Bouncy castles are structures made of a flexible outer membrane
or fabric that is filled with gas, such as air or helium. The gas
gives shape and strength to the structure.
Bouncy castles have been marketed with such names as Bounce house,
Moon Bounce, Astrojump, Moonwalk, Jolly jump and Spacewalk. The
terms Bouncy Castle or Inflatable Castle are used in Ireland, the
UK, New Zealand and parts of Australia, and Jumping Castles in Arizona,
Australia, Canada and South Africa. The term moonwalk has become
a generic term for enclosed inflatable trampolines in the US..
Bouncy Castles are rented for functions, school and church festivals
and village fetes. Although they are aimed at children, adult castles
can be hired in the UK. Because of liability concerns, they are
rarely rented to adults in the US.
The growth in popularity of Bouncy Castles has led to an inflatable
rental industry which includes inflatable slides, obstacle courses,
and games. Inflatables are ideal for portable amusements because
they are easy to transport and store.
The first inflatable structure was designed in 1959 by John Scurlock
in Shreveport, Louisiana who was experimenting with inflatable covers
for tennis courts when he noticed his employees enjoyed jumping
on the covers. He was a mechanical engineer and became a pioneer
of inflatable domes, inflatable tents, inflatable signs. His greatest
achievement was the invention of the safety air cushion that is
used by fire and rescue departments to catch people jumping from
buildings or heights.
The surfaces are typically composed of thick, strong PVC or vinyl
and nylon, and the castle is inflated using an electric or petrol-powered
blower. The principle is one of constant leakage, meaning small
punctures are not a problem - a medium-size "bouncy castle"
requires a fan with a mechanical output of about two horsepower
(consuming around 2 kW electrical power, allowing for the efficiency
of the motor).
UK and Australian bouncy castles have specifications calling for
fully inflated walls on three sides with an open front and foam
"crash mats" to catch children who may jump or fall out
of the structure.
Cheaper inflatable structures are usually made of polyester rather
than nylon PVC and do not use a blower, instead they are inflated
with a pump similar to an airbed. They do not last as long and it
is illegal in the UK and USA to hire these out.
Another type of home-use inflatable has evolved, with a blower
pumping in air continuously. Pores in the seams and material allow
air to escape as kids play, while the blower continues to inflate
the unit. This category has emerged as a response to parents who
wish to buy an inflatable for home use.
In 2005 the most severe standards in the construction of an inflatable
amusement were adopted nationally in Australia, forming Federal
Standard AS3533.4. This was a landmark safety standard bringing
the toughest design/construction/operation standards to the inflatable
industry of Australia. In 2006 the European Union (EU) followed
and introduced similar Federal standards throughout Europe called
A theatrical group named "The Strolling Theatricals"
has started performing Shakespear's tragedies on bouncy castles
at the Edinburgh Festival
Artwork on most inflatable structures is hand-painted. It is cheaper
for an artist to paint inflatables than to buy a printing machine
or pay for a professional printer to print the artwork for a small
quantity of inflatables.
For those wishing to have inflatables professionally printed, rather
than painted, two technologies exist. One is to use screenprinting
and the other uses digital printing machines which can print onto
nylon. Usually, if the printing method is used then white PVC must
be used and a pattern or artwork printed onto this.
Digital printing allows photographic quality pictures, something
which is either difficult or impossible with hand-painting. Hand-painting
is more durable as the paints tend to last longer in water, rain,
and handling than printouts. It is also better for "cartoon"
style images, which is the norm on children's inflatables.
The record for "Longest marathon on a bouncy castle (team)"
is 25 hr 25 min, set by Will Scogin, Patrick Taylor, Miller Wright,
David Wilson, Forrest Haynes and Jimbo Wilhite (all from USA) at
Northridge High School, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA, on 10–11