Back in the mid-90s, Ireland had all of two (yes, two) TV stations: RTÉ 1 and Network 2. The former was the more conservative station, broadcasting the news and current affairs programmes, whereas the latter was more geared towards light entertainment and the younger crowd.
For years, they had this ident that beggars belief.
Then again, it was from the late 80s when Ireland was even more broke than it is now.
In 1995, a new station identity was created (info on the creators can be found here) that was refreshingly simple in its execution. Taking the elementary colours from the previous identity and transforming them into the four elements of water, earth, fire and air (see, I got the cycle right), the idents were a substantial improvement over what went before. To top off the animation, there is also very distinctive sounds that (in my humble opinion) are comparable to the famous THX Deep Note.
Unfortunately, these only lasted for two years (1995-1997) but despite being 18 years old, they manage to hold up extremely well. They would not look very out of place if they were broadcast today.
The video below appeared on my tumblr dashboard the other day and if you remember my post from the other week, you’ll know that there was no way I could ignore it. It’s a (very complete) compilation of just about every form of ident that the UK TV network Channel 4 used for the first 20 years of its existence. At just under half an hour, it isn’t short, but it is somewhat magical to see how animation can form the basis for a strong brand identity and reinforce it hundreds of times a day.
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.
They are, in fact, the short little segments normally broadcast before the start of a TV show to remind the viewer what station they are watching. A practice that has sadly disappeared over the years here in the US where it has been deemed necessary to ensare the viewer in the next show before the current on has even finished! Thankfully, full idents are still very much alive in Europe and The TV Room has a full collection with videos that can get pretty additive.
Idents can also take the form of identifying the studio or producer of a show or film. Perhaps the most famous in this regard is Luxo Jr. who appears at the beginning and end of every single Pixar film.
It got me thinking though. These extremely short segments almost always feature animation of some sort. OK, so it’s normally not the kind of animation that we’re all used to, with slapstick humour and cookie characters, but it’s still animation in some form. There might not be a lot to say about them, but they do have a habit of working their way into the public’s consciousness, which is of course, not surprising seeing as that is what they are meant to do.
There’s not much of a point to this post except that idents have a very specific responsibility in presenting and reminding the viewer of the station’s identity and I think it’s worth pointing out that a lot have historically relied on animation to do the heavy lifting. Why this is so? Who knows, but I’m willing to bet that the ability of animation to defy the ageing process is as good a reason as any.
As a bonus, check out this fully-animated ident for London Weekend Television from the 80s