The BBC One Balloon idents were a series of idents used on BBC One from 4 October 1997 to 29 March 2002. The balloon theme replaced the computer generated spinning globe which had been used as the main ident on the channel since 1991. 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.
The hot air balloon featured in the idents was filmed on location and also added to scenes by computer generation. It was built by Cameron Balloons in 1997, and made its first flight that year, flying from the Bristol Balloon Fiesta. It made its final flight in August 2002 before being placed into storage. The balloon's flight certificate from the Civil Aviation Authority expired on 17 July 2003.
As part of a large relaunch of the BBC's corporate logo and the ident packages of BBC's One and Two, these new idents were used to replace the old virtual globe. As a result of the rebrand, which saw the channel name lose all personality, it was proposed by the design agency Lambie-Nairn that the personality be added a different way, namely by making the globe interact in the country and the peoples lives.
The idea was designed and conceptualised by the Lambie-Nairn design agency in London, with the balloon itself made in Bristol by Cameron Balloons Ltd: its aircraft registration was "G-IBBC".
The look itself featured a predominantly red balloon, with the map of the world picked out in orange with white clouds on top, floating over various scenes of the British landscape. The colours were chosen because a blue balloon with a green map would have been more difficult to see against the land and sea. The size of the balloon was originally proposed to be 100 ft, but was reduced to 60 ft when it was made. The idents featured a soundtrack of ambient music, with more lively versions being used for more industrial or recreational settings. This made them the first regular BBC One idents to actually use music. The new BBC logo, along with the channel name 'ONE' immediately to the right of it, was overlaid at the bottom of the screen. The new logo design was an attempt to unify all of the BBC's services and brands under a single logo design, with personality expressed through the idents themselves. The idents were, from October 1998, shown in Widescreen, and the bbc.co.uk URL was added above the logo soon after.
The new look also featured a clock, which used the same software and layout as before, and used 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, instead of moving every second as previous, only moved once a minute.
Promotions and static captions both featured text and logos centred for Widescreen use, with the BBC One logo at the bottom of the screen and a colour palette of mainly oranges and reds, however colours varied to theme and programme. The use of static captions was reduced slightly, but still remained a key part of continuity links.
The original sequences were filmed over six weeks in June and July 1997 at eleven locations around the United Kingdom. From these eleven locations, forty-seven different 35-second films were produced featuring the balloon floating serenely over British landscapes. 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. The locations were:Eilean Donan Castle, Scottish Highlands
Forth Rail Bridge, Edinburgh
Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland
Snowdonia National Park, Wales
Cardiff City Hall, South Wales
South Downs (Near Arundel), West Sussex
Port of Felixstowe, Suffolk
Cley next the Sea, Norfolk
Swinside Stone Circle, Cumbria
A year after launch in 1998, several more idents were created and added to the collection. The main differences between these new additions and the originals, were that people were now included in the sequences. However, the balloon itself was inserted digitally by computer on to pre-filmed locations and did not actually fly over the following locations:Angel of the North
St Michael's Mount
Second Severn Crossing
The Needles, Isle of Wight
Dunluce Castle, Northern Ireland
Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, Glasgow
In 2000, the BBC wanted the balloon idents to become more inclusive, so they introduced the 'lifestyle' idents. These featured skateboarders, a busy market scene, a bungee jumper and a carnival, all of which featured the balloon flying past in the background.
There were also many special idents made for new programmes, sporting events or, most notably, the Christmas holiday. These included:
In 2001, 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" and so, in 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.
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 wrapped up and held in a museum by a preservation society.
The idents were well received by viewers and hold a loyal fan base even up to this day.
The balloon idents were also shown on BBC America between 1999 and 2003, and lasted several months after it 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.