On Saturday night, “Blue Prints,” the 24-minute pilot for the millennial classic children’s show “Blue’s Clues” was randomly dumped on YouTube. Previously, the pilot’s existence had only been briefly mentioned on social media and was even called “lost” by Nick Jr.’s official Twitter account.
But this weekend, there it was, on an account with under 1,000 subscribers that had only been used a few years ago to share shit posts about “Spongebob” and “Bloons Tower Defense.” According to the description, the tape the pilot was on was dated Sept. 22, 1995, and the poster is unsure if this was the “final version.”
“Before you ask, I will not be saying who this is from so they don’t get harassed,” it read.
As someone raised by television and the original show, the pilot brought back memories of finding clues that feel familiar yet new. Starring a much younger Steve Burns and his aqua-tinted companion, the now-deleted video was missing a lot of sounds, voices, and pieces of music leaving a bit of a lull of dead air. Songs about letters and solving clues sounded slightly off, with Burns singing barely off the tune that made it into the main show.
“The ‘Blues Clues’ pilot is a very important historical artifact of Nickelodeon history,” YouTuber Quinton Hoover, who makes videos about lost media and shows on Nick on his 829K subscriber channel, told Passionfruit. “This is something special that a lot of people, including me, have been dying to see.”
But by the time the work week started on Monday, the video had been blocked on YouTube for copyright reasons (according to what’s left on the video page) by Paramount Global, the conglomerate behind Viacom, CBS, and of course Nickelodeon. This incredibly rare and valuable piece of thought-to-be-lost media had only been shared by a few social media accounts and had barely pulled in 22,000 views before it was copyright-struck into oblivion.
Now, “Blue Prints” is just another discovery in the ever-expanding world of lost media.
What’s Lost Is Found Again
Back in the days of VHS cassettes and TV antennas, there was nothing you could do if you wanted to see a coffee commercial featuring the Muppets from the 50s unless you knew a lucky collector with a physical recording. But the internet can preserve anything, and a community of diehard preservationists lept up to fill the niche. YouTubers like blameitonjorge, All Things Lost, and Justin Whang collect stories of the most obscure and lost content from the past hundred years, reinvigorating the desire for viewers to find long-lost content.
Previously lost content like the Wicked Witch of the West’s appearance on “Sesame Street” and a book of drawings speculated to be done by “Spongebob” artists of their characters engaging in sexual acts would never have been available for anyone who knows where it’s chronicled to find.
There’s even a Lost Media Wiki, which chronicles every bit of minutiae about media that is thought to be long forgotten. But it barely mentions that the “Blue Prints” pilot was found and doesn’t include the video, potentially for fear of dealing with their own DMCA takedown.
In this streaming age, some showrunners are worried about their content disappearing completely. In late 2022, HBO Max removed 36 programs from their streaming services, and the creators weren’t even told beforehand.
@theomnibuscollector #overthegardenwall #cartoonnetwork #adultswim #max #hbomax #lostmedia ♬ OTGW Intro – Luca
The Internet Isn’t Forever
But as internet creators, we are all too aware of the temporary nature of our work. It doesn’t matter if it’s a pilot that may have been shown to test audience preschoolers or a video essay about lost media icebergs, it’s all so temporary. It’s one of the reasons lost media hunting is so popular because it takes something that almost vanished and brings it back into the virtual plain. Especially when streaming platforms are removing old shows by the truckload, it feels good to be able to record something that we all thought was lost to time.
On the internet, everything is fleeting and all it takes is a chord getting unplugged or a server going down for all your hard work to vanish. I’ve written for nearly two dozen websites over the past decade, and there are hundreds of my stories that just can’t be found anymore. As creators, we need to back up what we have, either on external hard drives or on the Wayback Machine, or it could one day get DMCA-ed by a mega-corporation that doesn’t want to see it around.
“I think preserving media means preserving history and culture, and that there’s a lot of important stories that aren’t told anymore because we don’t have the means,” Hoover said.