In a wild and potentially deadly stunt reminiscent of the flying balloon house in Pixar's UP, a Canadian man has been arrested for taking to the skies in a self-designed balloon chair.
Daniel Boria, 26, of Calgary is being charged with one count of mischief causing danger to life after he attached 110 helium-filled balloons to a lawn chair in an effort to promote his cleaning products company.
"At one point I was looking up at the balloons, they were popping, the chair was shaking and I was looking down at my feet dangling through the clouds at a 747 flight taking off and a few landing," Boria told CBC News. "It was incredible. It was the most surreal experience you can ever imagine. I was just by myself on a $20 lawn chair up in the sky above the clouds."
While it's tempting to write off Boria's marketing stunt as a reckless prank - which it clearly is! - a fair amount of science-backed groundwork went into pulling this one-of-a-kind balloon ride off.
The cleaning products salesman spent a reported $20,000 (some of which went on banner plane advertising) and two years planning the adventure, sourcing massive 2-metre-high balloons capable of lifting his weight off the ground. And even then, he required 110 of them to hold him aloft.
But what about an entire house? When dreaming up the house balloon sequence in Pixar's UP, the movie-makers actually guessed they'd need something in the order of 20 to 30 million balloons to lift grizzly Carl's house up into the sky, but the actual science suggests the number would be much lower.
After estimating the approximate size of the balloons based on visual images from the movie and guessing the weight of the building to be under 50,000 kilograms, Alexis Madrigal at Wired calculated that you'd need 105,854 balloons to hold enough helium to lift the house.
UP's production notes reveal the number of CGI balloons pictured in the movie falls short: "We ended up using 10,297 for most of the floating scenes, and 20,622 when it actually lifts off. The number varies from shot to shot depending on the angle, the distance, and fine-tuning the size so that it feels interesting, believable and visually simple."
But even though Pixar was a little off base on the exact balloon count required - and if you look a little closer at that movie you might just spot a few other things that aren't quite scientifically supported, [cough] talking dogs with voice modulators [cough] - clearly with enough planning, balloons, and helium, you really could make almost anything fly. Not that the authorities want you to think about that and run the risk of emulating Boria's chair stunt.
And not everything went according to plan for him either: the budding balloonist had planned to end his flight by parachuting into the Calgary Stampede, an annual rodeo festival held in the city, but winds blew him south-east of his intended touchdown. He eventually landed in an industrial area a few kilometres away from the Stampede, suffering a sprained ankle when making contact with the ground.
The chair and balloons, however, are said to be still floating somewhere above the city, and it's their eventual, inevitable landing that's got Boria in legal trouble (as there's a chance they'll actually injure someone when they come down).
"I knew I would get arrested, but I didn't think they would pursue it as heavily as they did," Boria said. "I've never done anything wrong before and this was with good intentions."