Ring a Ding Ding
Although intended as a quick, fun film for kids, Le Ballon Rouge made a huge splash when released in 1956. Almost entirely absent of dialogue, Director Albert Lamorisse filmed his six-year-old son, Pascal Lamorisse, and the largest, shiniest red balloon I have ever seen as the two “become friends.”
The 34-minute short film involves young Pascal claiming a balloon he finds tethered to a railing and carrying it along with him for the day. When he returns home after school, his mother discharges the thing out the window, but the red balloon floats there until Pascal brings it back inside. The next day, after telling his friend to obey him, the balloon follows Pascal about without his needing to hold it. Other kids try to grab the toy or destroy it but the seemingly sentient object evades them.
A story about such a fragile object as a balloon carries with it the destiny of a tragic ending — surely it will either pop or float off into the atmosphere. But although the life of the red balloon does not persist, the story brings with it possibly the most joyous ending imaginable. The entire brief work is marked by the simplicity of childhood. Le Ballon Rouge conveys innocence, love, and friendship as the boy cares for his newfound companion. He leads it home skipping from one stranger’s umbrella to the next, always shielding the red ball from the rain. He disciplines it when retrieving the toy from a flirtation with a girl’s blue balloon. And the balloon returns the favor by tormenting the school disciplinarian who locks up Pascal for a day.
The film makes a great watch for children because what young person would not want a toy to follow him around? The simplicity and childlike wonder of the movie also appealed to adults, however. Le Ballon Rouge won a number of awards including the American Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Lamorisse also went on to make a sequel, Stowaway in the Sky, featuring 10-year-old Pascal who stows away in a hot air balloon.