Pooch says 'Welcome to Toonhound!'TheHound - an irregular round up of toon news and chatter from the uk

  ...cartoon news interviews and views from the UK!  Union Jack


  british toon
  news & chatter
  animated films
  & shorts

  animated series

  animation studios

  & people

  string, hand
  & finger puppets

  characters, strips
  & comic books

  British animators
  & illustrators



  Click here for Frankie Stein... Click here for Fungus...
   Click here for Bunty...  Click here for Wallace...








   When there was an Interview...

    The Hound joins director
    Jason Tammemagi in his
    garden shed, to talk about
    felt-tipped computers,
    Monster Animation and
    the return of Roobarb
     & Custard

   Roobarb from Grange Calveley and A&B TV
   When Tea Time    When Roobarb    When Jason
   TV ruled...             was boiling...      talked...
Roobarb & Custard logo


    When Tea Time TV ruled...

     In the early 1970's, we had lots to get excited about. We had Space Hoppers
     and Chopper Bikes, Spangles and Coca-Cola, and T-Rex and Slade on the radio.
     And we had Tea Time TV. Or even more specifically, that final Tea Time TV coda,
     an extraordinary five-minute gap in the BBC schedule, a sparkly place somewhere
     between "Blue Peter" and "Crackerjack" and the early evening News that was  
     filled with a succession of cartoon treats. And the most exciting treat of all
     came in the form of an electric green dog and his fluorescent pink pal.

     Roobarb scrambled on to our screens in 1974, dragging Custard, the Birds
     and all manner of absurdities and oddities in his wake. And he really did
     scramble, out of the house, along the garden path and up a tree, to the
     accompaniment of a squiddling, electrified theme tune. For five hyperactive
     minutes, our star would enthuse, inspire and construct in his garden shed,
     He'd wow the Birds, and underwhelm Custard before everything imploded
     and young Roobarb would be left nursing his wounds, with even better ideas
     taking shape, just on the horizon.

      Original Roobarb    Original Custard
     Sometimes a series just works. Lightning strikes, inspiration is ignited and
     genius is created. That was "Roobarb", conceived by Grange Calveley,
     animated for pennies by Bob Godfrey, and given breathless enthusiasm by
     the voice of Richard Briers. It was just so inspired, a wobbling, felt-tipped
     stroke of brilliance that captured all the glam rock sparkle of the period.

     So could it happen twice? Would it be possible, thirty years later, to remix
     those ingredients and recapture that same indefatigable sparkle. Well, that
     was the task afforded to the team behind the all-new "Roobarb and Custard"
     series. And you know, it looks like they pulled it off...

     When Roobarb was boiling...

     A&B TV's new Roobarb and Custard series sticks so faithfully to its source
     you can barely see the join. Grange Calveley has written all the scripts, Richard
     Briers has given them a voice, and although Bob Godfrey isn't involved this
     time, his spirit well and truly lives on through the team at Monster Animation.
     They've not only mirrored the original characters and settings, they've even
     gone out of the way to recapture that original "boiling" effect.

     "Boiling" is the name given to that extraordinary shade-shift caused by the
     differences between individual colours under the camera. It used to happen
     a lot with cheaper productions, when colour mixes weren't right, when folks
     were under pressure to simply get a job done. The cel colours would be
     inconsistent between frames. When 24 such frames whizzed past every
     second, the colours bubbled and boiled. In "Roobarb"s case, the effect was
     deliberate. Bob Godfrey and his team used the shifts between their felt-tipped
     frames to give their creations life and vibrancy - it was the very essence of
     the show, indeed. And now it's back, in all it's wobbling glory!
     New Roobarb & Custard

     Five already have something of a Roobarb relationship going on. After all,
     they broadcast the original series just last year (and if you missed it, or
     want to remind yourself of its brilliance, it's available in its entirety on DVD).
     The new "Roobarb and Custard" show launches in the UK on Monday 8th
     August at 8.45am, as part of Five's "Milkshake!" slot. And it wobbles and
     wonders, just like that original series. You'd be forgiven for thinking you'd
     been zapped back in time thirty years, back to those glam rock days all
     over again...

     Roobarb's garden shed  The Hound talks to Jason Tammemagi...

    The Hound was invited into Jason's shed, just prior to the launch on Five.
    As always, my questions are presented
in bold...


    So Jason, tell us more about yourself. Where have you come from,
    and how long have you been in animation?

    I've been in animation about ten years now. After college I was lucky to get
    almost an instant break as an animator by being at the right place at the right
    time. It was actually my current producer, Gerard O'Rourke, who gave me
    that chance.

    I began animating on The Willows in Winter, which was a nerve-wracking but
    very valuable experience. From there I ended up animating on Norway's first
    classically animated feature, "Gurin Med Reverompa", and then doing a few
    bits and pieces here and there. That's when I went back to Gerard in Monster
    and pretty much became a permanent fixture in what would eventually evolve
    to the current Monster with me as Creative Director. We've made a lot of
    commercials, some television stuff, videos etc., including the odd high profile

    How, and when, did you and A&B come together?

