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Photos: Getting an armchair off the ground

Pixar's new film, "Up," centers around a house towed by thousands of balloons. What better way to promote it than with an armchair tugged by a cluster of balloons?

1 of 12 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Director filming Up balloons

On May 29, Disney and Pixar will release Pixar's 10th film, "Up." The animated film centers around the adventures of 78-year-old Carl Fredricksen, who ties thousands of balloons to his house in order to set off for South America.

On Friday, May 8, Pixar hosted a "cluster ballooning" event for the press, which involved a flying armchair suspended below about 64 large, helium-filled balloons. Here, "Up" director Pete Docter takes a ride on the armchair as a film crew documents his adventure.

2 of 12 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Clipping new balloons onto the cluster

Team leader and ballooning world record holder Troy Bradley and a group of volunteers got the 64 balloons ready to carry the requisite armchair.

One by one, Bradley and his group clipped new balloons onto the cluster. The process involved distributing them evenly into the cluster, which ultimately was shaped roughly like a lightbulb. The balloons were also distributed evenly by color.

3 of 12 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Caribiner connection

Bradley and his team were very focused on safety, probably a good idea given that the people riding the flying armchair Friday were going to be reporters and the director of "Up."

This is one of the many carabiner connections that made up the structural underpinning of the cluster and its tethering to the armchair. The balloons were organized into six sections, called A, B, C, D, E, and F, many of which were denoted by the small labels like the one in this image.

4 of 12 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Cluster catching first sun

In order to get the balloon cluster ready for people to ride at 8 a.m. Friday, Bradley and his volunteer team showed up at Pixar's Emeryville, Calif., headquarters at 4 a.m.

Here, as the Friday morning sun crests the trees on the southeastern side of Pixar's campus, it is reflected on the sides of the balloons making up the cluster, even as the team was still inflating balloons and adding them to the cluster.

5 of 12 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Chair starting to lift

As more and more balloons were added to the cluster, the armchair began to rise off the ground, even with Carol Bair, a member of Bradley's traveling team, sitting in it.

As more and more balloons were added, multiple people were required to sit on the arms.

6 of 12 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Lamp and cluster

A giant version of Pixar's iconic lamp, Luxor Jr., which is part of the company's logo, is located just outside the main building on its campus. Here, the balloon cluster is seen behind the giant lamp.
7 of 12 Daniel Terdiman/CNET


One of the giant balloons got away from the team after being inflated. The balloon was so big that it was visible in the sky for well over a minute, while normal-size balloons would have disappeared much quicker.
8 of 12 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Landing gear

Team member Ray Bair joked that these scissors were their "landing gear." The scissors, which were carried on the armchair, could be used to cut four special lines, each connected to a single balloon, if it were necessary in an emergency to reduce the cluster's lift.
9 of 12 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Up at flying armchair

Ray Bair was the first rider of the day, testing out the cluster. This is a view straight up at Bair, riding in the flying armchair.
10 of 12 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Me in the air

CNET News reporter Daniel Terdiman was the first reporter to ride the flying armchair at Pixar on Friday, May 8, 2009.
11 of 12 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Director liftoff

"Up" director Pete Docter lifts off in the flying armchair.
12 of 12 Daniel Terdiman/CNET


Airship Ventures' Bay Area-based zeppelin is seen flying overhead. Pixar and Disney hired the zeppelin, seen here with the "Up" logo, to promote the film.

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