From Disneyland Balloon Boy to Balloon Businessman

by Mark Eades

Treb Heining started out as a Balloon Boy at Disneyland in 1969.

Treb Heining’s lifelong career started with blowing up Mickey Mouse balloons and selling them as a Balloon Boy (as they were then known) at Disneyland in 1969. “I learned how to tie balloons really fast while working there,” he said.

Treb Heining is on the far left, along with five other Balloon Boys, and their supervisor at Walt Disney World for opening day, Oct. 1, 1971.

During that time, he was picked with six other Balloon Boys to go to Walt Disney World and be a part of the grand opening on October 1, 1971. “I helped with the release of 50,000 balloons for the opening ceremony.”

An early example of the types of balloon decorations Treb did for friends and family parties.

It turned out that Treb loved balloons so much it became not only a passion, but also his lifelong career. He continued with it through college, blowing up balloons, though not Mickey Mouse ones, for family and friends as small decorations at parties. That’s when he started developing the idea of using balloons in more ways than just tied on a string and handed to kids or taped to a wall.

An example of balloon decorations from 1989 at Disneyland honoring Wayne Gretzky.

“I thought balloons could be used as decorations at parties and events, and I came up with the concept of balloon columns,” Heining said. He launched his first business, Balloon Art by Treb, in 1979 and set out to do just that. It was the first company of its kind.

Another early use of balloons as decoration on the Tomorrowland Stage at Disneyland.

Many of Treb’s first jobs were very small, and done for very small fees, as he worked to get his business established. “I started doing artist renderings to get people to understand the visual idea of using balloons for decorations at the bigger events,” he said. He kept going and started developing a name, and before long his concepts of balloon columns and decorations caught a decided updraft.

As his company grew, so did the size of the events—often involving thousands of balloons. One called for recreating the American flag in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia with thousands of red, white and blue balloons. Then Disneyland called and asked him to start doing balloon decorations for events at the park. By 1984, the company was grossing more than $1 million in sales and was doing a lot of mall openings across America. Then the Olympics called.

The Opening Ceremonies at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles at the Coliseum.

For the Opening Ceremony of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, Treb created a balloon mural that used more than 1,000 five-foot balloons. Each balloon was help by a member of a special drill team in the opening moments. “It was the first thing people saw when the Opening Ceremonies started,” Treb said. “That event really put us on the map.”

A balloon drop and more at a political convention done by Treb Heining's company.

Treb’s business took off, leading to bigger balloon drops—like those seen at political conventions—and some of the biggest balloon releases ever during the 1980s.

In fact, Treb’s company even holds the record for the largest balloon release in history. It was documented in the 1988 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records on page 290: "The largest ever mass balloon release was one of 1,429,643 sponsored by United Way at Public Square in Cleveland, Ohio, on Sept. 27, 1986."

In 1990, his company became responsible for the confetti dropped in Times Square for New Year’s Eve, something he is still doing 24 years later. In 1995, Treb was convinced by a friend to teach what he knew, so he went to work for another company, teaching others how to do balloon decorations and more.

Treb Heining is surrounded by balloons he developed that look like pets and other animals.

He kept a small company going, Treb, Inc., to handle concessions and other contracts. Two years later he decided to go back out on his own and formed Glasshouse Balloons. Along the way he developed the balloon featuring Mickey Mouse inside a clear balloon, and balloons that look like pets and other animals.

Some of the specialty balloons Treb developed for Disney's theme parks, Mickey Mouse balloons that light up inside.

He still does events, but does a lot of work inventing custom balloons for Disney’s theme parks and others. His new designs are mainly for Disney, and have included working for Hong Kong Disneyland and possibly other overseas Disney theme parks in the future. His balloons are still sold at Walt Disney’s original Magic Kingdom by Balloon Boys and Girls.

Some of the Cast Members selling balloons at Disneyland, with Treb Heining on the right.

“I look back at how I started, and we survived on balloon arches and balloon columns. We were the only ones doing it at the time not just in town, but the whole world,” said Treb. “Now the company has balloons, custom balloons, all over the world, and it started with me blowing up balloons at Disneyland.”

Treb Heining with a balloon he developed for Disney that look's like everyone's favorite mouse's girl friend: Minnie Mouse.

This profile is part of a series featuring former Disney Cast Members being written for the Disneyland Alumni Club. These stories reveal the role working for Disney has played over the years in shaping the lives of the people who help "make the dream a reality," as Walt would say.

In honor of the 60th anniversary year of Disneyland in 2015, the Disneyland Alumni Club is reaching out to former employees, whether retired or younger, who may not be aware of the organization. The Club was started in 1983 by Disneyland executives Van France and Dick Nunis as a way to help Cast Members stay in touch after moving on to other careers. Is that you? If so and you'd like to take part in the Club's private celebration next August—or participate in their many other activities and benefits, please visit www.disneylandalumni.org and join today.

Here are some previous stories about Disneyland Alumni:

This Disneyland Alumnus is an Oscar Winner

A Marriage Made in Disneyland Maintenance

Keeping a Secure Eye on Disneyland Fun

A Marriage Made in Frontierland

Former Cast Member Remakes Heavenly Music

All Cast Members Have Stories

John Waite Loves Theme Parks

Scott Zone: Caretaker of Walt's Family Film Legacy

A Real Disneyland Character

This article is copyright 2014 by Mark Eades, all rights reserved. Used by permission. All photographs are courtesy of Treb Heining and are used by permission, all rights reserved.

Categories: Disneyland Alumni Club, Membership, and Memories & Stories.