About the Column

You know it costs too much. You know you'd never buy it if you weren't at Disney. But that's the power of MouseMerch: the racks and shelves and bins and boxes full of Disney merchandise that your kids must have - and, let's not be coy about it, you must have, too. Don't worry. You're among friends. But how to separate the most magical merchandise from the most mundane? That's easy, and it's free! Read Chris Taylor's weekly column, MouseMerch, and then impress your friends with your fantastic finds.

Disney Swag: The T-Shirt

Get yours now!

Subscribe to Disney Dispatch Digest

And receive a daily email summary of new stuff on the site.

FROM: MouseMerch Published Thursdays

Disney Balloons

What is it about balloons, especially balloons? They're just latex and air. But every little kid wants one. Chris Taylor explains the timeless appeal of the balloon, shares a touching story, and presents some Disney balloon tips you definitely don't want to miss.

They're one of the first things you see when you walk into the Magic Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios, or Disney's California Adventure. But not EPCOT or the Animal Kingdom, where they're not sold. Disneyland started selling them as soon as it opened in 1955.

Of course, I'm talking about Disney balloons.

It's one of my favorite sights on Main Street. The balloon vendors, in period costumes with knickers and hats, holding what appears to be hundreds of balloons including mylar Mickey, Minnie, and Princess ones; Mickey Ears inside clear ones; and plain 'ol regular shaped balloons with 'Walt Disney World' printed on them.

There are hundreds of Flickr photos of Disney balloons. Kids love 'em, adults love 'em, most everyone loves 'em. But why?

Well, let's talk about that.

A Short History of the Balloon

The first recorded mention of balloons are during the Renaissance, but history tells us balloons go all the way back to the Aztecs, whose sacrifical rites included drying small animal innards were dried, turning them inside out, and then filling them with air and sealing them. These were especially popular during times of contagious animal-disease outbreaks. Similar types of balloons are mentioned in both Swiss Family Robinson and Moby Dick. Modern rubber and latex balloons were developed in the late 1800s and perfected around the same time as the automobile tire, both using Vulcanization which allowed both balloons and tires to remain unaffected by changes in temperature.

click an image to expand:


A Bouquet of Disney Balloons


A Classic Mickey Balloon


Mickey Ear Balloons Inside Clear Balloons

Another Bouquet of Disney Balloons

Fast forward 30 years or so and we have the modern latex balloon. Bright and colorful, they can be made into shapes and even tied and twisted to other balloons to create giant sculptures.

But our focus here is a decidedly more mundane version, a simple balloon filled with helium and tied to a string. What could be simpler?

The Magic of Balloons

Which is the very reason I think we love them! Honestly, do you even remember why you loved balloons as a child? No batteries, no flashing lights, no keeping score, no WiFi, why would a kid even want one?

Well, that's the dichotomy of modern toy marketing: children don't necessarily want the greatest and most advanced toy. They want to play with what's fun (this explains the age-old issue of a baby playing with discarded wrapping paper while sitting next to a pile of toys and games on Christmas morning).

My guess is it begins with the fact that a balloon can float, and when tied to a ribbon, a child can control the floating. It's something a child can control by pulling up and down. It makes a cool noise when you hit one. Or maybe it taps into our desire to fly? Add to that a beautifully deep and colorful hue, and you've got the makings of something fun. And a little bit magical. I mean, Pixar made an entire movie about balloons!

The Magic of Disney Balloons

Disney estimates they've sold millions of balloons. Frankly, at $6-7 per balloon, they're a little pricey, but one of the few things at Disney I find worth the cost. First, it makes both my bride and my daughter happy. Second, and most important to me, we tie a balloon to our stroller to make it soooooo much easier to find after walking out of an attraction to see hundreds of blue strollers in the stroller parking lot.

My favorite Disney memory was made during our first trip with our daughter. We flew to Orlando and, on our last day, realized that we couldn't bring our balloon back with us. Not wanting to just let it go or toss it away, my daughter saw a little girl crying outside the entrance to Goofy's Barnstormer ride in what was then Mickey's Toontown Fair. She went up to ask why (remember having no fear when you were three?) and found out the girl was a tad too short to ride, so she was having to wait with her grandmother while her siblings rode.

So, without much hesitation, she gave the girl her balloon to make her feel better. I get emotional just thinking about it now. This led to a tradition of buying and giving away balloons on subsequent trips to other children. Our way of sharing some magic...

Official Disney Balloon Tips

Here are some balloon tips shared by a former Cast Member online:

  • If a balloon pops, bring the actual popped balloon to a vendor and they will GLADLY replace it for you.
  • If a string breaks and flies away, bring the broken string and weights to a vendor and they will GLADLY replace it for you.
  • If it goes flat (crummy valve), bring the flat balloon to a vendor and they will GLADLY replace it for you.
  • If you want one with no air in it, go to City Hall and they will call out for one, and a flat balloon will be delivered there for you to take home (at the same cost as an inflated balloon) and have inflated at a florist or elsewhere.

The bottom line is, a balloon makes you happy and it makes you smile. Just like Disney.

Note: Thanks to commenter 'Rock' for bringing this to my attention. After contacting Disney, it appears that they will no longer sell flats, or deflated balloons, at City Hall in the Magic Kingdom as I reported. However, a Cast Member did confirm that if you buy a balloon in the park and it pops, you can take the remnants back to the seller for a replacement.


Stuff Not to Skip

[an error occurred while processing this directive]