Children’s BBC Animated Idents from the 1990s

I love animated idents; they’re a hidden gem of animation as branding that has long disappeared from American TV screens but continues to enjoy a prominent place in Irish and British programming. Anyway, Children’s BBC was the afternoon block of programming for kids on the two main BBC channels before the division was renamed CBBC sometime in the late 90s. Below is a compilation of some of the animate idents the block had to differentiate the programming from the rest of the day’s programming.


Is The BBC Olympics Ad A Rip-Off?

To use the tired old quote, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. However the line where it turns from imitation to blatant plagiarism is a blurry one that is often whipped out when two pieces of content appear to be eerily similar.

Witness the latest in the pantheon of “he copied me” accusations. British bank Lloyds TSB ran an ad last year that began the build-up to the Olympic games. It looks like this:

Meanwhile, the BBC has launched the trailer for their coverage of the games, which has some crying foul. Here it is for comparison:

Never mind the fact that both films were created by the same ad agency, does the BBC one rip-off the Lloyds one?

Hardly. There is a similarity to be sure in terms of the look and feel of the spots, but that is only part of the story. Both spots have very different storylines and both have very different messages; the former selling a bank’s social connections, the latter selling an explicit product.

The likely truth is that someone at the BBC like the Lloyds ads and requested the ad agency, Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe Y&R to create something similar.

Both videos should further illustrate that similarity does not necessarily mean stolen content.

“Visual Creator” Sues the BBC for £2m for Copyright Infringement

Images (with apologies) via the UK Daily Mail

Here we go again. This time from the UK, where Michael Mitchell is suing the BBC for copyright infringement over a show called Kerwhizz, which he claims is based on his idea, Bounce Bunch. From the Guardian article:

 Michael Mitchell told the high court on Thursday that he was shocked in 2009 when his daughter noticed that three characters in the CBeebies show Kerwhizz bore “striking similarities” to his own cartoons.

Mitchell suggested that the BBC copied the characters – known in the show as Ninka, Twist and Kit – after they were uploaded to his own personal website in 2004…….

……Mitchell claims the Kerwhizz character “Ninki” was derived from a combination of his two characters Simrita and Jomo, that “Twist” was copied from his character Charlie and that “Kit” is a version of his character Yana. Outside court he told journalists that he had sent the characters to the BBC directly as a proposal package in October 2007, but had been rejected.

So, judging from the two pictures at the top, is there a case for infringement, bearing in mind that it focuses only on the three human characters in Kerwhizz?

The similarities are obvious:

  • they’re human
  • they’re kids
  • wearing brightly coloured spacesuits of some kind
  • wearing headband microphone
  • of multiple ethnicity

The only problem is that these traits can’t be considered under infringement. Why? They’re too ubiquitous and easily conceivable. The closest thing would be the brightly coloured suits but even then giving characters their own coloured clothing is nothing new.

Presuming that the similarities are generic enough to be precluded from the case, the next avenue open to Mitchell is to prove that the BBC used his show as a direct influence for creating Kerwhizz.

Now this is where it gets interesting, because Mitchell sent an unsolicited package that was rejected. As most studios will tell you, they send any unsolicited idea back unopened to eliminate precisely this scenario. The BBC should have been smart enough to do this, so this route can probably be rejected.

That leaves only the fact that Mitchell posted the Bounce Bunch online at some point prior to the launch of Kerwhizz. What form this took is not specified. Was it development art or full animation? Does it make a difference? Probably not. There seems to be enough difference between the shows themselves that Mitchell focuses only on the characters.

The really tricky aspect to this development is whether or not Mitchell can prove conclusively that someone from the BBC in the same department that created Kerwhizz saw or had access to the Bounce Bunch page.

This could be next to impossible to prove and the details are still sealed in court documents so we won’t know for sure until judgement, but I would hazard a guess that Mitchell doesn’t have the substantial proof he needs.

It’s always disheartening when you feel that someone else has copied your design (not idea, remember you can’t copyright those), especially a corporation as large as the BBC, but that does not preclude them from coming up with similar designs, although I would argue that even then, substantial differences exist.

