The Inflate-A-Suits were body inflation suit devices used by OSS agents for emergency purposes during missions necessitating travel on or underwater. The inflate-a-suit is essentially a jumpsuit that can inflate around its user's entire body to keep them floating on the water's surface. The outer layer could expand to allow for the suit to have a huge area to do so.
Only the user's head, hands, and feet could emerge from the suit's gigantic embrace through small holes on the top, sides, and bottom of it. Movement and mobility while inside this massive floatation device, however, was very limited.
The suit itself was orange, with a white stripe running around the top where the user's head was supposed to go. Adorning the stripe on all four sides was the OSS logo. The suit was essentially a jumpsuit with a huge internal bladder to inflate in. On the suit's inner layer was a skintight jumpsuit which holds the body of its passenger firmly in place within it under the intense pressure when the device is fully inflated. The outer layer was made of some kind of stretchy material that expands to allow for its huge amount of inflation. Possibly an alloy mix of rubber and latex.
The suit could be donned by stepping through an opening in the back of the suit, slipping the user's hands, head, and feet through the designated holes, and zipping it closed. The head hole was held open by a metal ring about a foot across and lined with black rubber. On the inner layer were a series of air tanks that supplied the suit with what it needed to inflate and possibly served as a counter weight to keep it upright during inflation. The tanks could be activated by pushing a hidden button in the suit's chest area. In middle area of the suit's outer layer was a black belt used to carry extra equipment. Particularly, cargo contained in backpacks attached to the belt with carabiners.
Another interesting feature is that there could be more than one specific design of the suit. When Carmen and Juni Cortez used their inflate-a-suits to escape their ship, which had crashed at the bottom of the ocean, and the suits had fully inflated, Carmen's hands were held out on the sides of the suit. But Juni's hands stuck out from the top of the suit directly under the white ring surrounding his head. This could have to do with suits made to accommodate different sized agents, as Juni is shorter than Carmen and, from a distance, so does his inflate-a-suit.
With these two different designs however, Juni seemed to sink in his inflate-a-suit while Carmen seemed to be completely suspended in hers. Also, since Juni's arms were held at a sharper angle than Carmen's, he seemed to have bit more ability to wiggle around inside his inflate-a-suit.
Advantages and Limitations
The inflate-a-suit is an advantage to its passenger because it keeps them safely afloat if something were to go wrong during a mission on the water. However, there are several problems with its design. Because the suit contains the user's entire body, the fully inflated device could hinder his or her movement. To minimize this, each inflate-a-suit is equipped with an electrical automatic shutoff system. This deactivates the air tanks in the suit's bladder so that the suit can't overinflate, keep the user mobile, but still float.
However, if the automatic shutoff were to malfunction during inflation, the suit would not be able to stop inflating until the tanks ran out of air. This would either cause the suit to rupture under the pressure, or it could inflate so much that movement of the passenger inside and the user's ability to be mobile while wearing the suit would be little to nothing.
When the suit is deflated, it looks like a regular jumpsuit with sleeves and leggings, but if the suit overinflated, the limbs of it seem to completely disappear. This is why movement is so restricted in the suit if it over-inflates. In short, if the inflate-a-suit inflates abnormally, every part of the suit would inflate in unison until it turned from a jumpsuit to almost like a wearable life raft standing upright on the water's surface.
Even worse, the suit could malfunction and not inflate at all. If the agent was carrying extra equipment on the suit, they could drown instantly.
It's unknown for sure how the suit is supposed to inflate, but an advantage of this "malfunction" could be that the user is kept up, out of the water, mostly dry, insulated, and protected. Another advantage of this "malfunction" could be that it allows the agent to carry as much heavy equipment as needed on the suit's belt eliminating the risk of it sinking under the weight.
But, because of this malfunction, the only body parts of the passenger within that could move without much limitation are the things that are held outside the suit: the head, hands, and feet. And even so, they're still still not much use if trapped in and overinflated inflate-a-suit. Without the ability to move arms, there is the possibility that if the agent wasn't able to escape his or her suit, if that was possibly, or wasn't rescued in time, the agent would not be able to get to the food and water in his or her equipment and would starve or thirst to death, leaving the inflate-a-suit to become its passenger's coffin, if only temporarily.
In the upper section of the suit, the waist up, there were only about a few inches to shake around in all directions. Shaking in the suit helps the user move around very, very slowly on the water's surface. This and kicking feet help make the suit's passenger mobile, but only at an incredibly slow pace. For that reason, it's important that the user not try to move until absolutely necessary. If they did, they would waist energy and start to struggle.
Ultimately, even if a malfunction happened, the benefits of the suit, keeping the agent safely afloat and alive, far outweigh the disabilities to the passenger inside.
There are only two known uses of the inflate-a-suit. The first is when OSS agents Carmen and Juni Cortez went out to locate the Transmooker device, their ship, which had been traveling underwater, suffered a complete power loss and crashed at the bottom of the ocean. As it began to fill with water, they chose to evacuate and travel heavy. They each grabbed a rebreather, swam to the back hatch of the ship, and gathered as much gear as they could. As Carmen reached for one of at least two inflate-a-suits mounted on the wall, Juni began to protest, but Carmen pointed out that they didn't have much choice. Once they were suited and geared up they swam out of the ship and up toward the surface.
Once clear of the ship, they activated their suits, which immediately began to inflate. But they didn't stop inflating until their air tanks ran completely dry.
