Colonel Bleep

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Colonel Bleep
Colonel-bleep-video-cover.jpg
VHS cover art for Colonel Bleep
Genre Science fiction
Format Cartoon series
Created by Robert D. Buchanan
Joseph Barbera
Fran Noack
Written by Robert D. Buchanan
Directed by Jack Schleh
Presented by Narrator
Starring Colonel Bleep
Squeek
Scratch
Narrated by Noah Tyler
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes 104 (less than half surviving)
Production
Running time 5 minutes
Production company(s) Soundac
Broadcast
Original channel Syndication
Picture format Color
Audio format Monaural
Original run 1957 (1957) – 1960 (1960)

Colonel Bleep was the first color cartoon ever made for television. It was created by Robert D. Buchanan, and was filmed by Soundac of Miami. (Some sources have Joseph Barbera with a hand in its creation as well, although his contribution was short-lived before he rejoined William Hanna to form Hanna-Barbera.) 104 episodes, of varying length of between three and six minutes each, were produced. Of these episodes, slightly fewer than half are known to survive today.

Premise[edit]

The show took place on the fictitious Zero Zero Island, where Earth's equator meets the Greenwich Meridian. There, Colonel Bleep, a futuristic extraterrestrial lifeform from the planet Futura, protected Earth with the help of his two deputies. Representing the present day was Squeek (a mute cowboy puppet boy), and representing the past was Scratch, a caveman of great physical strength who was awakened from a sleep of several thousand years by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, also the same event that triggered Colonel Bleep's travels to earth. Colonel Bleep, like other Futurans, could manipulate "futomic energy" in a variety of ways; for instance, to propel himself through space (inexplicably, on a unicycle), or as an offensive weapon. The amount of futomic energy Colonel Bleep could absorb at any given time was finite, and in several episodes he runs out of energy and becomes vulnerable.

The trio's usual nemesis was a dark and mysterious hooded figure called Dr. Destructo, who could typically be found in his flying saucer with only a visible torso. Other regular villains included The Black Knight and Black Patch the space pirate.

Production[edit]

The series drew heavy influence from the Space Age of its time. Occasionally, the planet Futura and its denizens would be seen; most of the series took place within Earth's solar system, with various intelligent life forms existing on most planets. The actual science was grossly fictionalized and frequently used anachronisms (for instance, Scratch, before his long sleep, is shown to have had a pet dinosaur, even though dinosaurs had died millions of years before cavemen appeared); however, there were moments when actual scientific topics were discussed (a discussion on the moon gave an accurate overview of various then-current theories for the moon's heavily cratered appearance).

The animation in the show was extensively limited, as was typical of TV animation during that era. Noah Tyler was the narrator for the show and provided virtually all of the vocal characterizations (most of the characters were mute). Jack Schleh directed all of the episodes. The series' design was greatly influenced by the futuristic googie designs of the 1950s and early 1960s: Cars had huge tailfins, boomerangs were frequently incorporated into signs and architecture, and atom symbols were used as frequently as possible.

In 1965 Schleh and Buchanan also produced a series of syndicated physical fitness cartoons for children through Soundac called The Mighty Mr. Titan. Although Colonel Bleep is generally well-regarded today, The Mighty Mr. Titan is not.

Legacy[edit]

Unlike contemporary animated television shorts produced during Colonel Bleep's time, most of which were preserved, practically no original production material is known to exist today. In the early 1970s, while Jack Schleh was closing Soundac and moving the company's materials to a van, car thieves stole the van, which is never found.

Colonel Bleep has not been shown on television in the United States since Soundac's closure (and the aforementioned theft of the master tapes) in the early 1970s. Copyrights of the show's episodes except the first lapsed without being renewed in 1985; the soundtrack from the first episode remains under copyright. Two videocassettes from the series were released in 1993, containing most episodes still known to exist at the time (reportedly discovered in the film storage vault of a southwestern U.S. TV station which had formerly aired the show). The remaining extant episodes were not released until August 23, 2005, when Alpha Video released a DVD entitled Colonel Bleep, Volume 1. The DVD contains 23 episodes, about 20 of which do not appear on earlier video releases.

One episode, "The Treacherous Pirate", can be seen as part of The Speed Racer Show, an anthology film created by Streamline Pictures released on VHS and DVD by Family Home Entertainment as Speed Racer: the Movie. The episode occurs between Speed Racer episodes ("The Car Hater" and "Race Against the Mammoth Car, Part 1").

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