Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Olympic origins of those wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tube men

Today, flapping wildly in the breeze and grinning maniacally with outstretched arms, the giant balloon men known as “tall boys” grace shopping malls, banks, and Family Guy cutaway gags, but these ubiquitous, colorful, arm-waving inflatable novelties have a surprisingly noble backstory, far removed from any used car lot or boat show. The folks at Great Big Story did some delving into the history of these promotional characters, and they have turned their findings into an informative little video called “Tale Of Tall Boy: The Origin Of The Inflatable Man.”

The “tall boy” story begins, it turns out, with the Trinidad-based carnival artist Peter Minshall, who specializes in larger-than-life dancing puppets. Thanks to a book called Caribbean Festival Arts, Minshall’s work caught the attention of the planners of the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta. They wanted Mishall to create something special for the opening ceremony, and Minshall responded with the aforementioned, helium-powered “tall boys,” created in conjunction with artist and engineer Doron Gazit. Gazit patented the “tall boy” design and sold the license to advertisers. And thus a promotional legend was born. Once a herald of athletic achievement in its highest form, the “tall boy” is now a herald of the latest Mazda sales event.

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