If you're interested in hot air ballooning, you'll definitely recognise this well-known balloon. The Monster special shape was built in 2001 and has appeared at balloon festivals all around the world. Discover more about the design process and how 'Trump' came to life in this blog, kindly written by ex VABC Creative Director Mark Lockwood.
Back in the late 1990s there were two Trumps making headlines. One, as we all know, is now precariously perched in the Oval Office of the White House, the other was a kind of cute little green meanie with a trumpet where his nose should be and purple and black horns for ears. The small green ones fame spread quickly in the US as he appeared on TV commercials for the newly launched and, for those days, innovative concept of a totally online recruitment portal.
These were the toddler years for the internet and the idea of having a business that lived in a virtual world of servers bytes and gigabits rather than in a mundane office on your local high street, was as alien as the little monsters the branding agency came up with to promote it. Change requires creativity to drive its message. There were initially three little monsters, however Trump consistently ‘read’ well in focus and consumer groups and soon became the dominant character.
We had already been working with Monster in the US as they had commissioned a Lightship A150 with a full graphic wrap that toured the US, creating significant media exposure and convincing the young interweb entrepreneurs who owned the business that aerial advertising was as radical as their business model. Time came for them to launch in Europe but the cost of deflating and shipping the airship across the pond to the UK was way beyond their meagre means at that point. They wanted to commission a smaller A60+ that was already in the UK, however that was under contract for at least the next 9 months and their launch date was already set. Someone at Virgin Lightships smartly put forward the idea that they could get a special shape balloon built within the time frame and that’s when the little green Monster came creeping into my studio!
They initially sent across the designs of all three little meanies (by the new-fangled method called email!) and I put my head in my hands when I saw the drawings. The other two were immediately vetoed on technical grounds as there was insufficient ‘body’ to allow any active lift and create a viable aircraft. Trump, on the other hand, was chubby enough to have a chance of being flyable except that he had this great big gob that cut into the shape as well as the worst nightmare of any internally pressurised object, an inverted cone of a nose.
This was one of those technical problems that normally required a significant quantity of ‘Old Thought Provoker’ before I could make head or tail of it. Numerous solutions were looked at, scribbled down and subsequently sent flying to the little round filing cabinet in the corner of the room. In order to keep him faithful to the character, the mouth was a crucial feature and had to be there. Starting from the inner load flow, I initially thought it would need to be a sort of piggy back series of envelopes, sort of like having a 31 grafted onto a 90 to keep the stresses to the minimum, but it was Camerons who floated the idea that the load tapes could actually exit the envelope and re-enter the lower half of the balloon. This allowed a fairly standard baffled inner structure to support the mouth but still fed all the load from the top of the envelope to the strong points at the real mouth.
A little clever jiggery pokery with donuts also took care of the troublesome trumpeting hooter. We were off and running with a workable solution and I duly trundled back from Bristol to Telford and drew up the final design drawing. Little did I think that this would also be my final design for Virgin. The drawings were completed, presented and approved with a few changes, and duly sent to Camerons for production…and that was the last I ever saw of Trump!
I left VABC whilst he was still in production and this has been probably the only balloon I have ever designed that I have never seen in the flesh…or is that in the nylon? Every one of my creations until then had been a fully hands on experience and I feel lucky to have flown pretty much all of them, but Trump went on tour as soon as he was completed and I never got the chance to see him face to face.
Apparently he now resides somewhere in the far east, legless and porous. I think I know how he feels!
Click here to watch the YouTube video of the launch in Château-d'Oex.
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