Five balloons will lift a dog, twenty a person... and a few thousand a house.
A common occurrence in children's stories and comics is having a character be lifted off his feet and into the air by a bunch of helium balloons. A variation is to have him achieve lift with plain air balloons, even though that's even less
plausible. In Speculative Fiction
, it may involve a Living Gasbag
. Some stories use Chinese Sky Lanterns to achieve lift rather than balloons.
This is a Trope Examined by the MythBusters
. See under "Real Life examples" below.
Often ended by a Balloon-Bursting Bird
. See also All Balloons Have Helium
when a character simply blows up a balloon with his/her breath and it automatically floats. See our Useful Notes
for more information on how the real aircraft operate.
Not to be mistaken for Balloon Belly
open/close all folders
- This Ford Mondeo advert.
Anime and Manga
- A variation appeared in Doki Doki School Hours, where an extremely short school teacher was teased by one of her students that this would happen to her. A few of the students proceeded to tie a bunch of balloons to the teacher's obi (they were at a summer festival) and the first student lifted the teacher up so it looked like she was floating away.
- Happens in Kaitou Saint Tail, since the main character simulates magical girl abilities with stage magic, but the stage magic is, well, a bit exaggerated.
- In Lupin III Bye Bye Liberty Crisis, Lupin uses a giant balloon to steal the Statue of Liberty, which he then pilots all the way to the Grand Canyon in order to hide it.
- In the One Piece cover story featuring Eneru, four Spaceys fly from their island to the MOON using regular balloons.
- During the Opening of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Madoka screws things up (apparently) again by inflating her dress and goes flying off into the sky. This is probably the only funny scene in the ''whole'' series.
- Achille Talon's father once escaped the police by blowing into a breathalyzer balloon until it lifted him into the air.
- Archie Comics:
- A cover to a digest features Jughead as a balloon seller. He begs people passing by to buy a couple, because he's having to hold onto the ground to avoid floating away.
- In one story, Jughead's baby sister Jellybean is taken for a ride when some balloons are tied to her carrier.
- Another early story (1960s) features a school presidential election race between Archie and Reggie. Archie and Betty are handing out balloons when Mr. Weatherbee confiscates them all because he feels Archie is getting carried away with campaigning and ends up getting carried away himself, until Jughead pops them with a slingshot and drops the principal into a conveniently just-finished cement sidewalk.
- The Penguin uses this tactic to steal a payroll while disguised as a balloon vendor in a classic Golden Age Batman story ("Knights of Knavery") in which he teams up with The Joker.
- Happened to Bill in Boule et Bill: he bit into a stick that was holding some balloons, and flew off with them.
- Gaston Lagaffe once left a leaking helium bottle in his car. The gas filled up the car, caused the canvas roof to bulge... and up into the air went the car.
- The usual gang of idiots at MAD once (October, 1964) suggested that a large enough balloon filled with helium could lift a big sedan a couple of feet off the ground, enabling the owner to float it into a parking spot.
- This happens to Apple Bloom on Issue #1 of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW)'s Cover D◊.
Film - Animated
- At the climax of The Great Mouse Detective, Basil tied the Union Jack flag with balloons underneath to a box of matches in order to chase Ratigan fleeing on his blimp. Helps that they're mice.
- In The Princess and the Frog, Tiana and Naveen (as frogs) escape from a charging dog by grabbing a bunch of balloons and flying away from him the balloons burst and they fall down and land in the Atchaflaya Basin swamp
- In Disney's Robin Hood, Sir Hiss the snake not only becomes an airborne spy by sticking his head inside an inflated balloon so that his body hangs down as the string (and how does Medieval England have helium-filled rubber balloons to begin with?), but gains altitude by further inflating the balloon, with his breath, while his head is inside it. Balloonacy on so many levels.
- In Over the Hedge, Vincent the bear gets tangled up in a massive over-sized clown balloon from a birthday party and is carried aloft. Unfortunately for our heroes, he doesn't go far.
- It happens to an entire house. Similar to the Mythbusters example, the animators figured out that in reality it would take somewhere on the order of millions of balloons to lift the house. In the film, they use just about ten or twenty thousand, but the ones they use are twice as big as the main character.
- It also seems to apply to normal sized ones. In the prologue, we see Carl selling balloons at the zoo. He lets go of his cart for a moment, and needs to grab ahold of it before it floats away.
- The famous "Little Black Rain Cloud" sequence from Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree.
Film - Live Action
- The plot of the Buster Keaton short The Balloonatic is basically "camper stumbles across hot-air balloon; Hilarity Ensues."