In this particular case, if there really was any chance that the BBC ripped Mitchell off, then a settlement would have been reached by now.

It’s unfortunately just another example of why animators and developers need to be aware of the nature of copyright and what it does and does not cover.

This Video Has 7 Million Views for a Very Good Reason

Fireman Sam is just one of a long, long line of children’s shows featuring respectable members of the community who serve as a role model for kids. I was always more of a Postman Pat kind of kid, but Sam is pretty much the same, except he’s a fireman.

Why does the opening title have over 7,000,000 views? Well, a lot of kids grew up watching Fireman Sam and watching it pretty regularly too. The opening is a connection to the their childhood in more ways than one.

The episodes themselves mean far less than the title for the simple reason that it was consistent across all the episodes. The title signalled that a good time was about to be had and watching it again as an adult brings up all those happy feelings from years ago. With 60 million people living in Britain alone, it’s easy to see how the this video could get to 7 million views just on nostalgia.

Things are no different for today’s shows. In 20 years time there will be plenty of adults out there who go all soft at the theme tune for SpongeBob SquarePants.

There’s a Good Chance You Weren’t Aware of This Documentary on Animation.

There’s no picture for the simple reason that I couldn’t find any! So instead, here’s the theme tune, courtesy of the composer, Mark Pringle.

[audio:|titles=BBC Stay Tooned Theme]

It was called Tooned In and I watched this series when it was originally broadcast way back in the day on the BBC. It was a good thing I did because it would seem that with all the usual copyright nonsense that seems to lie around these kind of shows like a pair of concrete shoes, the series will never see the light of day again. It hasn’t been re-run at any point and even the internet is turning up a blank. It would appear that ripping a VHS tape takes a bit more work than a DVD.

Which is a tremendous shame because I certainly remember, as do others on the internet, that it was a fantastic little retrospective show that was broadcast on Saturday evenings. I particularly remember the Hanna-Barbera episode but there were others on Tom and Jerry, Tex Avery, Betty Boop and of course, the Looney Tunes.

If you think about it, the fact that the show even exists is spectacular. Now, granted, it was produced by a public broadcaster with a remit and all that, but I cannot imagine one of the major TV networks or even one of the cable networks over here in the States deciding to produce a documentary series on animation, and broadcast it during primetime on a Saturday evening!

Sadly, extremely little info seems to exist out there so it is a shame that I cannot share more with you on this apparently great show.


Classic Children’s Stop-motion Animation: Postman Pat Goes Sledging

As a kid, perhaps my favourite TV show was Postman Pat, the classic, stop-motion series about a British postman with the catchy theme tune and his adventures in Greendale. I was reminded of it today because we got some snow here in Baltimore and the fact that one of my favourite episodes of Postman Pat revolves around snow.

The gist of it is that there’s been a heavy snow in Greendale and as a result, Pat’s round is a bit different than usual, involving snow fights, digging out ploughs and delivering straw to sheep.

I mention this episode not only because it is a wonderful piece of stop-motion animation, it also displays some great slapstick moments. The two I mention come later in the episode and revolve around Pat and Alf Thompson delivering supplies to a snowed-in farm high on a hill.

The journey up is pretty straight-forward, but the journey down is anything but. Suffice to say, things do not go as planned when they hit a bump which knocks them flying. Now, as an adult, you might think, “that’s not very funny”, but as a kid, I thought it was absolutely hilarious. The way they sail through the air and then tumble in the snow is superb, and when you think it was all done in stop-motion, it becomes all the more amazing.

At the end of the run, they slide straight into the barn, complete with a crashing noise that suggests another comedic catastrophe, until both characters walk out as if nothing had happened.

The series has remained popular over the last 25 years and it’s not hard to see why. It may not be educational in the contemporary fashion, but it is extremely entertaining, even more so if you’re in the target demographic. It’s what I grew up with, so I might be seeing things through some rose-tinted glasses, but you cannot deny the skill inherent in the animation. The episode is embedded below for you to watch (14 mins. total) in all it’s YouTube glory.