, which is computer animated but is still shaky, which I’m glad about. Unlike many of the Seventies remakes, this is written by the same person as before and narrated by the same person. So it’s updated in some ways but retains the fabulousness.

Roobarb runningI have noticed something since watching these old episodes. When he runs with his ears up, Roobarb looks like my dog Mika.

 


Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

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Good Old Bod

BodI loved Bod with his funny walk, bald head and apple pip eyes. All the characters had their own theme music including pom-pom-pom music for the policeman who had a plodding walk. Bod’s music was a chirpy little piccolo or flute. At the beginning you’d just see a blank screen with a little dot getting bigger and eventually this would turn into Bod or one of the other characters. You had to guess who it was going to be.

The actual program was called Here Comes Bod, I think, but we always called it simply Bod. The animation was minimal with the only things that moved on a character being the legs and the backgrounds were block colour. When they were walking towards the viewer, they just got bigger and their legs went up and down. It was very funny. The story was narrated so the characters didn’t even have to open their mouths and their speech was reported. As far as I can tell from research, the show was based on a series of books, though I don’t remember ever seeing the books. There is a current Here Comes Bod website, but no more Bod shows only repeats.

To watch it now is amazing nostalgia, not only for the simplistic animation compared to today’s children’s programs but for the fact that all the characters are white and holed up into nice little gender and class categories. Although interestingly the creators assert that Bod means anything with no race or gender. According to an interview with the adult children of the creators of Bod, there is a deep philosophical significance behind the program. I didn’t notice it as a child, possibly because everything was magical and philosophical to me back then. Great marketing though! They did it with Pooh Bear, now they’re doing it with Bod.

Bod and friends

 Each episode was only five minutes long according to wikipedia, but strangely I remember them as being longer. Maybe that’s just my faulty memory. At the end of the Bod adventure, there was another mini program within the program (see the post-modern metatextuality there?) about Alberto Frog and his travelling band. The band was made up of different animals and they usually had to play somewhere – the frog was the conductor. Then Alberto would ask for a milkshake and you had to guess which flavour he would choose. I didn’t like the Alberto Frog bit as much as I liked Bod. I think it was because I didn’t like how the Alberto narrator talked, and listening to her on youtube I can understand why, because I never did respond well to being patronised.


Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

Joe 90

Joe 90 on his video coverOf all the supermarionations, my favourite was Joe 90 which was repeated through the Seventies though it was first shown in 1968 and according to Wikipedia only one series was made. So technically if you’re going to be picky I shouldn’t be talking about it here. However, this is my site so I will.

My name being Joe (and I spelled it like that then) and having blonde hair and glasses made me a candidate for being called Joe 90 as an insult. I think it happened twice before the children who were trying to insult me realised that I was pleased to be called Joe 90 and so they stopped. Of course.

Joe 90 inside the space ballThe idea behind Joe 90 was that he was the son of a scientist who created a machine called BIG RAT and these special specs that made him have superpowers and he was a the first Spy Kid.

During the opening sequence Joe was sat inside a big space-age ball, with a bells-and-whistles computer. It all looks laughable now but it definitely has the culty kitsch that will outlast computer fashion.

Joe 90 merchandising packagePersonally I think the whole thing was to get kids to think that glasses were cool. A bit like Popeye and spinach. Sort of. And sell toys of course.

The supermarionations were all interrelated with some of the puppets from one show appearing in the others. Now they are having a major comeback (again) so there’s sure to be more about them soon. It’s showing on Sci Fi UK channel. Like with many of these programmes from when I was a kid, it outshines the modern equivalents by far.


Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

Captain Pugwash

Captain Pugwash with Tom the Cabin BoyOne of my favourite cartoons in the Seventies was Captain Pugwash. Although the last series was produced in 1975 (according to Wikipedia) I remember watching it throughout the Seventies, so was probably watching repeats.

Contrary to popular urban mythology, there was no Seaman Stains or Master Bates. I do remember references to Tom the Cabin Boy being ‘the Captain’s favourite cabin boy’ but that’s about the most innuendo that I can recall.

