The Story Behind the Baby Trump Balloon

June 8, 2019, 3:39 PM UTC

The balloon’s form begins with orange skin, small hands, and an amber wave of mane. It escalates the mockery by placing Donald Trump—the ostensible leader of the free world—in a diaper, despite a noticeable thatch of chest hair. The right hand clutches a mobile phone as if it were a rattle or pacifier.

But it’s really about the face: tan-splotched and snarling.

“We wanted a prick; that is, something to prick his ego,” says Max Wakefield, a leader of self-ascribed “babysitters,” the dozen or so Brits who maintain several inflatable caricatures known as Trump Baby. The blimps, as they’re sometimes called, have traveled to Buenos Aires, Dublin, and Paris—a deflated one folds comfortably into a suitcase—to scowl and soar over rallies protesting the real Trump. There is a half-sized version for ground protests called Baby Trump Baby.

“He was originally crying, having a real tantrum,” Wakefield says. “But we replaced that with this enraged grimace.”

Baby Trump’s makers conceived of the balloon in 2018. They crowdfunded the £16,000 cost, or approx. $24,000, after finding a willing partner in Imagine Inflatables of Leicester to build the 20-foot provocation, Wakefield tells Fortune. (Oh my God, Britain, look at that blimp: Baby got backing.) This year, its makers said they wouldn’t return the balloon to the skies unless they could raise £30,000 for charity. They zoomed from £17,000 to their threshold in the final three days, Wakefield says, eventually reaching £37,000.

During this week’s state visit to the United Kingdom in which Trump literally did not receive the red-carpet treatment—no golden carriage, no overnight stay at Buckingham Palace—one of the splashiest moments was a promotion for the trip on Sky News. The ad is simple: a growing shadow over London, the line “He’s back”—and a shot not of the sitting U.S. president, but of his infamous balloon effigy.

The Museum of London, which chronicles the city as far back as 450,000 BC, when hippos filled what is now Trafalgar Square, has now come full circle by working to strike a deal to acquire Trump Baby.

Emily Brazee, a Museum of London spokesperson, tells Fortune that the now-infamous balloon is “a recent symbol embodying public sentiment at a controversial moment in the capital’s history.” It is planned to be a permanent part of the museum’s extensive protest collection, she adds, which includes artifacts from the Suffragette movement, climate change rallies, and the tent of Brian Haw, a peace activist who lived at Parliament Square from 2001—before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks—until his death in 2011.

But nothing Trumpian happens without a flair for theatrics. This week, in an act of counter-protest, a woman punctured the miniature balloon with a sharp object while shouting that the balloon was “a disgrace” and that Trump “is the best president ever.” (She was quickly arrested.) The full-size version meanwhile proceeded to Dublin amid reports that the larger balloon had been impaled. “Fake news,” Baby Trump’s makers defiantly tweeted.

Barring the real Trump’s departure from the Oval Office, Trump Baby has life left in it at least until January 2021, when the next U.S. president is inaugurated. For the Museum of London, that’s good news—in the midst of a major relocation, it won’t be able to exhibit the balloon until 2024, the very latest Trump could last in office upon reelection.

Wakefield is confident that his Baby Trump balloon won’t disappear in people’s minds anytime soon. After all, he says, “they both want to be on display.”

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