The pictograms for this favorite moving image 101 classic, The Red Balloon (1956), show more than just the exemplary precision of continuity editing and a classical 3-act structure in plotting. Visually materialist, these pictograms function as analytical tools on multiple edges: to show how the intensifying bond between the boy and the balloon evolves procedurally; to superimpose, with geographical and anthropological interest, the 1955-56 location of the film Red Balloon onto a contemporary map of Paris; to map a journey of intensifying conflicts; and to single out the swerving energies and roughening emotions of the story world in mood-board like representation. Multiple functions of pictograms are at work, beyond data visualization. Fion Lam, Ka-yi Tam, Hannah Yuen and Chin-wai Lee have their own emphasis. 《紅氣球》是學過活動影像拍攝的入門經典,或許是這樣,我們可能錯過了敘事藝術上的微細質感。氣球於小孩的動人關係不用質疑了,可是甚麼叫我們感動?這裡四個圖形分析,從唯物的層面揭示創作者的藝術心思,著我們不再輕易走漏眼。

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To watch Albert Lamorisse’s Le ballon rouge (The Red Balloon , 1956)

KEYWORD RESEARCH: 3-act structure; multiple stories in one; process-oriented (visual) narration







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LAM Chung Yan Fion: Adventure in Belleville
A pictogram for Albert Lamorisse’s The Red Balloon (1956)

I choose The Red Balloon to be the object of my pictogram analysis because I like its comedic theme. The story is simple and lighthearted, yet its underlying meaning amazes me as I dig into its historical background.

The film was to bring people out of the neurological atmosphere after World War II, to let people see hope and have faith in the world. It is easy to lose hope in humanity or

in ourselves as the world develops. I think in this era and the current situation of Hong

Kong, or even in the world, hope and faith are still constantly needed.

The short film used a child’s point of view to convey the whole story. It turns the audience into a child to look at the world, and to re-experience the innocent mind of a child. So the style of my pictogram is also childlike. I want to turn it into a “treasure map” so that visitors can also experience the story in my pictogram using a child’s point of view.

Map of Paris compatible with the real locations of the film Red Balloon (below)

The following Red Balloon pictograms are only presented in this newsletter.


Tam Ka-yi: a pictogram of The Red Balloon

I analyzed The Red Balloon, a 1956 French fantasy comedy-drama, to show its time-based arrangement in the form of a narrative pictogram. It explains the boy’s journey sequence in the form of a chronology-like storyboard. it clarifies the duration and process (horizontal narrative dimension) of the boy and the magical red balloon after they met, as well as the artistic meanings, the mood and the emotions of the characters in the story(vertical narrative dimension).


YUEN Ka-hei Hannah:  
Bonding: A pictogram for Albert Lamorisse’s Le Balloon Rouge, 1956

The idea of my pictogram is to use a sign sequence, which I think best reveals the timeline and plot of Le Balloon Rouge. Each sign represents a scene and the parts build up the whole of the narrative. Since the movie is told in a 3-act structure, the 3 rows of the pictogram indicate the setup (establishment), confrontation (development) and resolution respectively. Watercolour is used because I would like to create a dreamy atmosphere. In my view, Le Balloon Rouge is just like a beautiful fairy tale. For the vertical part, the circle shapes like a balloon and this matches the main character of the story. The red colour undoubtedly represents the red balloon, while the yellow colour is the boy, Pascal. I choose yellow for Pascal because he saves the balloon and lights up its life. Other colours are the colours of the balloons which appear in some scenes. The symbols in the circles interpret various situations in each scene.

From top to bottom and left to right, they depict:

1. The red balloon appears in the opening. 2. Pascal meets the red balloon and they build up relationship. 3. Pascal keeps finding umbrellas for the red balloon. This act establishes trust between them so the red balloon is willing to follow Pascal. 4. Some barriers separate Pascal and the red balloon. However, their relationship becomes firmer after these obstacles. 5. The red balloon meets the blue balloon and they would like to follow each other. 6. Pascal and the red balloon are chased by a group of boys. 7. The red balloon is attacked by one of the boys and it breaks. 8. Pascal loses his dearest friend. 9. Lots of balloons fly towards Pascal to comfort him.

For the horizontal part, lines between circles indicate how one scene transits to another one. It shows the overall flow of the story. The background is in grey because the movie is in a grey tone. This highlights the bright colour of the balloon. The lamp and the house in the background are the opening scene and ending scene of the movie. I think the main theme of the story is how Pascal develops a strong bond with the red balloon. The pictogram focuses on expressing the relationship between them.

LI Chin-wai: 
From Strangers to the Never-abandoning Bond: the Balloon and the Boy

The main purpose of this narrative pictogram is to visualize the development of relationship between the boy and the balloon, from the first moment the two strangers met, to a never-abandoning bond. The balloon and the boy somehow “treat” each other as “equals.” The boy never demands full control or assert domination over the balloon, which is probably why they share such strong bonds.

In this pictogram series, the main focus is the “unique and unbreakable bond” between the red balloon and the boy. The building up process of their relationship is broken down into several stages. For example, The image below is the particular scene where the boy tries to reach for the balloon first encountered as it is hanging on a lamppost in a street in Paris.

The following two images indicate two other moments in the film, namely, when the balloon learns how to tail the boy, following his footsteps, and when the boy asks for a shelter for the balloon from adults carrying umbrellas.

Acrylic is chosen for its distinctive colors and allowance for relatively wild, rough expression. However, with images alone, I realize that the whole canvas appears to be quite messy and unorganized. With the help of masking tape, I noted down events throughout the piece and linked them up in chronological order by needles and threads in black. Threads do not merely tie up events and scenes according to timeline. With the dots linked up with fewer threads, they may be events that can be considered “sharing  similarities”. For example, there is this scene when the boy goes to school but is punished for bringing the balloon with him while distracting fellow classmates. There is this another scene displaying the boy unwelcome by the church when bringing the balloon with him. In both scenes, the boy has chosen not to abandon the balloon despite the consequences it brings him.

END of pictograms | END of the Ventriloquists Series


To view all posts of the Ventriloquists Series (the exhibition’s daily newsletter)

The 63-work exhibition “The Ventriloquists…Thinking Narratively (4-19 July 2020)

and 2 screenings are finished.

Seven works are awarded prizes, selected by FPC, Feaston and the audience