L-r: Squeak, Scratch and Bleep.


Medium: TV animation
Produced by: Soundac Studios
First Appeared: 1957
Creator: Robert D. Buchanan
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Col. Bleep is one of those guys like Crusader Rabbit, Tom Terrific and Winky Dink — an early television cartoon star, fondly recalled …

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… by many, whose failure to pass the test of time can probably be attributed to the low production values, necessitated by low budgets, which prevailed in that venue.

Bleep was the product of a new company to enter the cartoon market, Soundac Studios of Miami, Florida — which also turned out to be among the more short-lived, as the 104 Col. Bleep episodes, all of which ran less than six minutes, constitute its only known credit. Creator/writer Robert D. Buchanan, director Jack Schleh, and narrator Noah Tyler (who did the other voices as well, on the rare occasions when anyone besides the narrator spoke) also lack other credits in animation, if "animation" isn't too strong a word to describe the minimal movement seen in Col. Bleep. The series was syndicated, and (like Clutch Cargo and Bozo the Clown) generally seen on local children's shows where a live host would talk with kids, do skits, and introduce an assortment of cartoons.

Col. Bleep was from the planet Futura, which became interested in Earth in 1945, when the first atomic bomb was set off. He was sent here as an observer, using futomic energy for propulsion. Apparently, futomic energy was kind of slow, as he didn't appear on TV until 1957, but that's okay because it was also useful for lifting, blasting, and anything else Bleep needed to get through the episode — and he usually needed something, because he immediately abandoned observation in favor of fighting villains such as Dr. Destructo, The Black Knight (no relation) and Black Patch the pirate (no relation).

Bleep's little band of adventurers included representatives of the past and present (he himself representing Futura). Squeak, a Pinocchio-style self-mobile puppet shaped like a little boy, was from the present. Scratch, who dressed like Rocky Stoneaxe, had fallen asleep thousands of years ago and didn't wake up until the atomic bomb went off. Each had a residence on Zero Zero Island, which served as their headquarters — Scratch in a cave, Squeak in a cozy cottage and Bleep in an edifice which towered very prominently over the island, and yet, was referred to as his "secret" laboratory. Together, they would sally forth to (as stated in the first episode) "face danger and death as they fight to maintain right and justice throughout the vast galaxies of the world!"

Col. Bleep has the distinction of having been the first made-for-TV cartoon produced in color. That may have been why it continued to appear on those local kids' shows for years. But the Florida studio never sold it as a comic book, Little Golden Book, or other merchandise, as the ones in Hollywood did with their properties. Eventually, its production values began to look shoddy next to those of Hanna-Barbera, Total Television and even Jay Ward (which were themselves nothing lavish compared with theatrical animation), and those local shows began dropping it. By the late 1960s, it was very seldom seen.

The series is well enough remembered for the colonel to have made a crossover with Speed Racer in 1993, but not so well remembered that most of today's cartoon fans have ever heard of it.


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Text ©2004-08 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Robert D. Buchanan.