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BBC One 'Balloon' idents

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The balloon over Cley next the Sea
The balloon over Cley next the Sea

The BBC One Balloon idents were a series of idents (station identifications) used on the British TV channel BBC One from 4 October 1997 to 29 March 2002. The balloon theme replaced the computer-generated spinning globe that had been used as the main ident on the channel since 1991.[1] It launched on the same day as a BBC-wide rebrand, and thus the new idents also carried the new BBC logo. The channel's name also changed from BBC1 to BBC One. This was the last ident set used by the channel when it fully closes down; the last proper closedown took place in the early hours of 9 November 1997. Starting the following day, BBC News 24 would broadcast on BBC One during closedown, which continues today.

The hot air balloon featured in the idents was filmed on location and also added to scenes by computer generation. The balloon was built by Cameron Balloons in 1997 and made its first flight that year, flying from the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta.[2] It made its final flight in August 2002, also at the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, and was subsequently retired and placed into storage. The balloon's flight certificate from the Civil Aviation Authority[3] expired on 17 July 2003.


As part of a large relaunch of the BBC's corporate logo and the ident packages of BBC One and BBC Two, these new idents replaced the old virtual globe ident. London-based design agency Lambie-Nairn proposed new idents showcasing the balloons with the familiar globe design that would serve as "a visual metaphor underpinning the core thought: BBC One – bringing the whole world to every corner of the Nation."[4]

The balloon idents were designed by Lambie-Nairn and the balloon was made in Bristol by Cameron Balloons. [5] Its aircraft registration was "G-IBBC".[6]

Components of idents

The idents featured a predominantly red balloon emblazoned with an orange world map and white clouds floating over various scenes of the British landscape. These colors were chosen because a balloon mimicking a traditional map's blue oceans and green land would have been more difficult to see against the natural scenery. The size of the balloon was originally proposed to be 100 ft. but was reduced to 60 ft. upon construction.

The idents featured a soundtrack of ambient music, with livelier versions being used for more industrial or recreational settings. The soundtrack was composed by English musician Phil Sawyer.[7] This score made these idents the first regular BBC One idents to use music. The new BBC logo, along with the channel name 'ONE' immediately to its right, was overlaid at the bottom of the screen. The new logo design was an attempt to unify all the BBC's services and brands under a single logo design, with the idents expressing the BBC's desire to "[reach] out to all corners of the land."[4] From October 1998, the idents were shown on widescreen. The '888' tag was also phased out in July 1999, to be replaced with 'Subtitles' following the uptake in digital television and the increased use of the new BBC Text service and the URL was added above the logo soon after.[4][8][9]

The new-look also featured a clock, which used the same software and layout as before, and utilized the balloon canvas as the background. The clock was also retained following the change to widescreen. However, the software was changed so that the minute hand only moved once a minute, rather than every second as it had previously.[4][9][10]

Promotions and static captions both featured text and logos centered for widescreen use, with the BBC One logo at the bottom of the screen and a color palette of mainly oranges and reds. However, colors varied according to theme and programme. The use of static captions was reduced slightly but remained a key part of continuity links.[11][12]

Original locations

The original sequences were filmed over six weeks in June and July 1997 at different locations around the United Kingdom. From these locations, forty-seven different 35-second films were produced featuring the balloon floating serenely over British landscapes.[4][9] Much of the photography was from a helicopter at heights of up to 3,500 ft. One noticeable and intentional aspect about the original balloon films was that none of the sequences featured people or any distinct human activity.[4] The locations were:

Later additions

A year after launch in 1998, several more idents were created and added to the collection. The main difference between these new additions and the originals was that people were now included in some of the sequences.[4][9] However, the balloon itself was inserted digitally by computer on to pre-filmed footage[4] and did not actually fly over the following locations:

Note: places marked with * were used in short "stings" between programs.

In 2000, the BBC wanted the balloon idents to become more inclusive, so they introduced 'lifestyle' idents. These featured skateboarders, a busy market scene and a carnival, all of which featured the balloon digitally flying past in the background. A bungee jumper was also filmed jumping out of the balloon.[4][9]

Special idents

There were also many special idents made for new programs, sporting events and, most notably, the Christmas holiday. These included:


Title Airdate Description
12 Days of Christmas 24 December 1997 A series of idents depicting verses of  The 12 Days of Christmas, such as a "maid a-milking", some lords "leaping" by bouncing on space hoppers, an acrobat twirling two gold rings, and a "partridge in a pear tree". Other verses (e.g. "two turtle doves") were also depicted in stings and promotional trailers. The balloon did not appear in the set.
Bauble 24 December 1998 A giant red bauble swings from side to side against a snowy white background. There are variations that also include penguins and reindeer. As with the previous year, the balloon did not appear in the set.
Father Christmas 24 December 1999 The balloon flies in the night sky alongside a holographic Father Christmas ringing a bell.
Christmas Balloon 22 December 2000 Father Christmas pilots the balloon, delivering presents by dropping them via parachutes.
Christmas Toys 21 December 2001 Three toys float around on balloons in a cozy room while the balloon flies outside. Produced by Aardman Animations, the three toys used were all connected to BBC One's Christmas Day schedule in 2001. The ident included a dog (the terrestrial premiere of Toy Story), a dinosaur (the dramatic epic The Lost World), and a Reliant Robin van (the comeback of Only Fools and Horses after it had last aired in 1996).


