Barbapapa is both the title character, and name of the "species" of said character, of a series of children's books written in the 1970s by Annette Tison and Talus Taylor, who resided in Paris, France. The books were originally written in French (barbe à papa - literally "Daddy's beard" - is French for cotton candy or candy floss), and were later translated into over 30 languages.
Several European publishers expressed interest in Barbapapa but did not wish to embark on spending the publishing cost. Frank Fehmers Productions, an Agent who later became a publisher, subsequently set up a co-production and the first edition was published in French, by L'École des Loisirs, British English, by Ernest Benn company, and American English by Henry Z. Walck Co. A few years later, when more titles had been published, Fehmers expanded the project to television films in conjunction with Joop Visch of Polyscope-Polygram, with the story boards designed by Taylor. After twelve years, Fehmers and Tison/Taylor discontinued their business relationship.
As short cartoons of a length of only five minutes, the Barbapapa stories reached a broader audience via TV. Also a comic book version was created. Both the cartoons and comics sometimes show concerns about the environment and contain environmental messages.
The main characters in the books are the Barbapapa family, who are most notable for their ability to shapeshift at will. In their native form, Barbapapas are blob-shaped, with a distinct head and arms, but no legs. Male Barbapapas have rounder bottoms, whereas female Barbapapas have a more slender form. Each Barbapapa can adopt any form they choose, but they remain easily identifiable by always retaining their faces and their distinctive colour.
Barbapapa himself is a generally papaya-shaped, pink shapeshifting blob-like creature who stumbles upon the human world and tries to fit in. The shapeshifting is usually accompanied by the saying "Clickety Click—Barba Trick", or in the 1970s British dub "All Change!" (Based on the expression used by the driver on British buses when the bus reaches the end of its route) (in the French version "Hup Hup Hup, Barbatruc", "Oblajuco, Barbatruco" in Spanish, "Ra-Ru-Rick, Barbatrick" in German, "Huub huub huub, Barbatruuk" in Dutch, "Hüpp Hüpp Hüpp, Barbatrükk" in Hungarian, "Hop hop hop, Değiş Tonton" in the Turkish version, "Resta di stucco, è un barbatrucco" in the Italian version, in Arabic "باربا الشاطر ---أعظم ساحر ", in Hebrew "תיקיתיקוּץ, בַּרְבָּקוּנְץ"/"Tiki-tikutz, Barba-kuntz", in Greek "Κλι κλι κόλπο, μπάρμπα κόλπο"/"kli kli kolpo, barba kolpo", in Finnish Hik hik hikka, Barbakikka).
After various adventures, Barbapapa comes across a female of his species (more shapely, and black-coloured), named Barbamama. They produce four sons: Barbidur, a sports fan (red), Barbibul, a scientist (blue), Barbidou, a nature enthusiast (yellow) and Barbouille, a painter (black and furry), as well as three daughters: Barbalala, a musician (green), Barbabelle, a beauty queen (purple) and Barbotine, an intellectual (orange).
The first Barbapapa theme's lyrics were written by Harry Geelen, and the music composed by Joop Stokkermans.