The Corporation at Christmas – BBC2 

9 March 2008

BBC Two Christmas ident

Simon Luxton reviews BBC2 Christmas idents since 2002.

Since 2001 the second channel had been operating under a particularly restrictive branding scheme, featuring a series of computer-generated white 2s performing in an enclosed world of yellow. The lack of variation between symbols made it increasingly difficult to think of new ideas for Christmas idents each year and may well have been a deciding factor in “not bothering” in 2004 and 2006.

Hints as to this recycling policy were to come in 2002 when, much to the shock of pres fans tuning in, the previous year’s “Christmas Tree” ident was seen in the first festive junction that year. But those fearing that BBC2 would make history were reassured when later that evening, a new seasonal ident “Snowman” first appeared. As the title suggests, the 2 made a snowman when a blizzard hit his enclosed yellow surroundings – but the snowman was a self-portrait, and to finish his work of art our robot friend provides it with a couple of twigs for arms.

The new ident for 2003, however, was perhaps the least festive – the 2 encased in a block of ice which slid around the screen. At least BBC2 bothered to commission a new Christmas ident, unlike BBC1. As with Snowman, occasionally used outside Christmas when severe wintry weather struck, the ambiguous look of Ice Cube led to it being occasionally brought back during particularly hot days in the summer months.

Where BBC1 had played Scrooge in 2003, 2004 was BBC2’s turn. In correspondence I exchanged at the time with BBC2’s controller, Roly Keating, he confirmed what had been speculated on certain TV presentation forums that there would indeed be no Christmas 2004 ident on his channel. Mr Keating explained he thought the production costs would be better invested into BBC2’s Christmas programmes that year. An admirable sentiment perhaps, but also the first public admission that cost would now be a determining factor for Christmas idents. Strangely, BBC2 decided to put its web address on the returning seasonal symbols, a policy which had been discontinued for the regular ones earlier in the year.

The final Christmas ident of BBC2’s yellow robots era, in 2005, was seen by many as superior to any other ident BBC2 had used since late 2001. The robot 2 was replaced by a 2-shaped light sculpture with shooting stars and beams which sometimes developed a mind of their own. The very striking new symbol was designed by Keith Haynes and Maylin Goldie and put together at production house Condor. Since this ident was well-received, pres fans didn’t seem to mind so much when it was re-used in Christmas 2006, many thinking this was a trade-off for the impending rebrand of BBC2 coming in the new year. Others felt the new look was no excuse for BBC2 not to have bothered, after all there had been a new ident for Christmas 1990, also less than two months before the channel was also due to unveil a major facelift.

BBC2 finally ditched the yellow “personality 2s” on 13 February 2007 and in their place beckoned a new era for the 2, which became a “window on the world”. For Christmas, this saw a return to the sort of avant-garde festive idents we had not seen since before 2001.

The two sequences, set in a surreal animated Christmas card-style world featured a mischievous “Magic Sprite” that would run amok in the origami sculpture world around him. Each sequence ended with a 2-shaped window enveloping the screen, with punched-out snowflakes detaching and scattering themselves around the famous numeral. BBC Northern Ireland attempted to customise the new ident by dropping the aqua “BBC TWO” badge and instead placing large “Northern Ireland” text underneath the 2. However, just two days in the usual badge was back.

Since the introduction of the “circles on BBC1, BBC2 has been ending its festive presentation a day later than its sister channel, whereas previously the end dates for both channels were standardised. This meant BBC2 stayed in Christmas mode on New Year’s Day. There’s every chance “Magic Forest” and “Magic Sprite” will be back on our screens in December 2008, but we’ve a whole year to get through before then.

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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