- Cats Eye. During their final battle, the troll tries to escape General by flying away on a bunch of helium mylar balloons. It works only partly and General manages to catch him.
- Donny Deckchair travels around via baloonant deckchair
- In Kermit's Swamp Years, Kermit, at one point, gets the idea to search for Blotch and Goggles by using a bunch of balloons to lift him into the air and give him a better look at his surroundings to see if he can spot them.
- Gonzo is carried aloft in The Muppet Movie when he buys all the balloons from a fair vendor.
- In Napolean the eponymous labrador gets lost by floating away from his home in a basket with too many balloons attached
- In the 1976 movie Nickelodeon, a scene using a hot air balloon is being filmed, when Jane Hitchcock's character (who is nearsighted) bumps into a handler and gets her foot caught in a balloon tow rope. When the balloon rises, it takes Jane with it, dangling her upside down.
- In one scene of One Crazy Summer, Egg Stork hands a large balloon to a young boy. The boy stands up and floats away.
- In The Pink Panther Strikes Again, Clouseau is floated out of his apartment window by the inflatable hump in his hunchback costume, thereby causing him to miss the bomb Dreyfus sets off.
- In Police Academy 6 at the very end, there is an award ceremony for stopping the crime wave perpetrated by the mayor to lower real estate price. As part of the decorations for the ceremony, a big bunch of balloons spans from one chair to another. When Cmdt. Lassard sees that Capt. Harris sitting in one of the chairs the balloons are tied to, possibly as revenge for causing a leak in the department for the mastermind, he cuts them free, thus causing the chair Harris is sitting on to float away.
- Real Genius (or at least the trailer and commercials as it didn't make it into the final cut). Val Kilmer in a balloon-lofted deckchair outside an upper-story classroom: "What are you doing?!" "Floating, sir."
- The Red Balloon. See here and especially, here.
- The Three Stooges:
- In an odd variation of this trope, where Moe himself became a balloon. In Dizzy Pilots, Moe falls into a tub of tar, and to get the tar off of him, Larry and Curly cut a hole in his clothes and begin filling it up with gas. Hilarity Ensues as Moe begins to float away when Larry and Curly aren't looking, and they spend the next sizable chunk of the episode trying to get Moe down. He eventually floats through an opening in the ceiling and into the sky. Hearing Moe cry during the ordeal makes this a candidate for Crowning Moment of Funny.
- In the 2012 feature film adaptation, a little girl gets lifted by a bunch of balloons. When a bullet pops them and she falls onto a big cake, she says "That was awesome!".
- In Son of the Mask; a baby blows on his thumb and inflates his head after watching his mum inflate a balloon.
- Happened to one of the characters of Caroline visite Paris from the French youth book series Caroline.
- The title character in Curious George is borne aloft by helium balloons. This was repeated in other media adaptations of the stories.
- Discussed in David Brin's Glory Season; the balloon-like creatures called zoor have enough lift that children can can ride the larger ones by grabbing onto their tentacles.
- James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl has a variation involving seagulls. Of course, James got the idea by thinking of the balloon version.
- Happens to the titular old lady, a balloon seller, in Mrs Cockles Cat.
- The Twits, also by Dahl. Mr. Twit, having already convinced Mrs. Twit that she's shrinking, ties her to a couple hundred balloons, and her feet to a ring in the ground, and leaves her there to 'stretch'. Then Mrs. Twit accidentally gives him the idea to cut her loose...
- Winnie the Pooh uses one of Christopher Robin's balloons to get honey from a beehive high up a tree.
Live Action TV
- The trope is subverted in the Abbott and Costello show when Lou was trying to get a fat woman on her feet with some balloons, unaware that Bud is doing the real work with a lifting jack.
- In the third season of Arrested Development, George tries to escape from house arrest by attaching weather balloons to a deck chair (apparently inspired by the "Larry Lawnchair" example below). Given that he's a Bluth, it ends about as well as you'd expect.
- The A-Team: Murdock and Hannibal escape a prison by filling plastic bags with helium.
Murdock, how'd I ever let you talk me into this? Murdock:
I don't know: I have intermittent memory loss! *floats away cackling*
- Done successfully by Jon Tickle on Brainiac: Science Abuse.
- Pretty sure they did this to Graham Norton during a Comic Relief one year.
- Doctor Who:
- The story "Planet of the Daleks" has the Doctor and a group of Thals escape from the lowest level of the Dalek city by making a hot air balloon from plastic sheeting and being carried up an air shaft.
- "The Impossible Astronaut" mentions an off-screen Noodle Incident where the Eleventh Doctor escaped from the Tower of London in a balloon he apparently constructed in two days.
- Happened in one of the earliest episodes of El Chavo del ocho.
