Saturday 13 December 2014

How to Move a Bleep

Hanna-Barbera wasn’t the only TV cartoon studio around in the late ‘50s but its product may have been slicker than the others. Sam Singer was churning out “Pow Wow the Indian Boy,” Beverly Hills Productions came out with “Spunky and Tadpole” while Shull Bonsall manoeuvred Jay Ward and Alex Anderson out of their own property and created new episodes of “Crusader Rabbit” through his company, TV Spots (and distributed by his Regis Films).

And then there was Colonel Bleep.

Outer space was big in 1957, and a TV film commercial producer in Florida decided to take advantage of it. Soundac Productions created “Colonel Bleep,” starring an alien in a space helmet, a puppet cowboy named Squeak and a caveman called Scratch. By mid-1957, it was ready for syndication by Richard Ullman of Buffalo (Weekly Variety, June 19, 1957). Future research is needed to discover when it first aired, but it debuted on WGR in Buffalo on September 23rd. It was still running on WNBC in New York as late as 1971 (on Saturday mornings, to no surprise), but the series’ heyday was in the late ‘50s.

The cartoons certainly had their own graphic style which many people appreciate today. The animation? Well, let’s be kind and say the characters jerked from pose to pose, though they seem to have been stationary a lot of the time. On occasion, characters moved through a kind of smear animation with brush lines. Here’s a good example from one of the cartoons. These are consecutive drawings.


  1. Colonel Bleep was designed and directed by Jack Schleh, whom I had the pleasure meeting and getting to know in his final years. Schleh was quite proud of Colonel Bleep (as well he should, I find them quite entertaining - and the artwork is fantastic). He started in upstate New York in the early 1950s, providing graphics for emerging TV stations around the country. He began animating those graphics (particularly generic weather reports) and Richard Ullman (his producer/salesman) found there was a need for five minute cartoon fillers. He told me that he had no money to produce Col. Bleep, so he decided to simply have one narrator (a local Miami newscaster) and characters based on sound effects (Bleep, Squeak and Scratch)! He was a proud that his cartoon was the first shot in color for television (on 16mm). Schleh later produced the infamous Mighty Mr. Titan and the first Mountain Dew spots. He was a great guy and a post on him is long overdue.

  2. Those animated weather reports are terrific (with a catchy little jingle). I you haven't seen them, search the 'net for "Soundac" (the studio that made them) and "Weatherman."

  3. Thunderbean's DVD "Mid-Century Modern Animation" has a good sampling of TV Weatherman spots and, yes, they are amazing! Tiny budget, restricted format yet they pull out a clever little gag or visual whammy every single time.