The idea of creating a balloon symbolizing the Star Wars saga has been on my mind for a long time. But I was too shy to ask George Lucas (Lucasfilm) permission to do it.
Then I met with FanWars in 2005. They wanted me to make a Death Star – shaped PVC helium balloon. While discussing with FanWars leader Nicolas Lelong aka TK-9999, I spoke of my idea of a Darth Vader – shaped hot air balloon. For me, it was more of a joke and a fantasy, but Nicolas took it seriously and found the idea wonderful. He took contact with LucasFilm in order to try to get their agreement.
TK-9999 spoke of the project with Steve Sansweet (LucasFilm)…and LFL gave us the green light for a Darth Vador’s helmet shaped balloon a few weeks later.
The dream comes alive !
As soon as we got Lucasfilm’s approval, we made contact with the world largest manufacturer of hot-air balloons, specialized in special shapes and based in the United Kingdom. A Darth Vader helmet replica was sent to their engineers to help them recreate every detail. A vectorial file representing the Vader helmet in 3D was also sent to the engineers.
Once the first draft in our hands, several shape and colour modifications were discussed and made in order to be sure that the balloon would look as much as possible as the real Darth Vader helmet. Colours were chosen to optimize 3D effects once the balloon in flight. For aesthetical reasons, grey shades around the face are slightly different from the official shape.
Once the last visual draft accepted by our team and by LFL, the making could begin… 8 weeks of making were necessary to obtain the final result.
Then this final draft received LucasFilm’s approval, and the manufacturing could begin. Eight weeks were necessary to give birth to the balloon. To keep this project secret on Lucasfilm request, the english manufacturer called it « Head One ». This name allowed us to keep the project secret until the balloon’s first public appearance, and was also used for the official belgian regisration.
When the balloon was inflated for the first time on March 8, 2007, several details were not satisfactory, and it was sent back to the manufacturer’s workshop in order to get the modifications done. The second inflation took place on March 14, 2007. The last details were settled in order to make the balloon a perfect Vader helmet look alike. The Balloon’s registration name is OO-BQZ. We wanted to choose letters more closely related to the Star Wars universe, but the choice was quite limited. Since one of our balloons is registered as OO-BQA, we then settled for OO-BQZ.
2014 : The Master Yoda comes alive
We decided to build a new shape, and we decide to ask permission to do the Master Yoda Balloon to Lucasfilm Ltd.
So the Force balance can be equal in the sky… as Master Yoda is a small size caractere, we do a smaller hot air balloon, this balloon is so small in volume that we use a collapse basket to fly it.
Balloon was also build in Bristol, UK and registred as G-CIIE (G-Yoda was not aviable), our first inflation was in Albquerque, NM, USA in front of thousand people, it was a total surprise for Media and crowd on the launch field, as a present for they support since 2007 !
Balloon’s technical data :
THE DARTH VADER BALLOON
26 meters ( 86 feet) heigh, basket included
21 meters ( 69 feet) width
24 meters ( 78 feet) depth
Estimated hot air volume 3.000 m³ ( 105,000 cubic feet)
Estimated weight 290 kilos ( 640 lb)
Year of making : 2007
THE MASTER YODA BALLOON
19 meters (62 feet) height, basket included
28 meters (92 feet) width
17 meters (55 feet) depth
Estimated hot air volume 1.700m³ (60,000 cubic feet)
Estiamted weight 120 kilos (265 lb)