Revisit these awesome old-school network bumpers used before commercial breaks
After these messages - doot, duh-doot doot doot - we'll be right back!
Anyone who ever recorded their favorite shows with a VCR knows the critical role commercial bumpers played for TV fans back in the 1980s. It was your visual cue to fast-forward, and it was particularly key when networks like ABC or CBS would add a bumper before returning to your regularly scheduled programming. That's not what they were intended for, of course, but it's likely why many of them might be burned into the back of the brain, ready to spring back to memory and stick in your head for the rest of the day.
Although commercial bumpers — which usually included a short animation that tied in the network's logo — started being used less and less by the 1980s, they came back strong when the Federal Communications Commission issued a mandate requiring networks to make a clear distinction between TV shows and advertisements when airing children's shows. That's why Saturday morning cartoon fans still find themselves singing old songs like Nickelodeon's theme song or ABC's "After these messages… we'll be right back!"
If you watched TV in the 1970s and on through the 1990s, we bet you're in for a trip down memory lane with some of these awesome old-school commercial bumpers.
ABC had a slew of memorable commercial bumpers, starting in the 1970s where the short clips had a strong floral theme. The flower power seemed to subside when notable animator Rick Reinert took over in the 1980s, bringing in rainbows and lasers. See if you can remember any of the ones collected in this montage clip.
2. ABC Saturday morning cartoons
Perhaps the most infectious commercial bumper ever created was for ABC's Saturday Morning Cartoon lineups in the late 1980s, which mostly featured the hijinx of Claymation characters, like a fire hydrant that hoses down an unsuspecting dog or a cowboy bursting out of a brick wall.
In the late 1970s, NBC's commercial bumpers were themed around the network's peacock logo. Some showed animated peacocks sneezing away colorful feather, others showed gymnasts tumbling through a difficult maneuver, proclaimed "Proud as a Peacock," which continued into the 1980s. We think most memorable is the "Come on Home" series from the mid-1980s, but you may also remember later bumpers that showed NBC stars (including Casey Kasem and ALF!) announcing commercial breaks.
Just as NBC played into their peacock logo, CBS did the same with their classic eye-shaped logo. Taglines included “Here at CBS, you’re looking good!” In the 1980s, they brought in short animations featuring a blimp, a helicopter, a small plane and eventually a spaceship, leading to the updated slogan “Reach for the stars tonight!” By the 1990s, the tagline became the slightly aggressive, “In your eye!” chanted at viewers after clips from the show you were watching or a montage of CBS shows. The 1990s also introduced Fido Dido to CBS Saturday morning cartoon viewers through a series of bumpers that ran through 1995. That's roughly when Felix the Cat started appearing in CBS bumpers, from 1994-1997. Arguably the catchiest bumpers included the theme “I am everyday people,” leveraging the melody from Sly and the Family Stone’s hit “Everyday People.”
For its first six years, the network we now know simply as Fox was called Fox Broadcasting Company, with an FBC logo rarely seen these days. Founded in 1986, Fox had a lot of catching up to do with other major networks, and this included some creative commercial bumpers. Most memorably perhaps is the character Wilby Baxter, an animated little kid whose off-camera mom calls, "Wilby!" to which some minor tragedy befalls the cartoon character, after which he says in a defeated tone, "Right back."
But we love this crazy animated fox character shown in the video below perhaps best, animated by Mike Kazaleh.
6. The Disney Channel
Although The Disney Channel has historically been commercial-free (apart from advertising their own programs), we couldn't resist revisiting their old-school identity bumpers. Disney obviously has a ton of animated characters to pull from, but in the 1980s, there were several bumpers made to look like they came from Mickey's perspective. They showed only Mickey's gloved hands, often piecing together some craft project that ultimately became the Disney logo. Our favorite from this montage is where Mickey's making pancakes.
Anybody remember the good old days when Nickelodeon was commercial-free? Believe it or not, for the first five years Nickelodeon was on air, there was no advertising to interrupt their programming. This changed in 1984, and the bumpers the network created to air before commercial breaks from that point on will likely cause a lot of '80s and '90s kids to smile, remembering humming along to "Nick, nuh-nick, nick, nuh-nick nick nick, Nickelodeon."
When MTV kicked off in 1981, the original bumper they aired featuring the moon landing remains their most iconic, perhaps because the moon man is still used as the statuette for their MTV Music Awards. Later on, they recruited really awesome animators like Joe Murray (Rocko's Modern Life creator) and Danny Antonucci (Ed, Edd n Eddy creator) to do jarring reels where characters get their teeth pulled out and replaced with an MTV grill or a desperate man being run-down by rolling records.