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The balloon over Cley next the Sea

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.[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 to be used at closedown; their last closedown took place on 8 November 1997; starting the following day, BBC News 24 would broadcast on BBC One in the late night hours.

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.[2] It made its final flight in August 2002 before being 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'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.[4]

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".

Components of lookEdit

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 URL was added above the logo soon after.[4][5][6]

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 it had previously, only moved once a minute.[4][6][7]

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 according to theme and programme. The use of static captions was reduced slightly, but still remained a key part of continuity links.[8][9]

Original locationsEdit

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.[4][6] 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 additionsEdit

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 the sequences.[4][6] However, the balloon itself was inserted digitally by computer on to pre-filmed locations[4] and did not actually fly over the following locations:

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.[4][6]

Special identsEdit

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

Title Air date 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.
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.
Bauble 24 December 1998 A giant red bauble swings from side to side against a white snowy background. There are variations that also include penguins and reindeer. As with the previous year, the balloon did not appear in the set.
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.
Father Christmas 24 December 1999 The balloon flies in the night sky, alongside a holographic Father Christmas ringing a bell.
Millennium Dome 31 December 1999 The balloon flies over the Millennium Dome at night, with the balloon lighting up in time to the music. It was used to introduce coverage of the new Millennium celebrations.
Euro 2000 8 June 2000 The balloon flies over a football stadium, where a goalkeeper lets a goal pass his net. The first announcement was an apology about the power cut 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.
Christmas Balloon 22 December 2000 Father Christmas pilots the balloon, delivering presents by dropping them from parachutes from the balloon.
The Blue Planet 2001 The balloon is seen from underwater from a shark-infested sea.
Walking with Beasts 8 November 2001 The balloon flies over a herd of woolly mammoths migrating in the Ice Age.
Christmas Toys 21 December 2001 Three toys float around on balloons in a cosy 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, so there was 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).



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. English 12 was the final ident aired before BBC News 24 at 2.15am in the early hours of 29 March 2002. [4][6]

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.[12]


The idents were well received by viewers and hold a loyal fan base even up to this day.

BBC AmericaEdit

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.[13]

See alsoEdit


  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 "BBC One 1997". TV Room. Archived from the original on 4 February 2013. Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  5. ^ "BBC One Idents History". BBC Press Office. Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  6. ^ 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
  7. ^ "BBC One 1997 Regions". TV Room. Archived from the original on 15 July 2012. Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  8. ^ Luxton, Simon. "1997 Continuity". TVARK. Archived from the original on 5 May 2012. Retrieved 20 September 2011. Contains videos of continuity.
  9. ^ "BBC One 1997 Promotions 2". TV Room. Archived from the original on 17 July 2012.
  10. ^ Luxton, Simon. "BBC1 Spoof Idents". TVARK. Archived from the original on 19 February 2012. Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  11. ^ "BBC One 1997 Special". TV Room. Archived from the original on 15 July 2012. Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  12. ^ "Balloon record abandoned". BBC News. 11 August 2002. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
  13. ^ Ramsay, Greg. "BBC America". TVARK. Archived from the original on 7 November 2011. Retrieved 20 September 2011.

External linksEdit