Hummer "Illumination Night" Commercial mini hot air balloons...real?

The above commerical, also seen on TV, shows little kids melting together a few candles, lighting them, and then putting them in giant paper “hot air balloons”. I’m a bit fascinated at this, and would like to make something like them myself. But how do you make something like that without catching the bag on fire, much less what the burning bag would land on, on fire?

Short version - can you do what they do on the commercial cheaply and safely?


You can buy kits which use hair dryers to proved the hot air. But, yes, you could use candles relatively safely. I’d suggest a tether, other wise you could risk starting a fire if the balloon crashed while the candles were still burning–candles can burn for several hours if they’re large enough. You’d want to make sure the burning part is kept well above the opening at the bottom, so you don’t set the balloon itself ablaze. Still, the hair dryers are probably the safest way to go.

The important thing is to have a wide opening at the base, the flame holder (my English is lacking tonight :stuck_out_tongue: ) should be made with wire, an outer ring to keep the shape of the opening and three or four radius.
As for the ballon material, I´d suggest Japanes Tissue (it´s used to build model planes) it´s light and in case it catches fire it will burn very fast, so there won´t be many chances of the paper starting a fire… now the candles/burner/whatever is bound to cause trouble if it´s still lit when the balloon comes down.

A friend mentioned doing this as a kid. He used the bags that dry cleaners use with a cross at the bottom made of drinking straws; the candles were put into slots cut into the straws.

He lived in Arizona at the time, and he said that they would launch them into the still night air. Some of them would sail up out of sight before catching fire. I don’t know how big of a fire risk they pose, but I’d personally try to find a less flammable place to launch them than a desert.

Less flammable than a desert? Just how flammable is sand and rock where you are? :wink:

Most any light weight material. Thin plastic film tall kitchentrash bags work well. Some thin bamboo strips spreaders to hod the bottom open and provide a place to fasten a small (birthday cake) candle will do the trick. Takes two to launch with one holding the top (former bottom or closed end0 of the bag, the second to light the candle and wait for the canldle to heat the air till the bag is bouyant.

SAFETY FIRST: Have a responsible adult in charge. Have a bucket of water handy. and keep the hot air balloon on a tether!

These were also detailed by Roald Dahl in his wonderful children’s novel, Danny, the Champion of the World. I don’t remember the construction details, except that the fuel was, I think, a cotton ball soaked in Sterno or alcohol… although that would seem to burn way too intensely and quickly… seems you would need to limit that combustion with a wick.

I did this as a kid. We used dry-cleaner bags. Hibachi skewers were used for a rickety frame to keep the bag mouth open, and a little cardboard deck held a clump of birthday cake candles. It was done at night, in hopes of starting a UFO scare. If we started any fires, we never found out. The idea of the birthday candles was light weight to maximum flame.

I first learned of this in Danny Champion of the World by Roald Dahl. So aged 10 I got a large amount of tissue paper, some wire, and cotton wool soaked in methylated spirit and made my own. I launched it in the garage because I didn’t want to lose it.

It rose up and immediately fell sideways, set fire to the tissue paper, nearly burned down the garage, and got me grounded.

If you will notice, the balloons in the ad are tethered to the ground. I suspect this is intentional to deflect criticism about the potential fire hazard if they were allowed to float free.

I really don’t have anything to add except that the title of this thread is quite similar to a lot of the spam I receive.

Why would anyone criticize Hummer? When I hear ‘Hummer,’ I think environmental-friendly.

This is brush and other plants and weeds in the desert, and the lack of water signifying its desertity means they burn easily.


Not to spoil your joke, but I’d feel better about one of these balloons landing up here in the Great Green Pacific Northwest than in the desert. I cut some cedar branches last week, and tried to burn them yesterday. I was able to burn the leaves only by having burning paper under them. The sticks are still there. It’s going to be a bit before the wood will be dry enough to burn.

On the other hand, the desert tends to be somewhat drier than most rain forests. They also tend to have high winds, which can drive a fire quickly.

But speaking of Hummer commercials…

The “Happy Jack” commercial with the kid who builds a soapbox Hummer, strikes me as sending a poor message: “If you want to win, cheat!” (Or: “Rules are for other countries. Not us Amurrikins!” :wink: )

I did this in sixth grade in Colorado. It was great fun. We built our balloons out of tissue paper, cutting out panels and carefully gluing them together. I do believe we used a hair dryer, but I can’t honestly remember.

Oh, and Johnny L.A., that may be true right now (about the Pacific Northwest being fire unfriendly), but for those of you unfamiliar with the Pac-Northwest, don’t try this near the end of the summer. We can have pretty nasty wildfire seasons here at times.

LtningBug: True. There were burn bans here last summer (before I moved here). There were some big fires in B.C. last summer, IIRC. But for the most part, it’s pretty wet out here on the coast.

As Phillip Klass notes in his book UFOs Explained, such hot-air balloons, especially those made from dry-cleaning bags, are responsible for a lot of UFO sightings. In fact, they’re often launched with that intention. He gives pictures of night launches of such balloons to make his case. Klass claims that a lot of such cases go unclaimed because the launchers are afraid of being prosecuted for launching what are, in effect, fire hazards. (His book came out circa 1975 – this has been going on for a long time.)