Captain Pugwash was a pirate but a nice one, not the nasty sort. He was funny and had a lot of funny swearwords, the only one of which I remember is ‘shiver me timbers’ but Wikipedia has a nice long list.

The animation style is minimal, like cardboard cutouts that move around on fixed backgrounds. You can see this from clips on YouTube. The modern reinvented Pugwash uses computer animation which is not so endearing.


Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

Catweazle

Geoffrey Bayldon as CatweazleI loved Catweazle! I love cats and always have, and I wanted to be Catweazle because he lived wild, was a magician and completely barmy. Oh and he went around in raggedy old clothes and didn’t care how dirty he got. That would have been me at age around six. Catweazle has nothing to do with cats, by the way, but with the name and his whiskers there’s a link.

Catweazle had a frog called Touchwood (sounds a lot like Torchwood doesn’t it??) and he had funny names for things like he called the telephone the ‘telling bone’. There was a lot of real magic in the program, scrying and runes and things that are authentic for his period (1066, Catweazle was a Saxon). There aren’t a great many special effects in the program, as it was a budget British 1970 TV show, but some great acting. I always got the feeling that it was ‘proper’ magic rather than flash-bangs, and now I’ve found a photo of him I know for sure. Whoever designed the costume either was pagan themselves or knew someone who was.

In the beginning, Catweazle is escaping the Norman soldiers and accidentally escapes into a 1970 farm. There he meets the farmer’s son, Edward, and the first thing he says is ‘art thou Norman?’ to which Ed replies, ‘no my name’s Edward.’ Classic. I remembered this scene from the book, which I read when I was about nine.

In some ways, Catweazle is similar to Wurzel Gummidge who was a scarecrow that came to life. I loved Wurzel Gummidge but I loved Catweazle more because of the magic. According to Wikipedia, the programme was also popular in New Zealand, The Netherlands, Germany, Australia, Sweden and Norway. There is a fan club and you can order the DVDs on Amazon.


Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

Trumptonshire Folk

Trumpton firemenTrumpton was the major town of Trumptonshire, in which there was also a neighbouring village of Camberwick Green.

This was the name of the stop-animation children’s program which was first produced about this fictional English county. The shows were all named after the location, so there was Trumpton, Camberwick Green and Chigley (also a village).

Windy MillerThe characters are reminiscent of Playmobil models, and I used to think that’s what they were. I loved all of the shows and characters, especially Windy Miller who would always manage to walk out of his mill without having his head chopped off by the sails.

Other memorable characters are the women who worked at the biscuit factory and stopped for the six o’clock whistle and the firemen: Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grubb, and their commander Captain Flack. (Pugh and Pugh were twins) According to the Trumptonshire Web, these names are often remembered wrongly, but they very handily have the original role call on audio on the site.

The problem for my memory is that because of the shows being interlinked, some characters appearing in two or all three, and narrated by the same voice – Brian Cant – I always mixed them up. And if I mixed them up as a child, there is no way I’m going to distinguish them nearly forty years later. Luckily Wikipedia has some quite comprehensive information about Trumpton, Chigley and Camberwick Green.

Opening and closing credits were different for the three programs, with the firemen playing a brass concert on the bandstand in Trumpton and one of the others finishing with the six o’clock whistle and all workers in the biscuit factory having a dance. One of the programs opened with a toybox like a drum opening up and a figure appearing, it would be a different figure each day and you would have to guess who it was. The last time I watched any of these programs was when I was about five, so I’m amazed I remember this much.

My favourite song was Time flies by when you’re the driver of a train and I still remember the tune. Brian Cant, in this BBC interview says that Wallace and Gromit was influenced by the Trumpton trilogy. It’s nice to know that it wasn’t just me that dreamed about making my own models and animating them. And at least the Aardman people actually did something about it.

If you’re interested in Trumpton trivia, you may want to try out the BBC quiz – at least one of the questions has already been answered for you in this blog!


Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room