From birthday parties to weddings, prom nights to baby showers, balloons make an appearance pretty much everywhere. But do you know where else we find balloons regularly cropping up? On the big screen!
And we’re not just talking in the background of a celebratory scene like a child’s birthday party; balloons are a powerful symbolic tool that have been utilised in films for a long time. So, let’s take a look at some pinnacle moments on the big screen that have used balloons for their story.
To kick off the list, we have what is probably the first film people think of when they think balloons: Pixar’s Up. Up tells the tale of Carl, a grumpy old man whose wife Ellie passes away within the first five minutes of the film, prompting Up to be considered one of the biggest tearjerkers of all time. Deciding it’s time to finally achieve his and his wife’s childhood dream of visiting Paradise Falls, Carl attaches thousands and thousands of balloons to his house and flies off to South America – unbeknownst to him that a young boy scout has unintentionally boarded and is coming with him.
Balloons play a crucial role in Carl being able to achieve his dream as they carry him across the world. He soon loses too many balloons throughout his adventure and his house eventually descends out of sight through the clouds. However, unknown to Carl, the house ends up landing on the cliff beside Paradise Falls which is where Ellie had wanted to live since she was a child, allowing him to fulfil his promise to her.
Aside from childhood delight and wonder, balloons can also be used on-screen in a sinister manner. Take the film adaptation of Stephen King’s It. It tells the story of a group of children known as The Losers Club as they face off with a shapeshifting demon that typically takes the form of a menacing-looking clown.
A single red balloon is used throughout the film to signal the arrival of the demonic monster Pennywise. Balloons, of course, have a substantial association with clowns, so it’s not surprising that even a demon clown is drawn to them.
The balloons in the film are an illusion rather than real, and they are used to lure victims to their death. The red colour draws the attention of the children, and the balloon’s symbolism of innocence is enough not to make them suspect the true meaning behind that playful, red death wish.
Balloons have always been used to symbolise romance; after all, they make a fantastic gift for a loved one on Valentine’s Day. Well, Dreamworks made use of this trope in their smash-hit Shrek back in 2001.
As Shrek and Fiona are journeying back to Duloc for Fiona to meet her fiancé, their romance begins to blossom. In a montage scene of their love beginning to show, Shrek captures a frog for Fiona and blows it up like a balloon. Fiona then surprises Shrek by blowing up a nearby snake and tying it into the shape of a poodle. The two exchange their balloons and run off happily laughing before dropping the balloons and letting them float off into the sky.
It’s a beautiful moment of romance between the two that also hints at Fiona’s true ogre form. Perhaps the most surprising thing we seem to learn from this scene is that the two of them appear to breathe out helium.
This 2018 film took the wonderful world of Winne the Pooh and the Hundred Acre Wood into the realm of live-action for the first time. Balloons have made regular appearances in Winnie the Pooh’s adventures, such as when he used one to float up a tree to gain access to a beehive. This new film adaptation was no exception.
Upon arriving at the train station, Winnie the Pooh requests a red balloon which Christopher Robin reluctantly buys for him. Pooh’s obsession with his balloon is a cause of dismay for Christopher, but Pooh consistently reiterates how happy it makes him. When they arrive at the cottage where Christopher’s wife and daughter are staying, Pooh requests they leave the balloon for his daughter, Madeline, hoping it will make her happy too.
When she finds it, she begins to bat it around with a tennis racket, engaging in what appears to be the first instance of innocence childhood play in her life.
The Sixth Sense
M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense tells the story of a boy able to see and talk to dead people and a child psychologist who tries to help him. Known for its twist ending, this film used a balloon to help get across some of the film’s symbolism.
The young boy, Cole, is at a child’s birthday party wearing a red jumper, and a red balloon floats up past a staircase to the ceiling. Red is an important colour in The Sixth Sense, as most of the colours in the film are quite muted throughout, and red is said to symbolise “anything in the real world that has been tainted by the other world”.
The red balloon leads Cole upstairs, drawing him towards the spirits to where he can hear their voices.
Mary Poppins Returns
In 2018 Mary Poppins made a comeback to the big screen in Mary Poppins Returns. The film follows the children from the original film, Michael and Jane, as adults, and Mary Poppins sets about looking after Michael’s children while they desperately try to save their house from being repossessed.
After the inevitable happy ending, they all head to the park where a fair is in full swing; they purchase balloons from the balloon lady and they all float up into the sky while performing the film’s final number “Nowhere to go but up”.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this look into the wonderful world of balloons on the big screen. If you’d like to inflate your own balloons for your next big event, at Fill n’ Away, we can provide you with a refillable helium tank, wholesale helium tanks and helium balloon kits. Contact us today if you would like to discuss your requirements.