Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Wiki
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Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Wiki

Some of the most popular balloon characters over the years have included Snoopy, Ronald McDonald and SpongeBob SquarePants

Balloons are the signature elements of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The giant helium balloons generally measure several stories in size, and depict characters from pop culture, such as cartoons, films, comic strips and advertising icons. The first balloons were introduced by Tony Sarg for the 1928 Parade, serving as a replacement for the live animals, who had previously appeared in the Parade but frightened child attendees. Sarg, being a puppeteer, imagined the balloons as "upside-down marionettes," with participants handling the balloon by a series of handling lines as it makes its way down Broadway.

Every Macy’s Parade balloon combines artistic design with aerodynamics and engineering. Ballooning experts, the Macy’s team in collaboration with consultants calculate and perfect the balloon’s aerodynamic design. Once a flight-worthy balloon concept has been approved, it moves onto a 3D-printed model (previously sculpted with clay). This step helps the team create a physical blueprint from which the balloon will be built. From there, giant reams of polyurethane fabric will be patterned, cut and sealed together to create multiple chambers, which ultimately produce the character’s head, body and limbs. Once the balloon has been created and painted to the exact specifications required of the character, it will undergo many tests including indoor and outdoor flights, inflation and deflation tests, and final touch-ups before its inaugural flight in the Macy’s Parade.

The first manufacturer of the balloons was the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, headquartered in Akron, Ohio, who produced balloons between 1928 and 1980. Kemp Balloons, Inc. then took over creation of the inflatable giants until 1983. In 1984, Sioux Falls-based Raven Aerostar began constructing balloons for the Parade and would do so for several decades until 2019, when the Macy's Parade Studio took over full-time construction of the balloons.

Balloons have since been split into several categories; giant character balloons (balloons mostly based on licensed characters), novelty balloons (Macy's-sponsored balloons of generic characters and figures, introduced in 1985), heritage balloons (mid-sized balloons with sponsors, introduced in 2016); balloonicles (a balloon figure powered by a vehicle inside the balloon, introduced in 2004); balloonheads (an inflatable character head attached to a costume worn by the performer, introduced in the 1930's but later reintroduced in 2003); trycaloons (balloon figures riding on bicycles, introduced in 2011); and floaloonicles (part-float, part-balloon-part, vehicle, introduced in 2021).

Following is a list of giant balloons that have appeared in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade over the years, ordered in their debut years.

1920s introductions

1928

1929

1930s introductions

1930

  • Joe Jinks by New York World
  • Mrs. Jinks by New York World
  • Boob McNutt by McNaught Syndicate
  • The Goops by Macy's

1931

1932

1933

1934

1935

1936

1937

1938

1939

1940s introductions

1940

1941

1945

1946

1947

1948

1949

1950s introductions

1950

1951

1952

1953

1954

1956

1957

  • Popeye by King Features Syndicate

1960s introductions

1960

1961

1962

1963

1964

1965

1966

  • Superman (2nd version) by National Periodical Publications
  • Smokey Bear (1st version) by General Electric Company

1968

1969

1970s introductions

1971

1975

1977

1980s introductions

1980

1982

1983

1984

1985

1986

1987

1988

1989

1990s introductions

1990

1991

  • Babar by Nelvana Limited and The Clifford Ross Company

1992

  • Goofy by The Walt Disney Company

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000s introductions

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010s introductions

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020s Introductions

2020

2021

See also

Notes

  1. Macy's has officially stated that Felix, the first character balloon in the parade, was introduced in 1927.
  2. A second balloon of Mickey appeared in 1972, and two additional versions were made in the 2000s, one portraying him as a bandleader and the other depicting him as a sailor.
  3. A second balloon of Donald was introduced in 1962.
  4. Longest balloon to ever appear in parade
  5. Superman's balloon was redesigned into the "Football Player" balloon in 1941. Superman later returned with a new balloon in 1966, then a third balloon of the character - one of the largest to ever appear in the parade- was used in the 1980s.
  6. The original Happy Dragon is the longest-lasting balloon ever to appear in the parade, with twenty-four appearances
  7. A second version of Bullwinkle's balloon, pairing him with his friend/sidekick Rocky, was used in the mid- and late 1990s.
  8. Snoopy has had more variants made than any other character, with seven in total. He first appeared as an aviator, then became an astronaut in 1969 to promote the Apollo 11 space program. In the 1980s, two versions of Snoopy were made: an "Ice Skating" version and a "Winter" version, the latter of which paired him with his buddy Woodstock. A fifth version was launched in 1999 to herald in the new millennium; this was given a minor alteration in 2001 to honor the parade's 75th anniversary. In 2006, a sixth Snoopy balloon was made, based on his "Flying Ace" alter ego. The seventh Snoopy balloon, again pairing him with Woodstock, was introduced in 2013, and his most recent version, a updated version of Astronaut Snoopy, debuted in 2019 to promote the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing, as well as the Apple TV Peanuts series.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 After the original was retired, a second balloon of the character was launched in the 2000s.
  10. Widest balloon in parade history
  11. Ronald has appeared in four versions since he was introduced to the parade. In his first balloon in 1987, he was holding balloons; in his second from 2000, he was normal; in his third from 2009, he was wearing a scarf and ice skates, and in his fourth in 2015, he was wearing a tuxedo version of his usual costume.
  12. A second balloon of the character was made in 2011, based on a redesign introduced after the original balloon was retired.
  13. Three balloons have been made for the parade, one showing Pikachu flying from 2001, another with him chasing a PokeBall in 2006, and a third with him holding a Pikachu snowman in 2014.
  14. Originally appeared as a falloon in the 1990's
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