How I Animated Roobarb and Custard

by Book Frog

Digital animator Rob Brindle talks Roobarb and Custard, the classic ‘wobble’ and marker pens…

“When I was first asked by Box of Frogs to create animation for their new Roobarb and Custard animated storybook, I was very excited. I have fond memories of watching the show from when I was a kid and I knew that animating a plethora of great characters from such a classic cartoon was a real privilege. However, I was immediately faced with an intimidating dilemma, considering that my first course of action was to ensure that I was up to the task!

I knew it was vital to make sure that the animation in the storybook remained faithful to the energetic and instantly recognisable style of the cartoons. We used the Unity game engine as the basis for the game and although it is powerful as an animation tool, I realised I would have to look elsewhere to create a result that retained the fun and charming feel of the source material.

Having originally been humbly animated using pens and paper, Roobarb and Custard has a distinctively exaggerated ‘wobble’ on both its characters outlines and their fill colours, which gives it an aesthetic charm that viewers warmly recognise. This was a key element to the animation which I knew I needed to replicate.

I made use of a range of software from Adobes Creative Cloud, as well as a few animation tricks, to achieve the desired result. The standard brush types in Flash for example have a nice bold marker look to them and worked well for the characters outlines. Tracing over completed frames of animation twice with these brushes ensured that whenever a characters pose was held, they never looked static and kept their characteristic wobble. Producing an authentic wobble on the characters fill colours however proved quite a challenge, requiring a digital solution that mimicked the look of felt tip pens, which had originally been used to colour characters and scenes in the show.

In the end, I took note from the shows roots and went back to pens and paper! I covered a sheet of A4 from top to bottom in grey horizontal lines using a Prismacolour marker, paying attention to emphasise the characteristic blending of felt pens, and scanned this into Photoshop. Using After Effects, I then overlaid this onto the sequential frames of animation I had created in Flash so that only the characters fill colours were effected by the varying tones created in the grey horizontal lines. Shifting the position of the page of scanned markers on the coloured characters to match the timing of the wobbly outline created a great and authentic looking result!

Sequenced frames could then be imported into our Unity scenes as animated sprites and hooked up to the games interactive elements, ready to go! I find that whenever a project is complete, its always very rewarding to see my work as a part of the finished product. In this case, it was especially so and I felt proud to have been able to creatively contribute to such a classic set of characters. Its been a great experience to be a part of this project and fantastic to see people having great fun with the result just as much as we have enjoyed creating it!”

Rob animated another of our previous releases, the Iddly Widdly Pop-Off by Daniel Corcoran, available on iTunes.

Find out  more about Rob on his website: www.robbrindle.com