    There had been some talk of new "Roobarb" quite a number of years ago. Grange
    Calveley had written new scripts and A&B had joined with him in trying to get
    the new show made. My producer, Gerard, had met Adam Sharp and Bernadette
    O'Riordan from A&B TV when they were in the early stages of making this happen.
    Now Gerard knew how much I would love to be a part of "Roobarb" - I've always
    been a huge fan - but I knew how tough it was to get all of the pieces in place.
    So I didn't obsess on it. When it came down to it, even if A&B got the show in
    production they would go with the animation company that made sense to them,
    and there are a lot of animation companies out there...

    Well, talk continued for years and, you know, it looked like Adam and Bernadette
    just might pull this off - that Bernadette is one tough lady, let me tell you. Gerard
    kept telling me that it could happen! I preferred to put on an air of pessimism so
    that my disappointment wouldn't be too obvious if we couldn't get involved. But
    really, I was so hoping to get it. I had been looking at some animation tests that
    had been done elsewhere and they were very far from where I felt "Roobarb" should
    go, so I put together some tests of our own to show what we could achieve if A&B
    allowed us to. I wanted to keep it true to the classic show and I knew that we had
    a few tricks at Monster that few other companies could offer. So I showed A&B
    our tests. I think they were simply surprised initially - like we had given them
    something that they would love to have done, but had almost dismissed as being
    impossible. I knew this was a good sign but, again, they had so much to do
    before it could ever happen.

    In early Autumn of 2004, I was burnt out on commercials. I was tired, worn out
    and generally in a very dark place. So I did what any person would do - I took a
    holiday. I went over to Boston to visit my sister, spent some time in New York
    and had a great time. I really cleared my head and felt so much better coming
    back, though I was dreading the idea of going straight back into ads. Well, as it
    turned out, that wouldn't be a problem - we started on "Roobarb" the very day I
    arrived back!

    I couldn't have been more happy.

    So what does Roobarb get up to in the new series?

    Roobarb is still Roobarb and he is up to all sorts of crazy things this time around.
    He has become more than a little fixated with The Space these days, so many
    of his inventions involve trying to travel into The Space - flapping around with his
    Spike in 1974 was just step one. Roobarb also puts on a lot of shows this time
    around. He has always been a bit of a showman. So we have a concert, an opera,
    even "Duck Pond on Ice". Of course, all sorts of strange characters make their
    way in to the Garden to stir things up a bit too!

    Who designed the new characters - they seem to blend in perfectly
    with the old ones?

    All of the designs come from Grange Calveley, the creator and writer of "Roobarb".
    He created all of the new characters. From his sketches, I refined them to work
    with the new show. Some of them, like Mole, I just dropped straight in and others,
    like Poodle Princess, I reworked considerably because many of the images were
    created to fit with a look that we then moved away from. But without Grange's
    brilliant designs they never would have existed!

    Ah yes, Mole. Based on Richard Burton, I believe...

    If you remember the classic show, there was a little blue Mole who used to
    bounce around. He was very cute and we actually have him do a cameo in one of
    the new episodes. But our new Mole should go down really well. He's a real old
    fashioned gent who just calls it like he sees it - a grounding influence in the
    craziness of Roobarb's garden!

    Was Richard Briers happy to return to the Garden?

    Oh yes! Richard Briers was fantastic and seemed really enthusiastic about
    doing more "Roobarb" episodes. He loves Grange's writing and admires the
    madness of Roobarb's Garden. It was great to have Richard back because he
    really is such an integral part of what makes the show "Roobarb". What is amazing
    is that, even though thirty years have passed, the new show sounds like it just
    continues straight on from the classic show. His voice is exactly the same and
    he slipped right into that Roobarb mode he does so well. He adds so much depth
    and really brings Grange's stories to life.

    Roobarb was a felt-tipped funny, but the new toon uses all that
    newfangled computer equipment. So how big was your team, and
    what systems did you use?

    There are eight of us (I think) and that includes five animators. It's a small team,
    which is great because it makes it easy for us to keep the energy and creativity up.
    Also the fact that we work all in-house and don't ship the animation abroad works
    brilliantly because we can keep the creative process moving right up until a scene
    is completely finished. At no stage does it become simply "production". All of the
    animators add their jokes and we work as a team to make every episode as funny
    as it possibly can be.

    As for the systems we use, well it's an old family secret! But it mostly involves
    programs like After Effects, some Flash and several others. We use a lot of old
    style drawing methods, but we use a graphics tablet rather than a pencil, so our
    results go straight into the computer. We call it Digital Cel Animation - I don't
    know if there is another word for it, as I don't know anyone who works in quite the
    same methods. But really I think our method is the same as it has been since the
    start of animation - get a good team of animators together and let them work their
    magic! Computers, software, etc. are simply tools, just like a pencil or felt-tip pen.
    It's all about the animators!

    Which brings us on to that indefatigable "Boil". It's lovely to see it back
    where it belongs. How was that achieved?

    Ah yes - the boil! The boil is achieved using the exact same principal as the
    vintage show - simply draw more frames! It's a key element to the Roobarb
    and Custard look, and the show wouldn't have been the same without it!

