Barbapapa is a 1970 children's picture book by the French-American couple Annette Tison and Talus Taylor, who lived in Paris, France. Barbapapa is both the title character and the name of his "species". The book was the first of a series of children's books originally written in French and later translated into over 30 languages.
Barbe à papa – literally "Daddy's beard" – is French for cotton candy or candy floss.
From idea to production
The inspiration for Barbapapa came by chance in the Luxembourg Garden in Paris one day in May 1970. While walking in the park with Annette Tison, Talus Taylor thought he heard a child ask his parents for something called "Baa baa baa baa". Not speaking French, he asked Tison what the words meant. She explained that the child was asking for a treat called Barbe à papa (cotton candy). Later at a restaurant, the couple began to draw on the tablecloth, and came up with a character inspired by the candy: a pink and round character. When it came time to give it a name, Barbapapa came naturally.
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, in British English, by the Ernest Benn Company, and in American English by the Henry Z. Walck Co.
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 color.
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!"
After various adventures, Barbapapa comes across a female of his species (more shapely, and black-coloured), named Barbamama. They produce seven children: Four sons: Barbabravo, a sports fan (red), Barbabright, a scientist (blue), Barbazoo, a nature enthusiast (yellow) and Barbabeau, a painter (black and furry), as well as three daughters: Barbalala, a musician (green), Barbabelle, a beauty queen (purple) and Barbalib, an intellectual (orange).
A few years after the book had been produced, and 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 that were only five minutes long, the Barbapapa stories reached a broader audience via television. A comic book version was also created. Both the cartoons and comics sometimes show concerns about the environment and contain environmental messages.
The Barbapapa cartoon is popular in both mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar where it is referred to as Chale Papababa. In 2007 a Dar-es-Salaam based group used the name Poppaboppabas as a comparison between the shape shifting cryptid Popobawa and the cartoon, comparing their own musical adaptability to the characters of the cartoon. Google created a doodle celebrating the 45th anniversary of the publishing of Barbapapa on May 19, 2015.
- "Barbapapa books". The official Barbapapa web site. Archived from the original on 22 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-08.
- Les Barbapapa pleurent la mort de l'un de leurs créateurs, Le Figaro, 2 March 2015.
- "Barbapapa family". The official Barbapapa web site. Archived from the original on 27 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-08.