Roobarb (and Custard) on DVD

Sunday, 15 May 2016 23:00 Written by 

Roobarb - and Custard - in a complete DVD collectionA creative dog, a puce shade of green, tries to put into action every mad-cap scheme. A cynical cat, who watches on mostly from the top of the fence in critical disdain. And a cast of garden wildlife, including Mole and Rookie the Rook to support or hinder the dog’s equivalent of tilting at windmills, in terms of invention and innovation. So it is that Roobarb, and its sequel series, a five minute show supposedly for kids, took on the pre-news slot in the early evenings on BBC1, and ended up having adult fans from all walks of life making time to see the short adventures. It may have been a different form of animation, magic markers taken to the extreme, but this was very much a generational-crossing concept in the same surreal category as The Magic Roundabout.

Roobarb was inspired by creator Grange Calveley’s Welsh Border Collie, who was so named after ‘watering’ the rhubarb in his garden, very soon after going to live at his home. Despite publishers liking the character and his strange adventures, no-one took Grange up on them, so he turned his thoughts to a series of short television animations instead. Persistence with the BBC eventually paid off – not a slot on Jackanory, oh no, but a request to see a pilot episode. Enter Bob Godfrey, animation director, and Australian animation director Peter Green brought Calveley’s sketches to life. And now all 69 episodes are released together on DVD by Simply Media.

After creating a 30 second monochrome test film, several months after being screened to the BBC, out of nowhere appeared a commission for 30 five-minute episodes. In the meantime, positive vibes were aplenty, as the team worked on the first five minute instalment – “When Roobarb made a Spike”, with Richard Briers of The Good Life fame taking on the narration duties. This single edition achieved plaudits at various festivals during 1973, declared at a screening at the National Film Theatre in November of that year as “one of the outstanding short films of the year”. It should be no surprise that Grange was a huge fan of Spike Milligan, as the humour is very much in the same territory.

All 30 episodes from the original 1974 animated series Roobarb are included in this set - the show made its debut on 21 October 1974. But that’s not all -  39 episodes commissioned by Channel 5 in 2005 are also included - Roobarb and Custard Too, featuring narration once more by Richard Briers, this time animated by a team orchestrated by Jason Tammemagi. You’d be forgiven for not knowing about these, but they have the same spirit, the same cast of characters are added to, and the slicker production methods coming 30 years after the originals don’t lose sight of their origins.

The show’s stars, Roobarb and Custard, had come top in a poll for “Britain’s Best Animated Characters” taken in 2000. An official website came along in 2002, helping to further raise their profile. And so it was that a new series was commissioned. Roobarb gains a really poor home computer, a ‘BoneFone’, and a new friend called Mouse – a computer wizard from ‘Silly Cone Valley’.

It’s easy to underestimate the appeal of the series. There were over 40 merchandising licences issued originally, amongst these Cadbury’s produced a range of Roobarb chocolate bars, Marks and Spencer sold Roobarb bedding with a bone motif, and Woolworth’s weighed in with Roobarb slippers. The show went on to be screened in over 40 countries.

The show has continued to play a part in the public consciousness, including the theme, a piece of De Wolfe library music from Johnny Hawksworth. Christmas 1991 bizarrely saw the group Shaft do a techno-theme cover of “Roobarb and Custard”, which made number 7 in the charts over an eight week period.

In a world of similar animation styles, almost becoming one homogenous mass with very little distinctiveness, Roobarb dared to be different on almost every level. A lead character who would never be defeated, who always tried his best, despite the giggles and naysaying of those surrounding him. It’s a tale of the underdog, quite literally!

Narrator Richard Briers died on 17 February 2013, followed three days later by original animator Bob Godfrey. They both can be proud of the legacy they left behind with Roobarb, a thoroughly British humour with a distinctive and thoroughly British production style (despite the sequel series being produced by Monster Animation & Design in Ireland!).

Roobarb and Custard: The Complete Collection is out now from Simply Media. The three DVD set, has a running time of 345 minutes approx., a ‘U’ Certificate, and a RRP of £34.99, or get it for less at



  • “When Roobarb Made a Spike”
  • “When Roobarb Didn't See the Sun Come Up”
  • “When Roobarb Was Being Bored and Not Being Bored”
  • “When the Tree Fell to Pieces”
  • “When Roobarb Found Sauce”
  • “When It Was Night”
  • When It Was Christmas”
  • “When the Sun Was Just Right”
  • “When the Opera Wasn't a Phantom”
  • “When There Wasn't Treasure”
  • “When It Wasn't Thorsday”
  • “When Roobarb Was Cheating”
  • “When Custard Was Sorry”
  • “When Roobarb Mixed the Paint”
  • “When Roobarb's Heart Ruled His Head”
  • “When You're Going to Fly, Fly High”
  • “When the Day Didn't Arrive”
  • “When Roobarb Did the Lion's Share”
  • “When Roobarb Was at the End of His Tether (and So Was Custard)”
  • “When Custard Stole the Show”
  • “When There Was a Dance at Foxes Dale”
  • “When Roobarb Wasn't As Pleased As Punch”
  • “When Roobarb Turned Over a New Leaf”
  • “When There Was Someone Else”
  • “When the Day Wouldn't Keep Still”
  • “When Roobarb Got a Long Break”
  • “When the Pipes Call the Tune”
  • “When a Knight Lost His Day”
  • “When Custard Got Too Near the Bone”
  • “When There Was a Big Mix Up”



  • “When There Was a Surprise”
  • “When Custard Was Grounded”
  • “When Custard Wrote a Book”
  • “When There Was an Elephant”
  • “When Custard Was Very, Very Naughty”
  • “When the Books Went Bye Bye”
    “When There Was a Wind-Up”
  • “When Roobarb Found the Hieroglyphics”
  • “When It Ended in Tears”
  • “When There Was a Big Band”
  • “When the Garden Was Dry”
  • “When There Was a Time Warp”
  • “When It Was Cool to Be Smooth”
  • “When There Was a Pottery Party”
  • “When the Computer Went On the Blink”
  • “When There Was an Opera”
  • “When the Mouse Arrived for Christmas”
  • “When Roobarb Went On a Fitness Drive”
  • “When Modern Thingumajigs Need Tweaking”
  • “When the Wind Blows, the Space Age Will Stop”
  • “When There Wasn't a Boiled Egg”
  • “When Rookie Fell Out of the Sky”
  • “When the Laughing Had to Stop”
  • “When Roobarb Was Bowled Over”
  • “When Walter's Web Caught Roobarb's Eye”
  • “When There Was a Dance Festival”
  • “When There Was Magic”
  • “When the Ballet Hit the Skids”
  • “When a Dinosaur Broke Loose”
  • “When Jeremy Barker Turned Up”
  • “When There Was a Country Fayre”
  • “When the Molecules Got Loose”
  • “When There Was a Duel”
  • “When It Was a Wibbling Week”
  • “When the Astrognomes Landed”
  • “When Everything Went Lumpy”
  • “When Communications Weren't the Best”
  • “When There Really Was a Something” and
  • “When There Was a Cuckoo”.


Last modified on Monday, 16 May 2016 14:58

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