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The Independent Culture
Bob and Margaret: Foot & Mouth (12), Bob and Margaret: Antiseptic Suburban Anxieties (12)

pounds 9.99 each - available to buy from next Monday

A VERY British and, at first glance, a very gentle animated satire. Bob and Margaret's bite is worse than its bark. It's lovely stuff. The eponymous middle-class, middle-aged, middle-income couple are respectively a dentist and a chiropodist who have enough wherewithal to face up to the humdrum nature of their lives but not quite enough to want to do much about it.

Though they're obviously very fond of their creations, Alison Snowden and David Fine patently get a kick out of fleshing out the darker, more surreal edges of Bob and Margaret's suburban idyll. (The original short film, Bob's Birthday, won them an Oscar in 1995.) "A Night In" from Foot & Mouth is a case in point. Though their pet dogs William and Elizabeth aren't perfect surrogate children, they're a lot better than the real thing they encounter at the chaotic house of some boho friends of theirs - a puking, crapping brat called "little Maurice".

The social parodies are usually spot on, as are their cinematic gags. In Foot & Mouth's "The Holiday", we're not sure who faces the worst peril: Bob and Margaret are held hostage by a gang of ultra-violent hijackers, while William and Elizabeth have been left in the care of Norman Bates the kennel-hand. Occasionally, the whimsy is laid on a bit thick. For the most part, though, the ironically cutesy animation is a nice disjunction of style and content.

All of which shows that Nick Parks isn't alone in British animation's first division. It's been a while since we've heard from Parks - who by all accounts is working on a Colditz-spoof animated feature set on a chicken farm - but Fine and Snowden seem to have picked up a lot from him, not least the intrinsic innocence of a central pair of characters. If you look a bit harder, you may even find that Bob and Margaret owe their existence, in part at least, to an even older couple: Terry and June. Even the trendiest Brit-cartoons have skeletons in their cupboards, it seems.