Red Balloon, The (1956): Albert Lamorisse’s Charming Oscar-Winning Fable–Most Influential Short Ever Made

French director Albert Lamorisse’s charming, lyrical The Red Balloon is only 34-minute-long and yet had tremendous appeal and impact in the international film world, including the U.S.

The tale, powerfully told with sharp imagery and minimal dialogue, centers on a young boy (played by the director’s son Pascal) who finds a helium-filled balloon.  Intrigued and fascinated by it, he begins playing with what he thinks is just a toy, only to realize that the balloon has a mind and a will of its own.

The red balloon follows the boy through the colorful streets of Paris, then gets into the classroom, disrupting order.  At the end, just as you think that the boy and balloon have to part, the director comes up with a surprise conclusion.

“The Red Balloon” is splendidly shot by Edmond Sechan. A winner at the Cannes Film Fest, it is still the only short feature to ever win the Original Screenplay Oscar.

Lamorisse made other films, mostly shorts (some about flying).  He was killed in a helicopter accident in Iran, in 1970, while shooting “The Lover’s Wind.”  Undeterred, his widow completed the film, which was nominated for the Best Documentary Oscar.

End Note

Former President Ronald Reagan, the president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) introduced “The Red Balloon” in its TV premiere as an episode of the CBS anthology G.E. Theater on April 2, 1961.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Screenplay (Original): Albert Lamorisse

Oscar Awards: 1


Oscar Context:

The other nominees in this category were: Fellini and Tullio Pinelli for “La Strada,” Robert Lewin for “The Bold and the Brave,” William Rose for “The Lady Killers,” and Andrew L. Stone for “Julie.”