Wallace and Gromit’s moon rocket has taken to the skies above Bristol in the form of a hot air balloon.
The animated characters’ first invention, featured in A Grand Day Out, has been made into the shaped balloon to raise money for charity.
It was created by Exclusive Ballooning, who collaborated with Aardman Animations before sponsoring the balloon in support of Wallace and Gromit’s Grand Appeal, the dedicated charity for Bristol Children’s Hospital.
On Tuesday the moon rocket set off from Bristol’s harbourside for its maiden flight, with Aardman co-founder and creative director Peter Lord there to watch it go.
The balloon will now fly around the world to raise funds for the charity, which supports critically ill and sick children across Bristol, the South West and South Wales.
Andrew Holly, director of Exclusive Ballooning, decided to build a hot air balloon for the Grand Appeal after his daughter Roma, now two and a half, was treated at Bristol Children’s Hospital in 2018.
“My wife and I were at Bristol Children’s Hospital in 2018 with our eight-day-old daughter Roma after she developed some breathing issues,” Mr Holly said.
“Fortunately, all was well and Roma is already crazy about hot air balloons, rockets and Gromit, so she really is going to love this.
“Whilst in the hospital overnight, I was inspired by the fantastic balloon mural that adorns the corridors and I realised we could really help the Grand Appeal raise some serious funds.
“The charity does such crucial work valued by so many people at difficult times, it was a no-brainer. We decided we would privately sponsor the balloon in full and it was built in complete secrecy.”
The Grand Appeal has partnered with Aardman for the past 25 years, with Wallace and Gromit characters spearheading the charity’s fundraising.
Moon Rocket will generate funds to support patients, families and staff at Bristol Children’s Hospital and its neonatal intensive care unit at St Michael’s Hospital.
It will do this through balloon flights, workplace and school visits, tethered rides and displays.
Since 1995, the Grand Appeal has raised more than £70 million to fund medical equipment, research, three family accommodation houses, 20 support staff and a programme of art, music and play.
Helen Haskell, of the Grand Appeal, described Moon Rocket as a “unique feat of engineering”.
“We are over the moon that they have been able to turn our fun-loving duo’s contraption into this iconic hot air balloon,” she said.
“As the regional specialist centre for sick children, Bristol Children’s Hospital treats children from all over the South West and South Wales, but Bristol is our home, and how lovely it is today to bring together Wallace and Gromit, the Grand Appeal and balloons to help us to continue to support sick children across the region.”
The balloon is modelled on Moon Rocket, which featured in Wallace and Gromit’s first animated film, A Grand Day Out.
A Grand Day Out took six years to produce and was first transmitted on Christmas Eve in 1990.
Wallace built the balloon in the basement of 62 Wallaby Street over a bank holiday weekend, after realising there was no cheese in the house and remembering that the moon is supposedly made of cheese.
It took 18 months for Exclusive Ballooning to create the Moon Rocket hot air balloon, which has an internal volume of 80,000 cubic feet.