From the Audiovisual Identity Database, the motion graphics museum


MTV (which stands for Music Television) is a American television cable channel that was launched on August 1, 1981.

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One Small Step (August 1, 1981-May 14, 1984)


Visuals: There are some footage of Apollo 11 launching into space and Neil Armstrong stepping out, leading to images of Neil Armstrong putting up a flag. The flag has the MTV logo (a big blocky "M" with a scribble "TV" next to it, and "MUSIC TELEVISION" underneath) and the logo on the flag changes different colors.

Trivia: This is essentially a truncated version of MTV's first sign-on sequence from August 1, 1981; the main difference, aside from it being shorter, is the absence of a voiceover.

Variant: A much shorter version exists.

Technique: A mix of live-action footage and photomontage by Perpetual Motion Pictures (now Buzzco Associates).

Audio: A rocket launching sound, followed by beeping and a rock theme composed by Jonathan Elias.

Audio Variants:

  • A prototype version of this ID played Neil Armstrong's "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" quote before the rock theme. This was never used on air due to MTV needing permission to use the quote.
  • When this first aired during MTV's launch on August 1, 1981, John Lack (executive vice-president of Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment) said "Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll" before the rock theme.
  • The short version uses a different synth theme.

Legacy: This is a favorite of many, as it was the very first ident shown on MTV.

M-T Room (August 1, 1981-1987)


Visuals: In a black and white room, a television set with the MTV logo in it zooms out from the screen a few times to the music; each time it stops, a cartoon explosion effect occurs. After the fourth time which it happens only this time the "TV" letters stay there and then the TV transforms into the "M" as it rotates toward the camera. The logo then fully forms, the background turning completely black when it does.

Technique: 2D animation against a live-action background. Done by Colossal Pictures.

Audio: A laidback rock jingle that concludes with a guitar sting once the logo is done.

Swick (August 1, 1981-1987)


Visuals: There is the MTV logo on a wooden platform atop a green hill on a dark blue gradient background as the logo changes patterns in time with the music.

Technique: A mix of photomontage and 2D animation by Broadcast Arts.

Audio: The theme from the "One Small Step" ID.

Jackson Pollack (August 1, 1981-1987)


Visuals: On a white background, a man shown from below paints the word "TV" in yellow on the screen. He then adds some yellow flourishes and pours blue paint to form an "M", which obscures him, and "MUSIC TELEVISION" appears below the MTV logo.

Technique: Claymation by Broadcast Arts.

Audio: Painting sounds.

Bubblegum (August 1, 1981-1987)


Visuals: A girl on a street with a blank MTV logo on it licks her finger, and spits out some gum. Then, the girl screams and runs away from a coming car. Then, a man steps on the gum and forms "TV" on the logo, and as the camera pans up, the litter pushes down the "MUSIC TELEVISION" text.

Technique: Claymation by Broadcast Arts.

Audio: A licking sound, followed by a bunch of sound effects.

Electric Wet (August 12, 1981-1987)


Visuals: Amongst some thunder clouds, there is a giant metallic MTV logo slowly rising from a pool of water. As it does so, thunderbolts strike the logo. When it rises to stationary position, a bolt wipes across below it to reveal "MUSIC TELEVISION" in yellow.

Technique: A mix of live-action and 2D by Broadcast Arts.

Audio: A hard rock jingle and various thunder claps.

Pre-Christmas Card (December 18, 1981-1987)


Visuals: There is the MTV logo (with the "M" in green and "TV" in a candy cane pattern) buried in snow. Then two angels holding guitars fly into the scene, with one of them plugging a cord into the logo, which turns into an amplifier and flashes. Another angel with a drum set flies down as they continue playing.

Technique: 2D animation by Perpetual Motion Pictures (now Buzzco Associates).

Audio: An instrumental version of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" that turns into a rock rendition when the angels plug in their guitars.

Availability: Only shown during Christmastime between 1981 and 1987.

Post-Christmas Card (December 26, 1981-1987)


Visuals: It begins with "Pre-Christmas Card", starting at the angels plugging a cord into the logo. The logo shakes and an explosion happens, revealing a yellow background and the MTV logo wearing a party hat and party blower, which it blows.

Technique: 2D animation by Perpetual Motion Pictures (now Buzzco Associates).

Audio: A rock-sounding instrumental version of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" that is followed by rumbling and and some New Year noises, followed by a party blower sound.

Availability: Only shown on the days leaping up to New Year's Day.

Blue and Green (1981-1986)


Visuals: Against a space-like backdrop, a yellow "M" flies to the center and flashes. Just then, a blue "TV" appears near it that animates in sync to the music, then suddenly turns green and enlarges. It turns back to normal as the orange words "MUSIC TELEVISION" fly in and position below the logo with a flash.

Technique: 2D animation.

Audio: A jamming rock tune.

Cats in a Cemetery (1981-1987)


Visuals: On a blue background, there is a blank square tombstone surrounded by grass. Seven cats with red, yellow, and pink stripes jump over the tombstone. An eighth cat collides with the tombstone and they merge into an MTV logo.

Technique: 2D animation by Broadcast Arts.

Audio: A bunch of cats meowing with wind blowing, and a bashful trumpet sound at the end.

Cuckoo Clock (1981-1986)


Visuals: A cuckoo clock is shown in someone's bedroom ticking away until a cartoon bird wearing a hat, boots, and sunglasses pops out and plays a riff on the guitar. He goes back in where a pink and green MTV logo is shown in place of the door.

Technique: Claymation by Broadcast Arts.

Audio: The clock ticking, followed by the bird playing the guitar. During this, a male announcer says "All day, all night, the music never stops. MTV: Music Television."

Ducks & Bunnies (1981-1987)


Visuals: Over a magenta background, there are several yellow ducks and blue bunnies that briefly flash into the MTV logo. The logo then appears through a burst of flame and multiple white slashes. The background changes to red as the logo is filled with splashing water, has white wings and several geometrical shapes appear near it. Finally, the background switches to purple as an outline of the logo appears with laser zaps hitting it, turning it blue and red as various microsopic creatures appear behind it.

Technique: 2D animation by Colossal Pictures.

Audio: Same as "Blue and Green".

Elephant (1981-1987)


Visuals: On a field background, there is a pink elephant trumpeting. It sucks some yellow flowers in front of it with its trunk, revealing the words "MUSIC TELEVISION", and blows its trunk, making the letters "TV" in yellow with green spots come out as it morphs into the "M", completing the MTV logo.

Technique: Claymation by Broadcast Arts.

Audio: A stock elephant trumpet with ambient nature sounds in the background.

M Rocks (1981-1987)


Visuals: A man chips a triangle into a chiseled square on a mountain using what appears to be a golf club. He gets off the square and chips a hole at its bottom, making an "M". He puts the letters "TV" on the "M", then falls off the mountain, revealing "MUSIC TELEVISION" behind some rocks.

Technique: Claymation by Broadcast Arts.

Audio: The man chiseling into the M, and a snatch sound when he gets down the M and puts the letters on it, then the man yelling and a crash.

Stereo History (1981-1987)


Visuals: A history lesson on stereo audio, from stereoscopy to grammophones to the more modern stereo television. A gray and red MTV logo then appears on a dark blue background.

Technique: Cut-out animation.

Audio: An announcer says "First, there was stereo viewing. And, there was stereo recording. And now, stereo TV! MTV: Music Television." Each time the announcer mentions the types of audio, the characters are heard yelling "WOW!"


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