A vinyl column perched on top of a fan, with skinny little arms and a big dumb grin; blowing around goofily on the street corner near you. If by some stretch of the imagination you have never seen one of these things in person, you have probably seen them around the Internet, or on T. Depending on your tastes.
A number of cities across the U. I want to go ahead and try to imagine an origin story for these things. Used car salesman by some Tarp and a leaf blower and messes around in his garage? Slighted bounce house designer goes rogue determined to show them all? No no no no. The real story behind these is so much better, and it all starts with this guy. Peter Minshall, ladies and gentlemen.
Peter Minshall made a name for himself in part by making these larger than life puppets that danced through the street to the beat of a steel drum band. His work was featured in a book called Caribbean Festival Arts, which wound up in front of someone on the steering committee for the Olympics; which is how, in , Peter Minshall found himself in a stadium in Los Angeles working with a bunch of different artists trying to figure out ideas for the opening ceremonies at the Atlanta games.
The following year, as Minshall tells it, he was trying to do something using inflatable tubes. But there I am sitting in the bleachers with a little note pad and there are all these tubes side by side going up. And somewhere out of the haze, I just sketch two of the inflatable tubes, and I joined them at the waist going into one tube which is a torso and if you divide them again at the top with some arms and a bit of a head, you might get an incredible, undulating, dancing figure.
And so it might to another person seem like a great leap of the imagination. To me it was like jumping into water like an eager little duckling.
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Peter Minshall knew how to make giant figures, but they had always been powered by people, not air. And so while Peter Minshall was, in that moment able to glimpse upon the possibility of giant undulating inflatable dancing tube guys…. And so while Peter Minshall was in that moment, able to glimpse upon the possibility of these Tall Boys, he knew he needed help.
And I told him, yes it definitely can be done. This is Doron Gazit, another artist who like Peter Minshall had gotten known in the Olympics planning scene. He had done some work in the 84 games in Los Angeles. Doron Gazit first got interested in inflatables when he was a college student visiting the US. Gazit is from Israel. He saw someone making balloon figures on the street, and got obsessed with doing that himself.
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He sold balloon animals on the streets in Jerusalem, and to this day he still carries balloons around with them in his pockets. And so after he got the call, Gazit and his team headed over to meet Minshall and see if they could make the Tallboys a reality; which actually turned out to be a pretty big engineering challenge. I had to find the right strong powerful motor that would be able to give me enough? Gazit futzed around with the materials and the methodologies, and eventually these Tall Boys came to life and they looked very much like the tube guys we see today with two major exceptions: They were thirty, or sixty feet high depending on who you ask.
The Olympics in Atlanta came and went, and so at this point in the story the Tube Guys, the Tall Boys are out in the world.
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But how do they go from a thing we saw at the Olympics once, basically as an art piece. How do they go from that, to a thing you see at like, every used car lot in America? Here is where the Minshall camp and the Gazit camp begin to diverge. He recalls him saying:. The dancing, vertical, inflatable. Doron Gazit says that he wanted a patent because he put a lot of research and development into making the tube guys work and he was already starting to see other people rip off his efforts.
Where they disagree is whether or not it was cool for Gazit to get a patent on it without informing Minshall.
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He had a vision. He was asking for it. Gazit says his attorney told him that in the eyes of the law, Minshall would not be considered an inventor. And so busy was surprised to learn that Minshall had been angry with him. My instinct tells me, that before he could do any such thing, it is his duty to consult with me. Gazit meanwhile continues to make money off of the Tallboys, Fly Guys, whatever… He licenses his patents other companies like Look Our Way, which sells inflatables here in San Francisco.
Yeah so the technology we license from them has to do with the way the air escapes the inflatable. Air escapes both from throughout the top of the head as well a each one of these arms.
Look Our Way has their own name for these things: And even though they may be licensing pre-existing technology they also invented a whole new use for them. It came to them by way of a farmer in eastern Washington state named Gary Long. So a little set up: You see them on street corners, at gas stations, at shopping malls. You see them at blowout sales and grand openings of all kinds.
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Their wacky faces hover over us, and then fall down to meet us, and then rise up again. Depending upon your tastes, they are either full of ridiculous joyful exuberance, or the tackiest thing in the world. A number of cities across the US have actually banned the use of tube guys. In the early s, Peter Minshall had gained fans among members of the planning committee for the Olympics and in , he found himself in a stadium in Los Angeles working with a bunch of different artists, trying out different ideas for the opening ceremonies for the Atlanta Games the following year.
He then began licensing its use through his company, Air Dimensional Designs. Turns out that vertical inflatables also make for good scarecrows. Format site of the week: Star Wars by Thomas Dagg. With their violent flailing and creepy, menacing smiles, I find these abominations to be redolent of the giant-sized Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters and truly disturbing. The traditional dances from Trinidad are beautiful, rhythmic and choreographed—a far cry from the random whiplash movements of these ugly things.
Thank you for introducing us to Mr. For some reason I feel like they must have been at used car lots since the 70s…. The Notebook of Doom 1: My kids call them Balloon Goons, too.
I wondered where they came up with that. So Gazit and Minshall s tube guys made an appearance in the Olympic opening ceremony, and that was the first the world had ever seen of these inflatable men.