The Cartoon Couch: The Universe of Colonel Bleep
Today the Cartoon Couch takes a look at a forgotten cartoon ‘classic’ from the late 1950’s, Colonel Bleep.
First, I’ve got to give a shout-out to Greg Sepelak and Trent Troop of The Isle of Rangoon. I had only heard or read things about this show before they started riffing it on their web series. If you haven’t been watching The Isle of Rangoon, start doing so immediately.
For those who don’t know, 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.) The show was originally syndicated in 1957 as a segment on Uncle Bill’s TV Club. 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.
The show took place on the fictitious Zero Zero Island, where Earth’s equator meets the Greenwich Meridian. (Zero degrees latitude and zero degrees longitude, get it?) There, Colonel Bleep, a futuristic extraterrestrial life form 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.
“So how come all the bad guys gotta be black?!”
Here’s the first episode:
-Now I know it’s all too easy to simply write Colonel Bleep off as hilariously dated 50’s camp, and yes, it’s science is way off (Scratch being asleep for merely thousands of years and having a pet dinosaur–Bill Nye would have a field day with this show), but while as a modern-day sophisticate (burp!) I can pick the show apart for being unintentionally hilarious–especially with the gregariously over-the-top narrator who sounds like he’s on the verge of busting a vein or how they offer absolutely no explanation as to how or why Squeak is alive (must’ve been radiation, that’s how everything happened in the 50’s), I find some elements of Colonel Bleep to be kind of fun and cool. Believe it or not.
In fact, recently I was thinking what a 21st century update of this show would be like. So now it’s time for your favorite game and mine: FLIP THAT SCRIPT!
To start with, I love the idea of the show’s 3 protagonists representing the past, present (as of the 1950’s anyway) and future, and I’d definitely keep that idea, I’d just make a few tweaks to it here and there. For our future hero, I’d make this character a starry-eyed space girl from a future world.
The Colonel could manipulate “futomic energy”. Let’s make that a little more toyetic and appealing and call it “space magic”, similar to what Cupcake wielded on Fonz and the Happy Days Gang, a show which Jason chronicled in an earlier Retro Bin.
For the character representing us, Team Present Day, let’s face it: the cowboy puppet thing is a little too 50’s. Let’s make that character a spunky,fun-loving kid. Hello, youth market.
Finally, let’s cast our past character. How about a wild-acting cave kid with a little sister personality?
Maybe the others found her during a time travel adventure and decided they wanted a pet.
Future Girl and her 2 T.D.B.F.F.s (Time Displaced Best Friends Forever) fly and zip and zoom across the cosmos (with FG using her magical super-highly evolved flying powers–no unicycle, that’s just dorky–while the other 2 hold her hand for dear life), encountering wacky extraterrestrials…
…Or just hanging out having cool fun in Futura, the World of Next Tuesday After Tomorrow.
Time for an apropos musical number. Kick it!
-The only thing I’d dial back on would be the battling evil robots and the like. Why?