- On Fraggle Rock, Wembly uses a bunch of balloons tied to a basket to return a bird to the Gorgs' Garden in one episode.
- The final episode of Green Wing ends with Caroline being carried up into the sky by a mass of helium filled balloons at her wedding reception. The DVD boxset extras shows an alternate ending where Guy and Mac grab onto Caroline's ankles and are taken up with her. It ends with Mac saying, "Caroline, there's something I've been meaning to tell you."
- National Geographic Channel's How Hard Can It Be has made and floated a house inspired by Up.
- There was an episode of the little-remembered New Leave It to Beaver show featuring this gag.
- Happened in The Lucy Show episode "Kiddie Parties Inc.": Lucy tries to bring a batch of helium balloons to a party, which leads to her floating away, flying through a flock of geese and crashing into a church steeple.
- MacGyver used a big bunch of balloons tied to a police radio and a tape player and set them free to jam the police communications and enable a family of Roma to defect to the west from Hungary.
- Reese pulls this one in an episode of Malcolm in the Middle.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus:
- In one episode, during one of Terry Gilliam's animations a man grabbed a bunch of balloons and floated away. He was then attacked by a bird with a cannon where its head should be, which was trying to burst the balloons.
- Don't forget "The Golden Age of Ballooning" episode, riffing on the Montgolfier Bros. and Ferdinand Von Zeppelin. Notably a scene where Zeppelin's brother(Terry Jones) tried to blow up a giant balloon, only to have the air rush back into his lungs, inflating himself(and tearing off his clothes), turning himself into a giant balloon.
- Mr. Bean once put some ballons on a baby's pram, and it flies off and he has to make chase.
- MythBusters researched how many you'd need. It takes a lot of balloons to lift a person — even if it's just a five-year-old! Specifically, it takes 3,500 party-size balloons to lift a 40 pound child. It's also worthwhile to note that, due to volumetrics, it takes a lot more small balloons to equal the volume of one slightly larger diameter balloon. In other words, 3,500 party balloons can only lift a 40 pound child, but a single helium or hydrogen balloon about 16 feet in diameter can carry most adults. Also, because hot air carries about a third as much as gas, most "hopper" or "backpack" hot air balloons must be around 25 feet in diameter to carry most people.
- Sesame Street:
- Kermit the Frog is demonstrating a Rube-Goldberg device to turn on a radio: the last step involves using a balloon to turn on the radio. Of course nothing works the way it's supposed to, and at the very end Kermit sees the balloon float away taking the radio with it.
- Kermit and Grover are demonstrating light and heavy objects; the final light object is a large balloon, and Grover picks it up and promptly floats away.
- On one of the baker segments, a man is holding four balloons, and this causes him to start floating away.
- A man is apparently mugging a balloon vendor by stealing his balloons and popping them. He steals the largest balloon, he floats away, and up in the air he meets three blackbirds. The largest one pops his balloon, sending him crashing back to the ground and getting what he deserved.
- The opening credits to Webster had a sequence of still photos showing the title character being lofted by a bunch of balloons before being caught by his adoptive parents.
- Deconstructed in Baldo. Hundreds of balloons raise a boy and a chair off the ground just as high as the first-story window of his house, which the wind immediately smacks him into, breaking it and knocking him off the chair and into a thorny rosebush.
- In Bloom County, one of Oliver Wendell Jones' schemes involves tying a good many helium balloons to Cutter John's wheelchair and floating him to Africa to turn the American ambassador black with one of Oliver's inventions (it was a plan to battle apartheid). The entire thing was treated as a parody of a space program, and ended with Cutter and Opus getting stranded in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
- Calvin and Hobbes had a storyline where Calvin was lifted off the ground by his balloon. When Calvin tries it for real in a much earlier strip by using a stepladder to jump off, he promptly falls splat on his face, losing the balloon in the process.
- An old New Yorker magazine cartoon by George Price depicts a policeman talking on a street-corner call box while handcuffed to a man who's held aloft by a handful of balloons: "Vending without a license...and get over here quick!"
- A Peanuts strip had Linus with a balloon and Lucy trying to help him by tying it to various parts of his body. When she ties it to his shoelace, it turns him upside-down.
- Dick Cavalli's Winthrop frequently had its title character musing about life while hanging in midair from a single balloon.
- The backglass for Hurricane shows a clown being carried away by a handful of balloons.
- Cirque du Soleil has used this trope twice.
- In Mystere, while the High Bar act was being set up, the female baby (played by an adult actress) was lifted skyward by a clutch of red balloons. This bit of stage business was dropped in a 2012 retool, perhaps because the new trapeze act's rigging made it unworkable, but she still has the balloons and even descends to Earth during the finale. In any case, the ascent/descent is accomplished with wires.
