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The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels Celebrates its 150th anniversary with a commemorative Gala paying homage to the city of Hong Kong

November 29, 2016 Luxury Hotels No Comments Email Email

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, the company today proudly unveils a spectacular series of custom-made giant balloons designed and hand-made by artist Ken Moody of Big Ideas Parade Giants Studio in Arizona, USA. Eight balloons represent the core components of the group’s business units, seven of which are unveiled ahead of the 150th Gala celebration on the evening of Friday 25 November 2016.


Seven of the eight giant helium balloons have been anchored onto the hotel’s legendary façade for a period of three days from 25-27 November 2016, marking the first time in the world such a large-scale display has been tethered to a Grade I-listed heritage landmark building.

Each balloon was designed, sewn, assembled, and hand-finished, before being shipped to Hong Kong in custom-made crates and handled by logistics sponsor GS4 International. This is the first time that seven of HSH’s curated collection of giant helium balloons – including inflated renditions of The Peak Tram; The Peak Tower; The Repulse Bay Complex; The Peninsula’s 1934 Phantom II vintage Rolls-Royce; The Peninsula’s MD902 Helicopter; the HSH-themed Montgolfière-style balloon (named after the inventors of the world’s first passenger-carrying hot air balloon, Joseph-Michel Montgolfier and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier); and even a giant Peninsula Pageboy named “Michael” after Sir Michael Kadoorie – has been showcased together, in what will become a travelling exhibition to HSH properties around the world in 2017. Only The Peninsula Hong Kong-shaped balloon was not displayed on 25 November, so as not to duplicate The Peninsula’s already iconic façade!

The stunning spectacle has been achieved after months of planning in a highly complex feat of engineering and logistics, orchestrated by Hong Kong-based Ironmonger Events and The Peninsula Hong Kong’s engineering team, with policy support from the Hong Kong Government’s Home Affairs Department.

“The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels has always been an adventurous and pioneering company,” said Peter Borer, Chief Executive Officer, who was the creative mind behind the concept of the giant balloons to celebrate the Anniversary. “As the world’s oldest hotel company still in operation, we have some of the most iconic hotels and properties around the world. We wanted to make our 150th celebration special and in true HSH style we will have a splendid party – but on this occasion we will also have giant balloons adorning the hotel. Balloons are often associated with travel, glamour and adventure, and these are all attributes that are very much in line with The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels’ culture.”

The eight balloons represent some of HSH’s most iconic emblems and include an HSH Montgolfier-styled balloon, The Peak Tower, The Peak Tram, The Repulse Bay, a vintage Rolls-Royce, a Helicopter, a Peninsula Pageboy (named Michael), and The Peninsula Hong Kong.

Ken Moody, Founder of Big Ideas Parade Giants, studied sculpture and oil painting at The Art Institute of Seattle and considers each of his creations sculptures and artworks rather than ordinary balloons. Three generations of Moody family members man the ropes, including his mother, sons and his wife Tracie.

“There is nothing like a parade to brighten up any rainy day, and there is little more fun as a child to see one of your favourite characters represented by huge balloons soaring above the crowd. This was my inspiration when I was brought to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City as a boy,” said Mr. Moody.

This early encounter eventually led to a latent rise in interest in the art of making balloons himself. And indeed it is an art. Mr Moody’s passion for replicating favourite characters, magnificent animal species and even some off-beat humans, has made him one of the most well-known balloon artists in the world.

“The process for building a balloon begins with a line drawing which is presented to the client, who can then ask for modifications, after which the elevation drawings are executed. While this can be done on computer using 3D software, I prefer to design all balloon renderings by hand,” said Mr. Moody. “We make a scale clay model in proportion of one inch to one foot. The model is coated with our company’s proprietary paint and once dry, paint is pulled off in sections. We then make a transparency and project the pattern on the wall, hanging up the lengths of fabric and tracing the outline. Each section of the pattern is registered with a numbering system that aligns each section to whatever area it is to be placed on.”

With safety of paramount concern, the balloons are built with a series of chambers so that if there is any escape of helium, the rest of the balloon will not deflate. Even with 25 years in the balloon industry, the HSH balloons are the largest-scale project Mr Moody has ever worked on.

“My favourite balloon to date as far as complexity of design and how it has turned out is The Peninsula’s vintage Rolls-Royce. It has so many details and an extraordinary number of chambers and it’s the one I’m most proud of,” he said. The amount of detail and the number of chambers that give the Rolls-Royce its structural integrity means that this is truly massive. “The tricky thing about doing something like the Rolls-Royce is that you have to be extremely accurate as the car is so well known. It had to be exactly right and there was a lot of pressure to make it!”

A raft of fascinating balloon facts related to the HSH 150th Anniversary commission:

  • 8 HSH giant helium balloons were originally commissioned by HSH in the form of the company’s most recognisable assets: The Peak Tram; The Peak Tower; The Repulse Bay Complex; The Peninsula Hong Kong; The Peninsula’s Phantom II vintage RollsRoyce; The Peninsula’s MD902 Helicopter, and even a giant Peninsula Pageboy; as well as the HSH-themed Montgolfière-style balloon named after the inventors of the world’s first passenger-carrying hot air balloon in 1783, Joseph-Michel Montgolfier and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier
  • Each giant helium balloon ranges from 60 feet (18 metres) high to 66 feet (20 metres) wide
  • It took 9 months and over 10,000 man hours to build the balloons
  • 5100 yards (4663 metres) of fabric was used to construct the balloons – enough fabric to wrap vertically around Hong Kong Island almost five times
  • 150 gallons of proprietary paint were used to achieve the rich depth of colour and unique patina of each balloon – enough paint to fill three-and-a half large bathtubs
  • This is the largest project that Big Ideas Parade Giants Studio has ever completed
  • An airport hangar had to be leased in Tucson, Arizona in order to inflate and complete the balloons
  • More than 2100 cubic metres of helium – the size of an Olympic swimming pool – were used to inflate the giant balloons for The Peninsula gala
  • All four giant helium balloons on The Peninsula’s 7/F Sun Terrace were tethered by a total of 64 anchor points
  • All four giant helium balloons were balanced by 10 tonnes of counterweights on the roofs of The Peninsula’s 7/F Garden Suite and Fitness Centre
  • Each of the three HSH giant helium balloons at street level on Salisbury Road, was tethered to three custom-built platforms, each with 10 anchor points per balloon
  • 7,488 small helium balloons decorated the hotel’s interior public spaces
  •  10 experienced “Balloon Captains” led by Ken Moody travelled from the US to Hong Kong to manage a crew of more than 80 workers required to help deflate and inflate the balloons

The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels will organise a world tour of the balloons in 2017 to our various properties around the world. More details will be announced in 2017.

A video showcasing the craftsmanship and artistic talent behind “The Making of the Balloons” can be viewed here.

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