"Back in the day," the presence of a balloon artist was the sign of a truly over-the-top birthday party.
Remember those artists? It was pure magic watching these craftsmen and women take skinny, noodle-like balloons and, with a few twists and a few puffs of air, presto! You had your very own dog. Or sword. Or flower. And you could keep it forever and ever and ever (or, at least, until the air leaked out).
If this was all going down at a Chuck E. Cheese's, all the better.
But today? Parents are shelling out more and more money on extravagant birthday things, like bouncy houses, custom cakes, limousines, and more.
It definitely makes me yearn for a simpler time.
A Japanese artist named Masayoshi Matsumoto wanted to revive and elevate the decades-old art of balloon twisting though. And what he came up with is pretty incredible.
"I've liked creatures since I was small," Masayoshi told Upworthy in an email. It took him four painstaking years to learn how to craft perfect models of his favorite animals in balloon form, but the work speaks for itself.
When people tell him his art — made entirely from balloons, no markers or tape allowed — is incredibly lifelike, he knows he's done his job.
Here are 11 of Masayoshi's creations that are like nothing you ever saw as a kid, except maybe that they look like pure magic:
1. This eery frilled lizard.
2. This scorpionfish.
3. This angry-looking octopus.
4. This phoenix I totally wish was real.
5. This bush cricket.
6. This snake.
7. This (standing!) ostrich.
9. This snow monkey.
10. This ant, complete with antennae.
11. And this brightly colored hermit crab.
What does Masayoshi do with his balloon creations after he photographs them? "I usually pop them," he said.
It seems like such a waste. But then again, maybe Masayoshi knows there is always something new to explore, something new to create, something new to be in awe of.
If that's the case, then he's perfectly captured the spirit of what always made balloon animals so magical.
You can see more incredible balloon creations over at Masayoshi's Facebook page.