In the growing storm of original content sweeping across the television landscape, it’s easy to forget that one of the biggest movie producers in the business is neither Netflix nor HBO, but a cable network owned by a greeting card company. Between its flagship and Movies & Mysteries channels, Hallmark has already produced more than 70 films in 2016, and shows no signs of slowing.

Which made it especially challenging when it came time, earlier this year, to revamp the graphics package for Hallmark Hall of Fame, the network’s 65-year-old anthology series whose library of original films ranges from adaptations of Shakespeare plays to the beloved Glenn Close vehicle Sarah, Plain and Tall.

“With so many movies being produced annually, the first question we asked was, ‘what makes a Hall of Fame movie different from a Hallmark Channel or a Hallmark Movies & Mysteries movie?’” said Elaine Cantwell, Chief Creative Officer at Broadway Video, which partnered with Hallmark Channel’s Crown Media Family Networks to design the Hall of Fame package. “The analogy that seemed to resonate is that of a special vintage from a vineyard known for great wine. Every now and then a certain vintage will rise to the top because of the conditions that year, or because of the varietal of grape. That makes it a very special vintage. Or, in the case of Hallmark movies, it makes it a Hall of Fame movie. It is important to visualize that quality, because it is a little mysterious. You can’t really put your finger on why something is extra special. you just know it. Yes we understand that intellectually, but what does that mean?”

Over Hall of Fame‘s illustrious history, its movies have won 80 Emmys and 11 Peabody Awards during a run that has seen the series live on all three of the Holy Trilogy of broadcast giants: NBC, CBS and most recently, ABC.

In 2014, the series was moved to the Hallmark Channel, where its prolific blend of mostly holiday-themed titles have been airing ever since. Shortly after the transition, the Hall of Fame 65th anniversary came about, offering the perfect opportunity for Crown Media “to re-energize Hall of Fame,” said Susanne McAvoy, EVP of marketing, creative and communications for Hallmark’s production arm, Crown Media Family Networks.

Even on its home channel, the show “had lost its luster,” she continued, and airings of the program “weren’t getting the interest… A lot of the younger generation never experienced Sunday night sitting in front of the TV watching a Hall of Fame-branded experience.”

To celebrate 65 years, which makes it TV’s longest-running franchise by some distance, McAvoy’s team sought to prop up the brand anew by producing a tent-pole event movie that would have “the quality of Hall of Fame” and “that had the star power of Hall of Fame,” she said. “But we also wanted to develop a new graphics package that was fresh, modern and contemporary, but still used the reveal of the Hallmark logo, the mark that Hallmark is known for.”

The resulting movie, called Christmas Angel In Training, debuted over Thanksgiving weekend, achieving McAvoy’s objective with a cast of high-profile familiar faces including Kristin Davis, Eric McCormack and Shirley MacLaine. It also introduced viewers to Hall of Fame’s new look, feel and sound, an elegant white-and-gold package driven by a Glenn Close-narrated show open that simultaneously honors the brand’s rich legacy while looking firmly toward the future.

“We focused on the quality, the heritage, the richness, the history, the years it has been around,” McAvoy said. “‘This is Hallmark Hall of Fame.’ You hear Close say that. It wasn’t theatrical, it wasn’t related to anything. It was just making it more about the experience that Hall of Fame gives to viewers.”

That experience arises from the ineffable feeling of quality that Cantwell and Broadway Video were tasked with visualizing while also keeping Hall of Fame’s logo firmly at the forefront. “Ultimately, what we came back to,” Cantwell said, “is that the library [of movies] embodies that special quality, and it speaks for itself. So how do we showcase in that in a way that establishes the brand, makes it recognizable, makes it something that is reflective of this great legacy?”

The answer was to turn the logo itself into a “gallery-like space that is deeply rooted in the Hall of Fame icon,” she continued. “There is a complexity about [the logo] that when fully embraced and explored in this macro and micro manner, created a space to showcase all of the movies, allowing us to feature certain parts of the library while maximizing the elements inherent to Hallmark Hall of Fame—the movies.”

The result feels like an onscreen rendition of a structure designed by someone like Frank Gehry (“It felt very Guggenheim-esque to me,” Cantwell said), turning the canon of Hall of Fame movies into a kind of modern art show by casting them against the logo’s curving walls. “Once you come in and see it from the perspective of being this gallery space, it becomes this simple backdrop,” Cantwell said, “but then it gives you that wonderful complex calligraphic reveal where everything is contained within. It brought the logo to life, making the complex simple, breathing new life into the familiar mark.”

When Christmas Angel in Training premiered on November 26, it became Hallmark Channel’s highest-rated Hall of Fame movie to date. It will continue to air throughout December and in February, the new package gets trotted out again for a new Hall of Fame Valentine’s Day vintage titled Love Lock. The journey for this historic franchise may be only just beginning.

“To be able to look at a brand and see how it has grown from a card company into an entertainment company and become one of the biggest producers of movies, annually, while maintaining the very particular type of storytelling that Hallmark is known for over 65 years, is an incredible achievement” Cantwell said. “Not a lot of brands can say they have that longevity and stamina, Hallmark Hall of Fame is one of them.”


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