Friday, December 5, 2008

The Red Balloon

Recently, while sitting in a dark theater, waiting for The Secret Life of Bees to start, I watched the movie trailer of Pixar's movie UP . Watching the balloons raise the old man's house and carry him away, reminded me instantly of The Red Balloon. Did you ever watch it as a kid?

I did.

I loved movie day at school. My heart would jump out of my skin with excitement whenever the teacher rolled in the movie projector. I would quietly and slowly inch my desk to the right or the left so I wouldn't see a single silhouette of a head sitting in front of the screen to block my view.

I think I watched The Red Balloon in the second grade and then maybe again in the third grade and perhaps again in the fourth grade. It was an old film... made in the 1950s but it felt it was much older than even that.

If you haven't seen it, the movie is about a
cherry-red helium balloon who loves a young school boy. It follows him to school and waits for him until school is out and follows him home again. They are best of friends.

And what third grader can't relate to friending a balloon or a stick-horse or even a security blanket for that matter.

The red balloon is so adorable, it's like your favorite puppy. And then one day, a bunch of bullies ganged up on it, pelting rocks at it ... and .... eventually popping it.

yeah. Popping it.

I have to admit that for me, the slow, sweaty deflating death of the read balloon was absolutely gut-wrenching. My eyes swimming with tears would spill out and down my cheeks and it would embarrass me sitting there at my desk in school. I instantly wanted to run home and hug my mom. And my dogs and cats. And my dolls. And my bike.

I'm quite sure that is the reason even today, I feel sad when a light bulb burns out. Or when the Christmas Tree who once stood so tall and green, adorned with such beautiful decorations is now laying naked on the curb waiting to be carried off to its final resting place.

I blame it all on the red balloon.

That young boy who played the leading role and who is now a much older adult was being interviewed on NPR radio last year and he said he genuinely believed during filming that the red balloon was alive. He said, "The Red Balloon was my friend." The guy interviewing him asked him, "When you were filming it, did you really feel that way?" And he responded, "Yes, yes, he was a real character with a spirit all his own."

You might find this funny, but I believe him.
I believe in the red balloon.

I just might create a bumper sticker with that on it.

Oh. By the way.

At the end of the movie, (
as best as I remember it) all the balloons in Paris escape children's little hands and balloon stores to scoop up that young grieving boy and carry him somewhere.

Somewhere I never knew.

I think that was the happy ending. But if you're sensitive like me, I wanted them to pick up his grandmother so he wouldn't be alone. I worried that living a life with helium balloons may not be the best place for him in the long run.

Ya know?


danny said...

Oh my gawd! my eyes welled up when I read that! I have never seen 'The Red Balloon' school, or anywhere...but now I want to see it.
And yes, I loved movie days at school too! I remember "Paddle to the Sea", about a toy Indian canoe that makes its way from snowbound Canada to the ocean.

doodlegirl said...

I saw "Paddle to the Sea" as well!! The camera shows this tiny little wooden canoe getting stuck at times ... and then ice would thaw, and it would release the boat and off it would go again... wherever the current took it. It's sort of the same type of movie where there are no words but still gives a message.

Autumn said...

Going to Catholic School in the 60's and 70's, this was the film that we always watched during recess when it rained. I always loved watching this movie....probably have seen it more than a dozen times. I still remember the music to this film to this day (and I have not seen the film in over 30 years).
Also when I was growing up (in Torrance, CA) one of my favorite restaurants to eat at was named The Red Balloon. They had a great deal for kids, all the chicken you could eat.

And if it rained during lunch, we got a double feature.....we got to watch either the short film Skater Dater (1966) or Born Free. Skater dater was cool......Born Free was not.

spUdoodle! said...

I lOOOOved this post! I really enjoy when you reflect on stories from when you were young. It's so sweet and really, our minds still aren't so far away from those thoughts we had so long ago...we never really outgrow our inner seven year old. Thank goodness, huh?

Kate said...

You had movie day? Wow! The movie I remember was the one shown when the girls and boys were separated and the girls went to the cafeteria while the boys went to gym. Life-changing, as it were. Or not. And that wasn't until 7th grade. Up till then I do remember listening to the World Series during school, film strips, overheads, mimeograph ink, and stealing a kiss from a neighboring boy while we were in line to come into class when we were in 4th grade. But, no red balloons...

doodlegirl said...

Dear Autumn, I have never seen Skater Dater... though I may have watched Born Free. I know the song Born Free. Haven't heard it since you probably watched The Red Balloon, but I still remember the words to that song that I never liked so much either. Thanks for visiting!

Thanks SpUdoodle for writing and letting me know you like it when I tell of childhood stoies. I will attempt to write more of them. Thank you for letting me know that my comments section was broken and I'm still amazed that I was able to fix it. (backing up the template saved my day!)

Dear Kate, I felt instantly sad that you never had movie days growing up. I am guessing which movie you saw in the 7th grade with all the girls while the boys played in the gym. I think I saw that same one and was embarrassed and horrified at the same time. I loved the smell of mimeograph ink! I couldn't help inhaling that lovely scent whenever I was handed a memeographed sheet of paper.

violetismycolor said...

I saw this movie a long time ago, but remember loving it. I think we saw it in school.

Kate said...

Hey Shawn, I'm going for a red balloon to celebrate my mom's life. It came to a peaceful end Sunday. What a great thing it will be to release this symbol of her newly found freedom! Thanks for tuning me into it.
May you be blessed and inspired in all you do this coming year!

Michele said...


I know we are long lost twins. This was one of my absolute favorite films and books. I even bought the book for my daughter.

I wish I would have heard the interview with that man who played the boy in the film. I believed, just as he did, that the balloon was alive.

It wasn't?

That film touched me, even more than Bambi did.

*P.S. I've been web-a-phobic lately (wondering why anyone wants to read or see anything I have to post, so posting little or nothing). But I decided to finally join Facebook. I looked for you but couldn't find you.

I'm under Michele Miles Gardiner, if you get a chance will you "friend" me?

I hope you're doing well. I'll be back to read more.

Rayne said...

I remember that film! I think it was the first film I ever saw that evoked an emotional response and made me teary. I was so little when I saw it. I think first grade? Even though the other balloons came and took him away I was still so sad that the red balloon was still dead.
I found the book of that movie a long time ago in a second hand store and I would read it over and over and over. The book had no words, it was just stills from the movie, and I would hurriedly flip past the 'bad' page so I wouldn't have to see the poor balloon all deflated and flat on the ground.