M&M's are colorful button-shaped candies produced by Mars, Incorporated. They are characterized by the letter "m" printed in lower-case on one side of them. In addition to the original which had a milk chocolate filling (the "plain" variety), the candies have also appeared in "peanut," "crispy," and other variations. M&M's candies were first sold in 1941, and have since come to have more than 400 million individual ones produced per day in the United States, and to be sold in as many as 100 countries. According to their longest-lasting slogan, "The milk chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hand." Since the 1950s, the candies have been personified in television advertisements as characters with cartoon-like storytelling, who have appeared in various forms over the years; the current CGI versions were introduced in 1995.
History with the Macy's Parade
The M&M's made their Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade debut in the 1995 Parade, appearing on a falloon (half-float, half-balloon) known as "M&M's Chocolate Colorworks". The float, designed by Parade legend Manfred Bass, depicts a fantasy chocolate factory brimming with excitement and wonder. Red, Yellow, Green and Brown all take the ride of a lifetime on a chocolatey go-kart track, manned by a 10-foot tall inflatable Blue M&M, the newest M&M at the time. The whimsical raceway is powered by a large vat of candy coating which bubbles, emits steam and gauges the deliciousness of the candy coating at the front of the float.
Escorting the Parade en route to 34th Street were various factory workers, all clad with white overalls and the colors of the different M&M's characters. On the float, Red, Yellow and Blue waved to the crowd, rounding out a float that looked good enough to eat.
The Blue M&M inflatable would later be used in the grand opening of a Macy's store in Boston, which had previously been a Jordan Marsh department store. Other inflatables decorating the building included the first White Stars and cold-air balloons of the Cat in the Hat and the Animatronic figure of Babar.
The M&M's Chocolate Colorworks falloon was retired shortly after the 1997 Parade had concluded.
The M&M's would go Hollywood for the 1998 Parade, with the debut of a brand-new falloon featuring two of the companies most-famous "spokes-candies", Red and Yellow. The float, recycled from the American Movie Classics float which previously appeared from 1994 through 1996, mirrored the M&M's characters atop larger-than-life rolls of film. Ready for his close-up, Yellow waves to the paparazzi and is illuminated by two dazzling stage lights. Taking duties as the director is Red, who sits in his very own directors chair underneath a Titanic-sized movie camera. Costumed versions of the Green and Blue to the crowd from the bedazzling float, which was escorted by equally bedazzling stars and movie clappers.
The M&M's Network falloon continued to give audiences a sneak peak at the glamour of the M&M's Hollywood life throughout 2003, when it was retired from the Parade. The costumes of the float escorts would later become part of the Tinseltown Clowns in 2005. The inflatable of Yellow still exists at Inflatable Images' Headquarters.
The M&M's would transition from a float to a balloon for the 2004 Parade, still featuring the iconic duo of Red and Yellow. Macy's and M&M’s Chocolate Candies made sure that chocolate lovers everywhere would be rooting for the brand-new balloon, titled Red and Yellow Brighten the Holiday. The balloon featured Red and Yellow in a "delicious dilemma", as Red tries frantically to rescue Yellow who has gotten himself stuck on the outside of an enormous hot-air balloon. The delectable is 40 feet long, 30.5 feet wide and 50.5 feet tall. With 48 balloon handlers coaxing these chocolate trouble-makers from the Upper West Side to Herald Square, these M&M’s may be the biggest on record weighing in at 515 lbs. Forgoing the usual filling of nuts or peanut butter, these chocolate shells are filled with 13,335 cubic feet of helium.
The M&M's balloon would continue to fly in the Parade in 2005, but high winds caused the balloon to fly lower than usual. While passing through Times Square, one of the balloon's handling lines snagged on a lamp post, resulting in it spiraling down on spectators below. The falling debris hit two sisters from Albany; a 26 year old woman of which experienced bumps and bruises, while a 11 year old girl required nine stitches in the back of her head. Both were released from the hospital just hours later.
The accident led to a mayoral task force being formed, and prompted promises from Macy's to better train balloon handlers. A trial flight took place with the help of the Flying Pikachu balloon in May 2006 on a windy day, in the same area where the accident had taken place six months earlier. John Piper of the Macy's Parade Studio stated that the flight was done to ensure the wind measurements from the 1998 regulations were valid; and much to their pleasure, they were.
Despite the accident, the M&M's balloon would continue to appear in the 2006 Parade, surprisingly at the request of the two injured sisters. After the 2006 procession ended, the balloon was permanently retired from the line of march. The balloon's existence was last confirmed in November 2016, where it laid dormant at the Macy's Float Warehouse.
The following year in 2007, the M&M's would be reintroduced to the Parade with a brand-new float. The float would depict the M&M's starring in the most famous shows on Broadway, titled "M&M's On Broadway". Mirroring a real Broadway theatre, a makeshift curtain decorated the back of the float with the illuminated signs of the theatres that housed the shows depicted on the floats, such as the Gershwin Theatre, the Shubert Theatre, the Majestic Theatre and the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, perched above.
The M&M's characters payed a "sweet" tribute to musical theatre, acting out some of Broadway's hottest hits on a rotating stage; Red starred as King Arthur from Spamalot, Blue starred as the titular character of The Phantom of the Opera, Yellow and Orange appeared as ensemble members of A Chorus Line and Ms. Green starring as Elphaba from Wicked. Ushers escorted the float along the Parade route, with tickets in hand for the Longest Running Show of Broadway, the Macy's Parade.
The "M&M's On Broadway" float played its final performance at the 2009 Parade, and since its retirement, M&M's has yet to be represented in the Parade again. After the floats retirement, the figures featured on the float served as decorations at the Macy's Parade Studio in Moonachie, New Jersey.
Listed below are the guest stars that have appeared on the various M&M's-themed floats throughout the years, along the respective songs they sang during their appearance on the NBC telecast.
M&M's Chocolate Colorworks
- 1995 - All-4-One; sang "Colors of Love"
- 1996 - Matthew, and Andy Lawrence. Joey Lawrence: sang "Soulmates"
- 1997 - Debbie Gibson; sang "Only in my Dreams"
- 1998 - *NSYNC; sang "Tearin Up my Heart"
- 1999 - Christina Aguilera; sang "What a Girl Wants"
- 2000 - Innosense; sang "Say no More"
- 2001 - Usher; sang "You Remind Me"
- 2002 - Ashanti; sang "Happy"
- 2003 - Simple Plan; sang "Addicted"
M&M's on Broadway
- 2007 - Lea Michele & Jonathan Groff; sang "Give My Regards To Broadway"
- 2008 - Idina Menzel; sang "I Stand"
- 2009 - Alan Cumming; sang "That's Life"