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A Boy and His Red Balloon

Updated on February 7, 2018
PAINTDRIPS profile image

As a children's book illustrator, Denise has many things to say about the process, her struggles, and children's books on the market today.

The Magic Of Childhood

It's hard to believe this movie was made in 1956, but easy to see why it won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar and a Special BAFTA award. This is a charming timeless, 34-minute movie about a Parisian boy (Pascal Lamorisse) who finds a red balloon on his way to school... or does the balloon find him? He befriends the balloon as boys are likely to do, keeping the rain off it and telling the janitor to watch it for him while he is in school. Eventually, he gets home and his mom takes one look at the balloon and throws it out. This is when something remarkable happens. The balloon doesn't float away. As a matter of fact the balloon stays and the boy rescues it. The next day, the balloon follows the boy to school, rather like a puppy would follow a boy to school. The adventures he has with the balloon after this are so charming and heartwarming that describing it would be useless. You simply MUST see it yourself.

Verbal Or Non-Verbal?

The interesting thing is that you don't need to know French to enjoy the movie. You can tell the man won't let the balloon on the bus without having to understand. You know the boy is telling the balloon to wait for me here without knowing the translation. This makes the movie not only timeless but cross-cultural. The scene with the boys throwing rocks could have happened in middle America just as easily as Paris. I think this must be the reason that the movie was shown in my school when I was in the second grade. I got to see another culture without realizing that this was another culture. We are all the same, after all. Who hasn't wanted a faithful companion like the red balloon was to the boy?


I remember this movie from the second grade. It is funny watching it again, I didn't remember any dialog in the second grade, but there didn't need to be. Today when I watched it again, I was surprised by the French dialog. I could have sworn there was none. Also I noticed things today that I missed as a 7 year old. The people walking the streets of Montmartre in Paris and the surrounding neighborhoods look different than I remember them. They are wearing French berets and the ladies in dresses, not classic 50's dresses, but old looking clothes from an era before the 50's. I didn't expect that. I took notice of the streets, the quaint houses, balconies, roof-tops over Paris. These are things we don't see much of here in California. The school was different than any school I have been aware of in the states. So from a girl seeing a culture that could have fit into small-town America, I did see the differences this time. Perhaps at 7, I was too interested in the red balloon to notice the surroundings.



I was a lonely little girl at 7 years old. I had few friends and was often teased for my shyness and my long ringlets, which were not in fashion but I liked them. I remember discussing my loneliness with my mother who said I had to be a friend to get a friend. This isn’t a bad idea for a 7 year old it was beyond my ability to solve. I formulated a plan though. I figured that all the children in my class had already decided I wasn’t “friend” material, so they were a lost cause. I decided that the next “new girl” who came to our class would be my target.

The New Girl

I didn’t have long to wait. Within a few days a new girl was introduced and we were all encouraged to welcome her. Instead of sitting passively in my chair like I normally did with anyone new, I jumped up and introduced myself to her and offered to take her on a tour. I noticed I wasn’t the only one to approach her. The popular girls were right behind me but I was first so she thanked me and let me take her on a tour of the playgrounds. It wasn’t long before the popular girls surrounded her and shut me out, but she still had a soft spot for me and included me in things, including her birthday party. It was the first I had ever been invited to and I was very honored. I thought my worries about friends and being liked was finally over until she announced that her family had to move again and she would be leaving. I was crushed.

How would you have ended this movie if you could change the ending?

See results

Get A Red Balloon.

I found myself going home that day and wishing for a red balloon like the one I saw in the movie; a faithful companion who befriended a lonely boy. I was especially intrigued by the way the red balloon pestered and intimidated the school principal for punishing the boy. Everyone should have such an advocate on his or her side.

Having a bad day? Everything in the dumpster? My suggestion to all my friends: Get a Red Balloon.


Red Balloon Guests spread hot air here.

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    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 3 years ago from Fresno CA

      Nice. That is exactly the story. I didn't know it was a book. Now I have to go look for it. Thanks.

    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 3 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      I've never seen the film, but this reminds me of a book I read in the 3rd grade. I found the story haunting. The boy and the balloon find each other, and they refuse to part company. As a result, the boy is not allowed on the bus, and he's late to school. A bunch of other things happen, and at the end, the balloon is burst by the gang throwing rocks at it. The boy mourns its loss, but then a whole bunch of balloons gather and twist their strings together to make a rope. The boy grabs hold of the rope, and the balloons take him on a tour of the world.

      I think that's the most perfect ending ever.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 3 years ago from Fresno CA

      And it goes right along with the Multiculturalism questions. Shouldn't there be more of this kind of thing and not less for children today? I didn't need to hear words to know what the people were talking about. Kids are resilient that way.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 4 years ago from Fresno CA

      @tazzytamar: Isn't that interesting that as children we didn't need language to understand what was going on? Fascinating.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 4 years ago from Fresno CA

      @tazzytamar: You can see it streaming on Netflix or even You Tube, I think.

    • tazzytamar profile image

      Anna 4 years ago from chichester

      Ps, it is extremely interesting that you mention remembering it as a silent film but not as a French film because until I read your review I thought the exact same thing!! I remember music, but no talking... How interesting.

    • tazzytamar profile image

      Anna 4 years ago from chichester

      I remember watching this film at around the age of 8 because it was on one Christmas. I was so moved by it and it has really stayed with me all these years. A wonderful film - must see it again.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 4 years ago from Fresno CA

      @Tom Maybrier: You could be right. It would take some real work to create something as charming and yet timeless today.

    • Tom Maybrier profile image

      Tom Maybrier 4 years ago

      A remarkable film, I don't think you could make something this subtle in today's world.


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