Garfield is the main character of his self-titled comic strip, created by Jim Davis. An orange-furred cat capable of articulate speech, he lives in a house which he shares with his owner, Jon Arbuckle, and the dog Odie. Garfield is lazy; obsesses overeating (his favorite food being lasagna), drinking coffee, and taking naps; and has a disdain for Mondays, raisins, and dieting.
Syndicated in over 2,500 newspapers and journals, Garfield's comic series has been lauded by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's most widely syndicated comic strip. Beyond his original strip, he has appeared on television and in CGI animated films.
History with the Macy's Parade
Garfield made his Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade debut in 1983 in the form of a walk-around character on the America's Comic Stars float with his best canine pal, Odie. Other comic characters that appeared alongside Garfield included Marmaduke, Snoopy and Mr. and Mrs. Happy.
Garfield was blown up to larger-than-life proportions in 1984, as one of Raven Aerostar's first-ever balloons for the Parade. An Aerostar employee, Jim Schmidt, compared the fabrication of the Garfield balloon to one of his favorite past times -- doing a crossword puzzle. "The hardest thing is to visualize what it will look like" when it's blown up. "I'm working with pieces of material".
Though it took Raven Aerostar nearly six months to complete their first balloon for the Parade, Raggedy Ann, the company promised to have the lasagna-loving feline finished in two months. The expected deadline was met and would yield a 398-pound, 61-foot long, 35-foot wide balloon rendition of Garfield with a smug 20-foot smile spanning across his face.
The fat cat would trek his way to the city that never sleeps as the cat that only ever sleeps in November of 1984. The balloon's debut was met with much fanfare, though one of his left paws was punctured by a tree. The balloon encountered difficulty again in 1986, when high winds caused Garfield's front right paw and back left paw to be deflated by trees en route.
The first Garfield balloon was briefly retired after the 1989 Parade, only making an appearance weeks later at the 1989 Macy's-Egleston Christmas Parade. The balloon eventually returned to the main in 1992 to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Garfield comic's inception. The balloon continued to make appearances throughout the 1990's, making appearances outside of the Parade at the the 1993 Tap-O-Mania event, the 1995 and 1996 Macy's Balloon-A-Thon events, and was even named the "veteran balloon" in 1997. That same year, Garfield would become a "bobcat" when overnight winds caused his tail to deflate.
In 1998, the Garfield balloon would ultimately set out for its roughest march yet. While being carried to the Parade's starting line at 77th Street, a chamber inside of the balloon busted unexpectedly. According to Sid Hamburger, Macy's balloon coordinator, the removal wasn't a result of safety but the damages made the balloon impossible to fly. The damages sustained were severe enough to cause the balloon to be discretely deflated and removed from the line of march. After the incident, the balloon was quality control tested at the Macy's Parade Studio, and marked "Parade Ready" for the 1999 Parade.
Garfield's grand return in 1999 was later revealed to be his final flight down Broadway, as the balloon had worn out after years of use. Parade historian Bill Smith has stated that the first Garfield balloon may still exist at Macy's Float Warehouse, but this remains unconfirmed. Of note, Garfield is the longest-running balloon made by Raven Aerostar to date, appearing 14 times within his tensure in the Parade.
Garfield would make a brief appearance in the 2001 Parade in the form of a walk-around costume, riding aboard the Toon Balloon-Abration! float which boasted many other characters, past and present, who have had balloons grace the skies of New York City.
Garfield returned to the Parade in 2003 in the form of a brand-new balloon cartoon as a means of celebration for the fat cat's 25th anniversary. The balloon featured Garfield, now updated to closer resemble his then-current comic counterpart, alongside his faithful teddy bear, Pookie. The balloon is said to have enough room to be filled with over 37,000 pans of lasagna and 14,000 cubic feet of helium.
Garfield was also named the Macy's Holiday Ambassador of 2003, with a special plush being sold at select Macy's stores. To commemorate this, a cold-air version of Garfield wearing a Santa hat and ready "Twas the Night Before Christmas" was sat upon Macy's 34th Street marquee, greeting guests as they walked by. The cold-air Garfield balloon was shipped to Universal Orlando Resort the following year, where he would join other balloons in the now-defunct "Balloonopolis" exhibit. After the exhibit was discontinued in 2008, the Garfield balloon was placed around the theme park's Christmas season until 2016, when the Macy's Holiday Parade was re-branded to Universal's Holiday Parade Featuring Macy's.
Like its predecessor, the second Garfield balloon faced turbulence along the Parade route. In 2004, for example, Garfield's left hand was punctured by a tree along Central Park West. In both 2005 and 2006, the balloon was lowered to the ground as a result of the winds whipping the balloons about. The second Garfield balloon was retired after the 2006 Parade, bringing an end to Garfield's involvement with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Listed below are the music tracks that played during the balloon's appearances on the NBC Parade telecast.
- "What's New, Pussycat?", composed by Quincy Jones (1984)
- Generic Macy's music (1985, 1989, 1992)
- "What's New, Pussycat?", composed by Milton DeLugg (1986-1988, 1993, 1996, 2003-2005)
- "Alley Cat", composed by Milton DeLugg (1994-1995, 1997-1999, 2006)
- When Raven Aerostar constructed the Garfield balloon, the company used a plush toy of Garfield as a reference model. This would mark the only time that Raven Aerostar didn't use a fiberglass model to construct a giant balloon.
- The first Garfield balloon required nearly 19,000 cubic feet of helium to plump up for Parade day, making him the balloon that used the most helium at the time. This record was later broken by Dexter in 1998, who required 21,700 cubic feet of helium.