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In this film you will discover how the modern party balloon owes its existence to a grand theft in the jungles of Amazonia! The robbery was organized by the otherwise respectable management of Kew Gardens in London, where the villainous story of rubber begins.

Back in the 1800's, the industrialized countries of the World, led by Great Britain, needed rubber. Their solution was typical of the time - they stole it! A ship-load of rubber tree seeds was floated up the Amazon, smuggled past the Brazilian authorities, and sent to Kew. Only fourteen seeds survived, but from that tiny number, British gardeners were able to grow enough rubber trees to cover the entire Empire.

Today there is only one rubber tree left at Kew, and we see it being tapped for its sap. The name given to rubber tree sap is latex. In its natural form it is white and runny - so how does this liquid latex become rubber? The answer is to be found on the balloon shaped formers at the balloon factory. It is a salty solution.

The milky white latex is coloured with dye, and poured into a bath at the bottom of the balloon-making machine. To the strains of a Viennese waltz, hundreds of round porcelain balloon-shaped formers move majestically around the machine, dipping first into a salt solution and then into the latex. Contact with salt turns the liquid latex into rubber, and in this way hundreds of balloons are created each and every minute.

The film then shows how the rubber ring at the mouth end is made, and how the balloons are removed from their porcelain parents. It also introduces us to another kind of balloon you may occasionally spy in the sky - the giant people-carrying hot air balloon.

Duration: 7:44

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This film is also available on the DVD:
'The Magic of Making - Volume 4'.