Jos Rampart writes: I enjoyed your recent issue of Furore about Le ballon rouge. It is a magnificent edition full of information about father and son Lamorisse, the Belleville locations and the camera...

How did the balloon move?

Jos Rampart writes:
I enjoyed your recent issue of Furore about Le ballon rouge. It is a magnificent edition full of information about father and son Lamorisse, the Belleville locations and the camera work. The only thing missing is the solution to the mystery how the balloon was made to move. An internet search did not help me. Can you answer the question how the natural movements of the balloon (and balloons) were realized?

Piet Schreuders replies:
The Red Balloon was supposedly a magic balloon, but such balloons do not exist in real life. Therefore the filmmakers must have used a thin wire to make it move. Exactly how they did this I don’t know, so I didn’t write about it.
But has various commentaries on the subject. Someone wrote, “For a brief instant, a wire can be seen attached to the balloon as the boy waits to cross a street. Wire stands out against blue coat of man standing behind him looking on as the boy waits for intersection to clear.”

Le Ballon rouge 18'21" © Films Montsouris

(Actually, I don’t see any wire here.)

And here is some more about wires and special effects.

© Collection Lamorisse

This picture shows the film crew at work in the rue du Transvaal. A man holds a long fishing rod. The balloon wire is probably attached to this, but it is not visible here.

Posted in fr

11 thoughts on “How did the balloon move?

    1. First they lifted Pascal and a bunch of balloons up from ground level (filmed at rue du Transvaal); two assistants held a bar from which the boy was suspended. There is a close-up of his feet lifting from the ground. Then they cut to a shot of a lifelike doll being taken upwards by the drifting balloons. That was filmed several times.

  1. The balloon is magic. It is a metaphor, of course, and an integral part of my childhood (from CBS’s Children’s Film Festival, hosted by Kukla, Fran & Ollie.) Its movements are balletic, seamless, lifelike. I never wanted to know how it moved, until I grew older in my chosen field of Theatre.
    Upon viewing it tonight after several years, one shot – toward the very end, when the gang of boys finally corner the balloon and deliver a killing shot – only then did I catch a glimmer of monofilament, caught in the daylight. A similar shocked accompanied a viewing of “The Wizard of Oz.” The most up-to-date restoration of the film digitally revealed the Lion’s tail being whipped around from above by fishing line. Disappointing, still charming.
    The special effects in “The Red Balloon” are astonishing. I really don’t care how they were accomplished. The balloon has a life of its own.

  2. After all these years now I have a tablet it bought back happy memories and some tears. Every grandparent should show it to their
    Grandchildren. Would they appreciate it as much as I did then and also
    Many thanks for old memories! (I am now almost 77 years old)

  3. I’ve shown this film to many a kindergarten through second grade class. Because there is no real dialogue, I allow the children to talk about the movie as we watch. What is happening? What does the red balloon mean to the boy? Why do the other boys want the balloon so badly? What will happen next? Where do you think the balloons at the end are taking him? It is a new experience watching this through the eyes of a child and listening to their thoughts. I recommend it to all, young and old!

  4. I remembered seeing this film back in the ’60s in public school and always being intrigued by it. I happened to find it again recently, so decided to watch it. It seemed so flawlessly done, however at about 7 minutes into the movie when the boy asks some nuns if he can walk with them and their umbrellas, he does not have his satchel from school; he had it just before encountering the nuns, and then he has it again after them. So that is at least one continuity flaw that the editors missed!

    As for the balloons, I suspect that sometimes the balloon was actually a helium balloon, for example when he’s holding it and it flies up and out of frame when he lets it go. Other times, it is definitely weighted (just right) and hanging from a fishing line (which can be seen several times if one looks closely enough in a high-def copy of the movie). It is also interesting to watch the reflection in the balloon in certain scenes — you can see the person manipulating it. Regardless, the film is very deserving of all of the awards it received.

  5. You can watch the film on HBO Max, it is fully restored format. The wire can be seen in that shot at the stop light, as I just saw it. What a great film, still stands up as one of the best short films of all time

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