- Corteo has a whole act that serves as a Real Life version of this trope, the "helium dance". The Clowness, played by a little person, is fitted into a harness that dangles from several giant balloons and proceeds to float over the stage and audience.
- There's a play called Up! (no relation to the film) about a Larry Lawnchair-type.
- Also a musical: Flight of the Lawnchair Man.
- The entire conceit of Balloon Fight, which is essentially Joust, except with kids and... bird thingies flying using a pair of balloons.
- Two of the endings of Chrono Trigger have this happen.
- One of the "Hundred Acre Wood" mini-games in Kingdom Hearts has Winnie the Pooh using a balloon to float up the honey tree, while Sora stops bees from attacking him.
- The Balloon weapon in Makai Kingdom - single use, lifts the user out of the stage for the rest of the level. This makes it nearly useless for your own characters, but deadly in the hands of an enemy, as any enemy removed from the stage adds their levels to every other enemy left on the battlefield.
- Pitfall Harry uses a balloon to traverse a large open area in Pitfall II: The Lost Caverns
- Drifloon, a Pokemon that looks like a balloon, is said to carry off children who mistake it for a normal balloon and grab its stringlike tails. However, since they're only 16 inches (40 cm) tall and weigh 2.6 pounds (1.2 kg), they wind up getting carried away by said child or blown around by any breeze. Its evolution Drifblim, however, can learn Fly.
- There's also the Air Balloon, an item that allows Pokémon to float and avoid Ground-type attacks. A single red balloon is enough to lift even the monstrous, half-ton Snorlax into the air!
- That's also how promotional Pikachu are able to use the move Fly, according to the card game and Pokémon Snap.
- Pokémon Dash has hidden sprites that depict Pikachu and Munchlax flying in this manner, and Munchlax is also shown flying with helium balloons in official art. However, actual gameplay averts it, as all flying is done in proper hot air balloons.
- Both the helium- and air-balloon versions occur in the classic arcade game Pooyan.
- Seiken Densetsu 3 has an airship◊ (used by the Navarre Raiders) that uses colourful balloons to stay airborne
- The Baby Bart level of Virtual Bart for the SNES and Genesis has a section where Bart hangs on to a bunch of balloons to float above the hazards of the fence (namely dogs and cats).
- In World of Goo, one type of goo-ball turns into balloons, which have to be used to lift up other parts of the structures you build.
- Yoshi's Island featured Shyguys dangling from balloons.
- Homestar Runner: One Strong Bad E-Mail shows Strong Bad, Strong Mad, and The Cheat inhaling helium from leftover party balloons to make their voices high. The Cheat accidentally inhales his entire balloon, blowing himself up and causing him to fly away.
- Film Riot has an episode where they make a camera stabilizer with balloons.
- A guy named Larry Walters did it, and there's a movie based on his story, called Danny Deckchair (the real dude was nicknamed Lawnchair Larry). Kind of counts as an inversion, actually; he only intended to lift himself and the titular lawnchair a hundred feet or so, and severely overestimated how many military-surplus weather balloons he'd need to accomplish this.
- A Brazilian priest did this for fund-raising reasons. However, he lost control and was found dead weeks later, earning him a Darwin Award.
- A Brazilian couple claimed their kid was inside a balloon that was floating around. However, once it landed, it was revealed the boy wasn't there and his parents were just pulling a scam.
- A dirigible is basically a giant helium balloon (or hydrogen, which is even lighter, if you don't mind the slight explosion problem.) If it seems like these sometimes-colossal ships carry an absurdly disproportionate amount on board, relative to the tiny amount a party balloon or hot air balloon carries in proportion to their size, then look no further than the magic of the Square/Cube Law.
- On October 15, 2009, in Fort Collins, Colorado, it seemed that a child climbed into an experimental helium filled weather balloon, which slipped its mooring and floated away, thus causing a huge media sensation. When the balloon landed near Denver International Airport, rescuers discovered that the kid was not inside, and soon after, an ominous photograph surfaced showing the payload basket apparently falling off the balloon. What really happened is that it was a hoax planned by the kid's father to publicize a Reality Show. Even before the hoax was revealed, there were a number of knowledgeable people pointing out that the craft in question wasn't large enough to carry the child.
- In May 2010 a man named Jonathan Trappe crossed the English Channel in this manner.
- About eight party balloons, as you might find at a restaurant if it is someone's birthday, are sufficient to float a small teddy bear that somebody might get on their birthday. Turns out ceiling fans will NOT cut up everything they touch.