If your eyes were turned skyward in the Arizona desert today, no, that wasn’t Carl Fredricksen or Russell from Pixar’s Up floating through the heavens beneath a colorful bundle of balloons — it was magic maker (and newly minted back-to-basics aeronaut) David Blaine.
Blaine’s high-flying stunt captured plenty of attention in real time, as he soared to an altitude of nearly 25,000 feet (that’s nearly 5 miles!) powered by nothing more than an array of helium balloons. Unlike Carl in Up, though, he didn’t need to summon any Pixar CGI to drag his house along — he simply tethered himself to his featherweight flotilla and hung there, suspended freely for the duration of his nearly hourlong flight.
Blaine teamed with YouTube to broadcast the entire event — billed as Ascension in partnership with YouTube Originals — achieving a record-setting 770,000 simultaneous live views as the stunt unfolded, via Variety. In the clip below, the real fun begins at takeoff just after the 2-hour mark. After that, it’s nothing but air, as Blaine ascends so high he eventually has to put on an oxygen mask:
It didn’t take long for fans on social media to pick, well, up on the stunt’s uncanny resemblance to the Pixar film, and the reactions came sailing across:
The latest in a long line of death-defying stunts that’ve seen Blaine spend days underwater and an entire week buried underground, Ascension took plenty of advance planning to ensure the performer had everything he needed to manage the feat. The flight itself reportedly required more than 4 dozen helium balloons, along with tons of training to prepare for the dramatic change in temperatures and oxygen levels — not to mention learning how to go with the flow as the entire contraption floated wherever the shifting breezes took it.
After Blaine parachuted back to Earth (no word on the fate of the balloons), he told his 9-year-old daughter the whole spectacle was all for her, serving up another incidental, family-friendly nod to what made Up’s fictional balloon flight so poignant. Nope, those aren’t tears we’re crying — it’s just our eyes twitching at the thought of going to such sky-high lengths to show one's love.