This MOC uses the LEGO balloon panel pieces to assemble a classic Hot Air Balloon with an attractive wicker basket, sandbags, and a burner with a visible flame. It is an excellent addition to the skies of any LEGO City! No official LEGO set I have seen effectively utilizes the panels for a very realistic looking balloon, so this design can be your remedy. Hot air balloon panels are available in many colors including purple, orange, magenta, black, white, and red, so you can easily swap out this design with the color palette of your choice.
I was intrigued by the LEGO hot air balloon pieces and ended up getting a few red and white pieces to mess with. When I noticed the rounded 1×2 plates seemed perfect for conveying a wicker basket so I knew I needed to create this MOC. Although it still does not approach the geometry of a real balloon, I wanted to make this much closer to the real scale than many official sets which have much larger baskets than balloons. I made sure the basket was not as wide as the balloon in any dimension, and is only 6 studs wide in one direction, so with forced perspective it can appear small while holding a few minifigures.
I spent a few months tinkering with the frame and getting a few pieces in the right color to achieve a look I liked. I thought the new lantern piece upside-down made a clever burner, and the acorn/mandrake piece is a perfect sandbag. As a final bit of serendipity, I found a red and white (and blue) striped disk in my collection that perfectly topped off the balloon.