Once they emerged on the surface, they spat out their rebreathers. Carmen shook her head to get her hair out of her face, but when she tried to flex her arms, she couldn't. Carmen looked down and saw that she and her brother's inflate-a-suits had overinflated and they were now held captive by the gigantic orange bubbles of the inflate-a-suits.
Almost all their bodily movement within the suits was completely restricted. They were only allowed to be mobile by kicking their feet and shaking their own bodies inside the suit with as much movement as physically possible.
When Carmen saw what had happened, she complained that she was fat.
Juni asked if it was supposed to inflate as much as it had. Carmen explained that the suits each had an electrical automatic shut-off which hadn't worked, but luckily they had run out of air before the suits exploded. The suits had apparently suffered the same power loss that their ship below had.
The two spy kids were stuck for hours. No way to escape the inflate-a-suits, no where to go, and no way to get help. Juni once said that being trapped in his suit was becoming very relaxing as the time passed.
After a long time of being stuck in the suits and floating uncontrollably in the middle of the ocean, they found that they were directly in front of a large island that had been enshrouded in a cloud of fog not far away. Just then, Juni asked Carmen if she was kicking him because he felt something against his foot. Panicking he told Carmen to look and see if there was something under him. Carmen, wriggling within her suit's restricting hold to turn towards Juni, strained to see the water under her brother. Carmen told him that she didn't see anything and told Juni to forget about it and focus on getting ashore. But, as Carmen wriggled in her suit to turn back towards the island, a huge two-headed sea monster emerged from the water behind them.
The two agents didn't see the monster behind them so they went to the duty of figuring out how to get to the island and how long it would take. Carmen estimated that they were 200 yards from shore. She then reasoned that if they kicked their feet steadily at one foot per kick they could make it to the island in 25 minutes, a guess from Juni. Carmen stressed that she didn't know and her calculator wasn't
As the two agents tried to figure out a way to get to the island and how long it would take, both heads of the monster bent down to the back of their suits and both bit huge holes into them. The air keeping the agents afloat raced out of the suits and sent them propelling across the water toward the island. They got to shore safely in their now deflated inflate-a-suits never knowing what had happened to get them on land.
The two of them removed and abandoned their suits, gathered their gear, and headed out to explore the island.
The second use of the inflate-a-suit happened just a few hours later as Carmen and Juni explored the mysterious island. Realizing they had been set of by the Cortez kids, Gary and Gerti Giggles set out from the Gobi Desert to find and seek revenge against two other spy kids. But as they headed that way, they began having all the same problems the Cortez kids experience. Their ship lost power, they chose to evacuate using their own inflate-a-suits, but when they activated their suits, they overinflated just as Carmen and Juni's had, trapping the Giggle kids.
After only a few minutes of floating helplessly, trapped in their gigantic floatation devices, Gerti asked Gary if he was kicking her because she, like Juni before, felt something against her foot. Suddenly, the same two-headed sea monster arose from the water, but unlike the Cortez kids, the two agents saw the monster and began panicking. They couldn't move away from the monster being completely contained in their inflate-a-suits.
The two heads bent down as if to eat them, but when they caught a whiff of their camel poop stench which they had received while in the Gobi Desert, the monsters gave up on eating the agents, and instead splashed into the water right behind them. Gary and Gerti were launched out of the water and went flying through the air towards the beach of the same island the Cortezs were on. They hit the sand and continued bouncing along the shore until apparently something punctured their suits and deflated them.
Getting off the ground, Gary wanted to kill the creature using the taser on his spy watch. As he tried and failed to get it to work, Gerti told him to wait and pointed to the abandoned, deflated inflate-a-suits of Carmen and Juni Cortez. Gary agreed that he should save his taser for their two rival agents.
Following these two incidents, new versions of the inflate-a-suits were issued to OSS agents. Some were the standard suits like the Cortez's and Giggles had with emergency pressure release valves located near either hand. Other designs were made with ranges that covered less than the entire body of the user, such as from neck to waist and elbow to elbow. That allowed for the ability to stay afloat and keep the agent's core body dry and out of the water, while still being able the move legs to move around faster and to move the agent's arms around to get to his or her supplies.
There were also inflate-a-suits designed like a wet suit so the agents could stay warm and dry, but would only inflate from neck to waist and elbow to elbow.
Although the inflate-a-suit was practical for its purpose in the field, it was hardly used for anything other than training purposes, and even so, there isn't much training required to use the simple body inflation floatation suit. Most agents simply didn't use the cumbersome device because if it malfunctioned it could leave them trapped and vulnerable.
Behind The Scenes
The inflate-a-suit only made an appearance in Spy Kids 2: The Island Of Lost Dreams. When the scenes including the suits were shot, the cast was wearing actual jumpsuits that could inflate in real life the same as they do in the movie, and they were done on the lake near Robert Rodriguez's home in Austin, Texas right off a boat dock. The two pairs of spy kids actors, Alexa Vega (Carmen Cortez), Daryl Sabara (Juni Cortez), Matt O'Leary (Gary Giggles), and Emily Osment (Gerti Giggles), each took turns in the suit props, which were fully inflated and floating in the water tied to the dock.
The majority of the scenes were done in Austin, but it's possible that at least a few small segments of the scenes were done in Costa Rica at the end of the shoot, as seen in the bonus feature on the Spy Kids 2 DVD "Robert Rodriguez's Ten Minute Film School."
When the scenes where the agents emerge on the surface in the suits were filmed, the crew created miniature models of the agents in the suits and filmed right up to where they spat out their rebreathers.