Title Airdate Description
Ben Elton 16 April - 4 June 1998 A series of eight parody idents promoting Ben Elton's television series in 1998. The series included the balloon being deflated by a 2-shaped blade (from BBC Two's Blade ident), and the balloon being chased by a "police" balloon.
1999 Eclipse 1999 The balloon flies in front of the sun, eclipsing it.
Walking with Dinosaurs 1999 The balloon flies over a Polacanthus wandering across a desert wasteland. This was to promote the debut of Walking with Dinosaurs.
Millennium Dome 31 December 1999 The balloon flies over the Millennium Dome at night, lighting up in time to the music. It was used to introduce coverage of the new Millennium celebrations.
Euro 2000 8 June - 2 July 2000 The balloon flies over a football stadium, where a goalkeeper lets a goal pass his net. The first announcement was an apology about a power outage in 2000.
Sydney Olympics 2000 25 August 2000 The balloon flies over the Sydney Opera House while an athlete shines a flaming torch in its direction.
Blue Planet 2001 The balloon is seen from underwater from a shark-infested sea in order to promote the debut of The Blue Planet.
Walking with Beasts 8 November 2001 The balloon flies over a herd of woolly mammoths migrating in the Ice Age. This was to promote the show Walking with Beasts.



On 1 November 2000, Lorraine Heggessey became controller of BBC One and immediately ordered a review of the channel's branding. In her opinion, the balloon was "slow and distant." On 29 March 2002, after much speculation, the balloon idents were replaced as the icon of BBC One with a set of idents with the theme of Rhythm & Movement, making it the final motif of the globe logo for the channel after 39 years. English 12 was the final ident aired before BBC News 24 at 2.15 am in the early hours of 29 March 2002 on the England version of BBC One. Northern Ireland had a 35-second tribute of the idents before signing off.[4][9]

The balloon itself last took to the skies in the summer of 2002 when it took part in the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta. It is now in the care of the Sussex-based Balloon Preservation Group.[15]


The idents were well-received by viewers and have a loyal fan base to this day.

BBC America

The balloon idents were also shown on BBC America between 1999 and 2003 and lasted several months after they had been retired by BBC One. Unlike BBC One, BBC America employed shorter, snappier cuts of various balloon sequences with slight changes to the familiar musical score.[16]

See also


  1. ^ "The BBC logo story". BBC. 2013. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
  2. ^ "Last flight for BBC balloon". BBC News. 9 August 2002. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
  3. ^ "G-INFO Search Results". Civil Aviation Authority. 6 March 2013. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "BBC One 1997". TV Room. Archived from the original on 4 February 2013. Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  5. ^ Air-Britain. "Aviation photographs of Registration: G-IBBC :". Retrieved 7 June 2021.
  6. ^ Air-Britain. "Aviation photographs of Registration: G-IBBC :". Retrieved 7 June 2021.
  7. ^ "Phil Sawyer – Accorder Music". Retrieved 24 January 2021.
  8. ^ "BBC One Idents History". BBC Press Office. Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Luxton, Simon. "1997 Ident". TVARK. Archived from the original on 4 March 2012. Retrieved 20 September 2011. Contains videos of the idents and presentation package
  10. ^ "BBC One 1997 Regions". TV Room. Archived from the original on 15 July 2012. Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  11. ^ Luxton, Simon. "1997 Continuity". TVARK. Archived from the original on 5 May 2012. Retrieved 20 September 2011. Contains videos of continuity.
  12. ^ "BBC One 1997 Promotions 2". TV Room. Archived from the original on 17 July 2012.
  13. ^ Luxton, Simon. "BBC1 Spoof Idents". TVARK. Archived from the original on 19 February 2012. Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  14. ^ "BBC One 1997 Special". TV Room. Archived from the original on 15 July 2012. Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  15. ^ "Balloon record abandoned". BBC News. 11 August 2002. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
  16. ^ Ramsay, Greg. "BBC America". TVARK. Archived from the original on 7 November 2011. Retrieved 20 September 2011.

External links

Preceded by BBC television idents
4 October 1997 – 29 March 2002
Succeeded by
This page was last edited on 20 November 2021, at 14:02
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