Get ready for adventure, in the exciting stories of Colonel Bleep!
August 27, 2012 3:21 PM   Subscribe

The first color cartoon came out in 1957, from the Miami, Florida studio Soundac, beating out LA-based Hanna-Barbera's The Ruff & Reddy Show by a few months. Soundac's Colonel Bleep was styled after space-age design ideas of the era, featured in three to six-minute long segments with limited animation, designed for syndication into local kids shows with live hosts. Of the 104 episodes, less than half survive, as most of that and other Soundac material was stolen from a studio van in the ’70s, when the studio was closing. Luckily, episodes have been found in the collections and archives of various TV studios, so Col. Bleep and his side-kicks Squeek and Scratch are available online (YT), some clips on, and more on YouTube (playlist with 43 clips).
posted by filthy light thief (20 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
One last tidbit: I've read that Col. Bleep didn't cash in on the accessory market, with associated toys, cereals and whatnot, but I did find a Colonel Bleep Space Command club card, from/associated with the Red Goose company (shoes for boys and girls).
posted by filthy light thief at 3:24 PM on August 27, 2012

Whoa, I was a big fan of Colonel Bleep. I was wondering why it never seemed to reappear even though many other cartoons of that era did.
posted by tommasz at 3:24 PM on August 27, 2012

The first color cartoon came out in 1957.
What? Warner Brothers cartoons (Bugs Bunny) were in color in the 1940s. And Disney probably before that ....
posted by crazy_yeti at 3:30 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

The first color cartoons made for TV. Thanks for the reminder, crazy_yeti (and depending on what you count as cartoons, phenakistoscopes from the 1820s were in color).
posted by filthy light thief at 3:34 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Love the designs for Colonel Bleep...
posted by Isadorady at 3:39 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Holy crap. My brother and I used to get up at 6AM on Saturday to watch this. I had completely forgotten about it.
posted by Splunge at 4:07 PM on August 27, 2012

Cool rundown of American colour cartoons, thanks! As others have noted, cartoons in the cinema were in colour pretty much from the off (if you includes tints and tones) and were used for short features, industrial films, sponsored film/adverts/whathaveyou. The Fleischer studios made Superman cartoons in the 1940s in Technicolor. Heck, if you lived in East Anglia in the 1950s you could see animated adverts for Colman's mustard in Technicolor:

*Happily reading this thread in front of my blu-ray edition of the first Tom and Jerry cartoons.*
posted by dumdidumdum at 4:42 PM on August 27, 2012

An exercise using the Wikipedia description of Colonel Bleep:

Can you find the completely awesome things in this paragraph?

The show took place on the fictitious Zero Zero Island, where the 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, the same event that triggered Colonel Bleep's travels to earth. Colonel Bleep, like all of his fellow 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.

I've got 6, maybe 7 (if I count 'characters whose origins relate to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki' twice') -- maybe more if "mute cowboy puppet boy" counts as multiple awesome things.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 4:47 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

MCMikeNamara, my thoughts exactly. I first read about this today, after seeing Col. Bleep mentioned in reference to a so-so short on Cartoon Brew, and wanted to share something I've never heard about. Wacky and weird, and pretty well-done for a minimally animated show (especially as it was compared to Clutch Cargo, which both intrigues and frightens me, given the use of Syncro-Vox to save money when vocally synced moving mouths -- WARNING: REAL MOUTHS MOVING IN CARTOON FACES). Col. Bleep is SO MUCH BETTER than Clutch Cargo, from my limited experience.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:48 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I first encountered this on a collection of "Sci-fi cartoons." It's a very spiky collection of appealing and alienating elements, and familiar TV conventions and the bizarrely foreign.
posted by RobotHero at 5:55 PM on August 27, 2012

Awesomeness... When I saw the 2007 Cartoon Brew piece linked in the FPP, I thought to myself "I HAVE to do a MeFi post about Colonel Bleep" and am wondering today why I didn't...

Non-existent budgets and cripplingly limited animation were the norm before Hanna & Barbera got into it (they are mis-credited as the 'inventors' of Limited Animation for TV, they were actually the ones who made it work on a large scale - similar to Henry Ford and assembly-line autos), and for some years after.

Colonel Bleep smartly made sure none of its protagonists spoke - at least in English, so there was no lip-syncing required and an omnipresent narrator was there to translate the Colonel's bleeps (see what they did there?) and explain what was happening on-and-off screen. Then the animators could emphasize making everything look cool, not so much understandable. Still, all the coolness was frequently neutralized by the cultural requirement to do "hero vs. villain" stories and the Colonel's regular villain, Dr. Destructo, was so one-dimensional, he was usually depicted as an angry pair of eyes in the dark.
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:23 PM on August 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Thanks filthy light thief, I had spent some time several years ago looking for these, found one or two... this was one of my favorite tv shows as a little one..
posted by snaparapans at 8:20 PM on August 27, 2012

re: Clutch Cargo

The show is probably best known nowadays for being featured in Pulp Fiction, though since it's been nearly two decades since I've bothered watching it I can't quite remember where CC made an appearance.
posted by item at 8:52 PM on August 27, 2012

Young Bruce Willis is watching Clutch Cargo when Walken brings him his father's watch.

There was a spot-on Clutch Cargo parody as an extra on the Incredibles DVD.

But other than the lips, Clutch Cargo is nowhere near as odd as Colonel Bleep.
posted by RobotHero at 9:54 PM on August 27, 2012

I'm glad to know that Syncro-vox has a name because "creepy lips moving behind stationary faces" might not be specific enough to keep it off my list of inexplicably nightmare-inducing TV tricks in case somebody ever asks.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:24 PM on August 27, 2012

A little more Syncro-Vox:S P A C E

I didn't know it was called that. Thank you, filthy light thief!
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 12:00 AM on August 28, 2012

posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 12:09 AM on August 28, 2012

I give Kronos to Earth a "nice try" for that.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:23 AM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

But other than the lips, Clutch Cargo is nowhere near as odd as Colonel Bleep.

Other than the 'creepy factor' of the lips, Clutch Cargo was totally boring. Colonel Bleep was odd in interesting and (usually) entertaining ways.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:27 AM on August 28, 2012

Again, though, from my perspective, when you say "other than the lips, Clutch Cargo isn't odd", you might as well be asking the proverbial Mrs. Lincoln about the play.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:52 AM on August 28, 2012

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