Mickey Mouse is a funny animal cartoon character who is the official mascot of The Walt Disney Company. Created by Walt Disney and his cartoonist partner Ub Iwerks, he has become one of the most recognizable fictional characters in the world. An anthropomorphic mouse who typically wears outfits with a red, yellow, and white color scheme, Mickey is depicted as a pleasant, cheerful Everyman with a mischievous and adventurous side, who lives in his own universe with his girlfriend Minnie Mouse and various friends.
Mickey debuted in Steamboat Willie, one of the first cartoons with sound, in 1928. Mickey went on to star in over 100 short films, and various feature films such as Fantasia. He has also been featured in a newspaper comic strip, several comic book series, television series such as The Mickey Mouse Club, and video games; and has also been a mainstay meetable character at Disney's theme parks. In 1978, Mickey became the first cartoon character to be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
History with the Macy's Parade
Mickey Mouse first flew high and made his first appearance in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1934, as a collaboration between Walt Disney himself and then-Parade Director, Tony Sarg. With a mixture of Disney and Sarg's genius artistry, the duo initially designed four different balloons before settling on a four-story-high version of Mickey Mouse.
The balloon was constructed in a hangar in Akron, Ohio by Goodyear using simple round shapes of rubber and fabric which complimented the mouse's already rounded attributes. Hand-painted with his signature button shorts and pie-eyed face, the balloon also featured a large star on its chest as a tie-in with the Macy's department store.
Shortly after the Mickey Mouse balloon was completed, it was stored in Goodyear's balloon room for safe-keeping. Not long after however, a blazing fire broke out in the room, destroying the Mickey Mouse balloon. A duplicate of the balloon would be quickly made in a week, allowing the balloon to make its proper debut.
A total of twenty-five handlers guided the 40 x 26 balloon down Broadway, all donning fancied-up versions of the popular Halloween costume at the time. The masks of these costumes were made specifically for the Parade and many survive in fan collections to this day.
Many other Disney-themed balloons debuted with the Mickey Mouse balloon, including Horace Horsecollar and Pluto. In 1934, The balloon appeared in the Bamburgers Parade. In 1935, the star emblem on the balloon's chest was enlarged. The balloon was retired after the 1935 procession, alongside fellow Disney balloon contemporaries.
The balloon made its final appearance outside of the parade at the 1938 edition of the Santason Parade in Boston, MA. Sometime after this appearance, the balloon was dismantled and thrown away.
Mickey Mouse would next appear in the 1968 Macy’s Parade in the form of his walk-around mascot costume which was normally found at Disneyland. Riding on a pink frosting-covered birthday cake, the mouse of the house celebrated his 40th birthday among many Disney Parks characters. The following year though 1976, Mickey Mouse would appear alongside Goofy and Pluto in the Circus Wagon specialty float as part of The Wonderful World of Disney unit.
In 1971, the Walt Disney Company was celebrating the grand opening of the Walt Disney World Resort. To promote the legendary celebration, Macy's once again partnered with Disney to create a Mickey Mouse balloon to join the 1971 line of march. Measuring 57 feet tall, the second Mickey Mouse balloon was constructed with 800 yards of nylon fabric and decorated with 75 gallons of paint.
The balloon made its successful test flight on an early Saturday morning in November 1971, with its walk-around mascot counterpart accompanying the balloon as it soared for the first time. When preparations for the Parade rolled around on Thanksgiving Eve, strong winds mixed with a heavy downpour meant inflation crews were unable to inflate (but three, but being removed later) the larger-than-life helium giants, resulting in the only time in Parade history where the giant balloons have been entirely grounded.
The Mickey Mouse balloon was able to make its proper debut in the 1972 Parade, joining the soon-needed-to-be-retired Donald Duck balloon. The balloon continued to appear throughout the 1970's, and was often accompanied by his walk-around counterpart who continued to ride on the Circus Wagon and later the Walt Disney World float.
The only major accident involving the second Mickey Mouse balloon took place in 1983. During preparations for the Parade, the age and stress of the balloon caused one of its arms to rip off and the balloon exploded. The damage to the balloon was so severe that it had to be removed from the Parade. After the balloon's failed 1983 appearance, it was permanently retired from the Parade due to its age. The balloon was last confirmed to exist in 2006 when a photo surfaced of the one of balloon's shoe in the former Macy's Parade Studio in Hoboken. Sometime after this, the balloon was entirely disposed of.
While no balloon was made of Mickey Mouse the following year, his walk-around likeness appeared upon the Disneyland Celebration float, which celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Disneyland Resort.
In 2000, a brand-new Mickey Mouse balloon was created for the first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade of the new millennium. Dubbed "Bandleader Mickey", the balloon was inspired directly from the opening title sequence of the 1950's television program, The Mickey Mouse Club. The bright red and gold outfit is accented with large rope-laced buttons, a huge feathered marching hat and a giant bandleader's cane covered in musical notes. Thirty-five husky handlers helped guide the Bandleader Mickey balloon down the street as he served as the lead balloon for that year's line of parade march.
That same year, Mickey Mouse was named the 2000 Macy's Holiday Ambassador. To help celebrate this promotion, Macy's held a special event on the Saturday before the Parade at their flagship Herald Square department store. The event kicked off on the Upper West Side, with Bandleader Mickey traveling aboard the Santaland Express as he made his way to the Macy's store in midtown Manhattan. Upon arrival, Mickey received the key to the store and greeted kids on the 7th floor.
Also at this event was the launch of the Bandleader Mickey Mouse plush doll, which was sold at select Macy's department stores during the 2000 holiday season. A two-story tall cold-air inflatable of Bandleader Mickey was perched upon the store's 34th Street marquee, greeting shoppers throughout the busy holiday season. The Bandleader Mickey balloon made its only appearance in the 2000 procession and hasn't been seen since.
In 2005, Mickey's theme park counterpart once again made an appearance on Walt Disney's World's Ship of Dreams float with country singer LeAnn Rimes and various Disney characters, which was to pay tribute to the golden anniversary of the Disneyland Resort.
The fourth and final Mickey Mouse balloon debuted in the 2009 Parade, with a balloon known as "Sailor Mickey", and was made to promote the launching of the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy cruise ships. Sporting his nautically-inspired red, white, and blue sailor gear, Mickey saluted the crowds as he rode down the Parade route. Sailing aboard an anchor that is approximately four times the size of an actual cruise ship anchor, the Sailor Mickey balloon measures 48.1-feet long, 33.6-feet wide and 60.9-feet tall. The balloon needed to be filled with 14,750 cubic feet of helium to help him set sail on his maiden voyage on Thanksgiving Day.
Akin to his bandleader brethren, Sailor Mickey served as the 2009 Macy's Holiday Ambassador. While there was no event held in the mouse's honor, a cold-air balloon featuring Sailor Mickey peeking out the hull of a Disney Cruise Line ship waved to passerbys as it was anchored to the Macy's 34th Street memorial marquee. A plush version of the balloon was also sold at various Macy's stores during the 2009 holiday season.
On February 3rd, 2011, the balloon was inflated and flown outside of Orlando's Amway Center during the Orlando Magic-Miami Heat basketball game. The balloon was retired after the 2012 Parade, as both ships it initially promoted had launched in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Since this appearance, Mickey Mouse has yet to be represented in the Parade in any way.
Listed below are the music tracks that played during the balloon's appearances on the NBC telecast.
- "Mickey Mouse Club" theme song remix, (1978-1982)
- "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers" (2000)
- "Mickey Mouse March", composed by Milton DeLugg (2009-2012)