    Can you tell us a bit more about the development process. A few years
    back, there seemed to be a kind of false start There were new-look
    characters on the old web site, and even a range of licensed toys, based
    on those designs. What happened there?

    Yes, that was before I was involved, but I think it was when Grange was writing
    the new episodes. He had been reworking the designs in an effort to fit with modern
    software and animation techniques. He came up with some great designs and
    great new characters, but the methods were moving it away from the classic
    Roobarb look.

    That early animation test I mentioned had been done in that style, and Grange
    had been working with an animator on that. I think it was a case of finding the
    technology first and tailoring the look to fit that, because that was what was
    being advised at the time.

    I approach things very differently. I find the look first and then worry about how
    we are actually going to produce it. So when I was presented with the animation
    test, I desperately wanted to pull it back to the look of the classic show. Much
    of that look would be exactly what separates "Roobarb and Custard" from all of the
    other shows on television. It is unique and I felt needed to be retained. So I
    produced the test to show that we could do it. We could achieve a look which is
    reminiscent of the classic show and, importantly, we could do it in a way that
    was realistic in terms of production and budget.

    When Grange came over and we started discussing things, he became very
    excited that we were breaking through all of the technology limitations he had
    thought were there. We have no such limitations. And so, together, Grange and I
    worked to bring those earlier images you would have seen on the website in line
    with where we were now taking the show. We took many of our cues from the
    vintage show, and took some of the funny aspects from those newer images and
    created the show we have now.

    So you took it back. Indeed, so far back that you can't see the join...

    Heh, well I suppose that was my aim initially. But when I started pushing for that
    it became very clear that both Bernadette and Adam from A&B wanted that too.
    I just think that so much worked so well with the original show. It exists far beyond
    just nostalgia. It's a genuinely hilarious show and so much of it is pure genius.
    So I thought it would be a tragedy to lose that and really pushed to keep things
    true to the classic show.

    I think, along with the technology issues, there was a slight fear with some
    people that a cartoon show these days needs a crisp, sharp, flat look and that
    kids wouldn't accept the Roobarb look. My feeling on that is that there is little
    point in working on a classic show if you don't believe in the show for what it is.
    Diluting it, or trying to turn it into something else could only result in a nasty
    hybrid that doesn't really know what it is.

    So I embraced classic Roobarb! Adam and Bernadette, being massive "Roobarb"
    fans, also believed 100% in the show, so I found that everyone was with me on
    that. It was great to feel that everyone was pushing in the same direction!

    I have to ask, then, what of Bob Godfrey. Has he seen what you've done?

    Bob Godfrey is a comic genius. He is a brilliant, talented man. Unfortunately,
    he wasn't able to get involved in the new series. I have been trying to get the
    suit-people to send Bob Godfrey some of the new episodes to see what he
    thinks but, early in pre-production, Grange Calveley (the creator) had lunch with
    Bob and showed him some of the animation tests. Apparently Bob said "the
    boy's got it!", which was great to hear and gave me the confidence I needed.

    That's praise, indeed!

    What's lovely is that people who have seen it so far have all said "it's exactly how
    I remember it', even though side-by-side the shows are different. This is what I was
    hoping for and knew our challenge would be - to live up to people's nostalgia-tinted
    memories of the original. I hope we've done that!

     Fluffy Gardens from Montser -  thumbnail leads to larger image!

    Can you tell us more about Monster. What else is happening with
    the company?

    Well we're all Roobarb right now! Monster is a great little company and the
    current lineup just seems to work really well. Everything just seems so creative
    at the moment. So we want to keep that up when we finish these last Roobarb
    episodes. We are going to be working on "Fluffy Gardens", a new cartoon concept
    for young children, created by myself. (That's a thumbnail above, leading
    to a larger scan
). It's a very cute, charming little show that features silly little
    stories about even sillier little animals. We're hoping to get that one off the ground
    in the near future and have had a great response from broadcasters. I'm keeping
    my fingers crossed, hoping that it won't be too long before you see it on
    your screens!

    Now that Roobarb's back, is there talk of the SkylArk flying on to our
    screens too?

    Actually, I have no idea what Noah and Nelly are up to these days! Who knows?
    Anything is possible. I must talk to Grange about that and see if he's interested
    in revisiting the Skylark!

     And with that, Jason ushered me out of his shed and back here with our Q&A.
    "Roobarb" should be a well-deserved hit on Five, and I'm most grateful to Jason
    for taking the time to chat with me. You can also keep up to date with all the
    developments at Monster - "Fluffy Gardens" included - on their rather jolly web site.

    Meanwhile, there's another Tea Time TV treat waiting in the wings for our delight,
    because, as The Hound has previously reported, Bobbi Spargo and friends are
    about to invite us back to Doyley Wood, and the haunts of Willo the Wisp.

    Oh, yes. TeaTime TV still rules...

    Till next time!
      Pooch again!   

             home »     latest news »    news archive »    interviews »

© Grange Calveley / A&B TV / F2000-2005