Balloons float real-life 'Up' house near LA

National Geographic Channel team successfully floats little house held aloft by 300 weather balloons. Why can't life always mimic a charming Pixar movie?

Leslie Katz Former Culture Editor
Leslie Katz led a team that explored the intersection of tech and culture, plus all manner of awe-inspiring science, from space to AI and archaeology. When she's not smithing words, she's probably playing online word games, tending to her garden or referring to herself in the third person.
  • Third place film critic, 2021 LA Press Club National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards
Leslie Katz
2 min read

Up house comes to life
© National Geographic Channel/Stewart Volland

Ever wished real life could be more like a Pixar movie? It was for a little while on Saturday, as a team of awesomizers managed to successfully lift a house into the air, "Up" style, using a cluster of brightly colored balloons.

The adorable 2,000-pound, 16x16-foot yellow house took to the skies with the aid of 300 weather balloons that grow to 8 feet tall when inflated. From top to bottom, the entire aircraft measured 10 stories high and reached an altitude of 10,000 feet. It flew for about an hour at dawn from a private airfield east of Los Angeles. Oh, and there were people (of the non-animated variety) aboard.

The floating feat sets a world record for the largest balloon cluster flight ever attempted, according to the National Geographic Channel. It filmed the flight as part of a new series called "How Hard Can It Be?" that's set to debut in the fall.

And if you're wondering how hard it can be to set a balloon-supported house aloft, well, "it was pretty hard," Paul Carson, the show's host, notes in the behind-the-scenes video below. "It was very difficult actually."

National Geographic house
Volunteers in California's High Desert prepare the house for liftoff Saturday. © National Geographic Channel/Stewart Volland
View of balloons
A view of the 300 balloons from the inside of the little house. © National Geographic Channel/Stewart Volland

Pixar's 10th animated feature focuses on the fate of 78-year-old Carl Fredricksen, his house, and a wayward 8-year-old who happens by one day. Launched into the sky together by a cluster of balloons tied to the roof of Fredricksen's house, the two set off on what could safely be called a high-flying adventure.

It took the National Geographic team of scientists, engineers, and balloon pilots two weeks to pull off their version of the "Up" house--from the initial assignment through planning, building, and rigging the house and setting it aloft in the clear skies to cheers down below.

Carson picks "incredulity" to describe the dominant feeling among the crew as the house made its way skyward. As for us, "grinning like dopes" would about cover it.