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"SKIPPY THE BUSH KANGAROO"

 
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We had been approached by Fauna Productions to use our balloon in a TV episode of "Skippy the Bush Kangaroo".

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Sonny and Skippy. ... ( Fauna Productions.)

     
 

The balloons coming down! We'll have to jump!

 

Ken Bath and I made a parachute jump for the film. In the script, the jump was out of the balloon but we actually dropped out of a Cessna 180.  Ken is below here.

 

Look down there Skip. We'll have to jump!

(Ken made a second jump with a dummy kangaroo strapped to his chest.

 

Hanging from a Crane for the Shot.

 

For certain difficult shots impossible with the real balloon, my former student, Gary Isaacs and I, built a scale model of EGO.   It was about 8 ft in diameter and represented a great deal of work. We even simulated the tapes on the envelope. There was a little basket, with a minature Sonny and Skippy.

 

Inside we had a polythene bladder filled with helium. When the balloon was not in use, the film crew kept it under a large net. One day it escaped from the net due to a gust of wind.
A few rifle shots were fired but had no effect and it sailed off rapidly into the distance.
 
Just minutes later, two RAAF  jet fighters suddenly swooped low over the area heading off towards the now departed balloon. Being made of aluminium coated polyester, it was an excellent radar reflector. Our little EGO was never seen again.

 

 

The key scene for the episode was when Sonny and Skippy were in the balloon drifting out over water.    On this final day we went to the Hawkesbury river, just north of Sydney for the scene. EGO was launched on shore.

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EGO was towed by boat out over the broad river.

Cameras were positioned on cliffs above the river to capture the scene.

EGO climbed very high over the water. In the story, it was drifting out to sea. There was a dummy kangaroo peeping over the edge of the basket.
  
Gary Smith and Phil Kavanagh were in EGO, (Doubling as Sonny & Skippy)

Both the drag rope and tether rope can be seen here.

The filming went on and after about 20 minutes EGO began to lose height.

 

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It was a beautiful sight as it drifted lazily over the placid river, however something had gone wrong.

Whether the cap had moved, or tapes given way, we're not sure.
A safety boat came in and the crew transferred safely to it.
 
This episode was the most expensive in the series.  

The empty EGO then leaned into the water and the drifting current immediately entered the mouth and dragged it under.

   EGO drifted past the tether boat, still attached by tether lines. There was danger of the lines fouling the propeller.

  We let it drift, until the extended lines finally swung it into shore.

 

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We towed it slowly to the river bank, however the tons of water trapped inside made it a difficult process.
   
 In the middle distance, a gas cylinder is floating, still attached to the gondola submerged below.

     
     


At this stage damage to the balloon seemed to be minor.
  

However unfortunately, the envelope was towed rapidly out of the river by tractor causing the massive weight of water inside to tear it to shreds.
 
It was a sad, perhaps unavoidable end to EGO.

 

Nevertheless the episode was completed and was a great success. It was named
"Up and Beyond."

 

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