The Violet Beauregarde Fail

violet beauregarde failWe always promised that we would share the good, the bad, and the ugly on this blog. Well, today we present a complete and total fail. We tested a 6ft, 72″ latex climb in balloon. Yes, a giant balloon you climb inside.


Well, we were doing research for a Willy Wonka escape room Katie designed (you can see her awesome Sherlock Holmes one here). We spotted the balloon on Amazon and immediately thought of the gum-chewing Violet Beauregarde and her unfortunate turn as a blueberry in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Here’s the shot from the seller’s listing:


From Amazon

We imagined a Violet-like character in the escape room, giving hints and so forth. However, we were more than a little skeptical the balloon would work. But after watching several hilarious YouTube videos of people trying and succeeding, we decided to test one to see if it would work for us.

It didn’t.

For starters, even though this was listed as a “Climb In Balloon,” the instructions that arrive with the product DON’T tell you how to climb inside it. They instruct you to fill the balloon with helium and float it. Thankfully, YouTube had all the answers. In order to inflate it and wear it, we needed to use a leaf blower. Good thing Katie has a super duper electric one!

The balloon arrives in a plastic bag with the aforementioned instructions. It looks just like a little balloon, but supersized. I snapped a photo of it with a tape measure, just to give you an idea of the diameter.

climb in balloonThe technique for getting inside the balloon is to inflate it a little, stretch the neck open, and then quickly slide a foot in. Inflate again, and slide the other foot it.

feet in balloonThen you stand up, inflate, and start shimmying the balloon up your body. But in order to create the space for your legs and torso, the balloon has to stay semi-inflated at all time. Which means someone is running a leaf blower next to your head as you try to ease your way into your balloon suit.

balloon progressWe made it a little past my knees before the balloon ripped. NOOOOO! Maybe it was the roughness of my clothing? Something smooth like running tights, yoga pants, or even wearing shorts might have made the difference.

Or perhaps it was they way the neck of the balloon kept curling downward, stressing the sides of the balloon until it finally ripped? If we’d had a couple of balloons to test, my guess is that we would have eventually succeeded (but at $25 a balloon, this was simply not feasible). Whatever the reason for the fail, I was really, really, really sad. I wanted it to work folks. I really wanted to be inside a giant balloon with just my head sticking out.

Well, you can’t win them all.

The amount of work to get inside this balloon, the high potential for failure, and the price per balloon means we’ll have to figure out something else for the Willy Wonka escape room. And whatever it is, it’ll be Katie’s turn to climb inside it. Heh heh.

Pop Art

pop artIt’s a fusion of form and function as a classic self-portrait is transformed into bubbly pop art. Don’t miss the gallery at the bottom of this post!

We read Lester Fizz, Bubble-Gum Artist, written by Ruth Spiro and illustrated by Thor Wickstrom (Dutton Juvenile, 2008). Everyone in Lester’s family (Frieda, Winslow, Cornell, Pablo, and Georgia) is an artist, but Lester just can’t seem to find his medium. Then one day, during a visit to Uncle Edgar’s studio, Lester discovers his amazing talent for creating art with pink bubble gum bubbles. Confidence growing, he decides to enter the art competition at his school. But disaster strikes when Lester loses a front tooth on the big day! Fortunately, recalling a bit of artistic wisdom, Lester is able to rally and produce the most tremendous bubble ever.

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 sheet of white poster board (approximately 14″ x 22″)
  • Multiple pieces of tagboard or brown poster board
  • 2 small pieces of white poster board (approximately 1″ x 1.5″)
  • Hole punch
  • 1 piece of yarn (approximately 10″)
  • A box cutter
  • A selection of multicultural construction paper
  • A selection of construction paper
  • 1 pink balloon
  • 1 pencil
  • Markers for decorating
  • Scissors, glue stick, tape, and hot glue for construction

The project begins with the creation of your portrait frame. We prepped the following tagboard (or brown poster board) pieces in advance:

frame piecesIf it helps, here are their approximate sizes:

Top piece: 3.5″ x 8.5″
Corner pieces: 3.5″ x 3.5″
Side pieces: 2″ x 14″
Bottom piece: 2″ x 8.5″

The frame pieces were laid out on top of the white poster board “canvas.” Then we encouraged the kids to customize the corners and sides by shaping them with their scissors. A corner, for example, could be shaped into something a little more delicate:

cornerAnd the sides could be given a bit of a curve:

frame sideThen, we invited the kids to select some “frame doodads” from a big pile to bulk up their frames. We were very proud of our doodad pile. Here are a few of our lovely choices:

various doodadsUse markers to create scrolls, lines, and shapes on your frame pieces (metallic Sharpie markers worked great too). Then use a glue stick to attach the pieces to the poster board canvas.

finished frameThe last step for the frame is adding your “hangers” (you can see them sticking out of the top of the frame in the image above). To create the hangers, take two small white poster board pieces, punch holes in them, and then hot glue them to the back of the canvas like this:

hangersKnot the ends of the yarn in each hole, and the frame is ready to hang. The only thing that’s missing, of course, is the portrait! Use the regular and multicultural construction paper to create a shirt, face and hair. Draw the facial features with markers. I brought out the Bling Bin for artistic embellishments as well.

Now all you need is bubble gum! Use the box cutter to cut a slit in the portrait’s mouth, then poke the pencil through the slit to enlarge it. The goal is to make a hole large enough for the mouth and neck of the balloon to go through.

Starting on the outside of the portrait (i.e. the finished side) push the mouth and neck of the balloon through the hole to the other side. Here’s what the back of your portrait should now look like:Stand behind the portrait and blow into the balloon. Your portrait will blow a bubble! You can also blow up the balloon, knot it, push it through hole in the portrait, and hang it on a wall to admire your work from afar.

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