Mickey Mouse is a 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 first 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 took to the streets of New York City as a giant balloon in the 1934 Macy's Parade. A collaborative effort between Walt Disney and then-Parade Director Tony Sarg, the beloved mouse of giant proportions went through four different concept designs before the duo settled on a four-story replica of Mickey Mouse himself.
The balloon was constructed at the Goodyear Headquarters in Akron, Ohio throughout the fall of 1934, using simple round shapes of rubber and balloon 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, five-pointed star on its chest; the iconic logo of Macy's department store.
Shortly after the Mickey Mouse balloon was completed, it was placed into storage for safekeeping until Parade Day rolled around. Some time later, a blazing fire engulfed the room where the Mickey balloon was being kept, destroying it in the progress. Goodyear workers scrambled to construct a replica, and just over a week later a brand-new Mickey Mouse balloon was completed.
Twenty-five handlers in total guided the 40-by-26 balloon down Broadway, all donning fancied-up versions of the popular Mickey Mouse Halloween costume at the time. Joining the Mickey balloon for the Thanksgiving festivities were several smaller balloon of other Disney characters such as Pluto, Horace Horsecollar, The Big Bad Wolf and Practical Pig.
Following its debut appearance, the Mickey Mouse balloon made an appearance at the Bamberger's Parade in New Jersey. In 1935, the balloon returned to the Macy's Parade lineup featuring an enlarged star on its chest. The original Mickey Mouse balloon was retired after this sophomore flight, alongside his Disney contemporaries.
Though retired from the Macy's Parade, the Mickey balloon saw use once more for the 1938 edition of the Santason Parade in Boston, Massachusetts, and was later disposed of in the following years.
Mickey Mouse would next appear in the 1968 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 in the 1969 Macy's Parade, 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 appearance in the 1972 Parade, now celebrating the 1 year anniversary of the park. Mickey was now 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 float.
The only major accident involving the second Mickey Mouse balloon took place in 1983. During the preparations, the balloon’s arm was accidentally torn off by the inflation crew. Some time later, the remainder of the balloon abruptly burst, resulting in it being removed from the Parade. After the balloon's failed 1983 appearance, it was permanently retired.
The balloon was last confirmed to exist in 2005 when a photo surfaced of the balloon's shoe in the former Macy's Parade Studio in Hoboken New Jersey. In 2005, the second Mickey Mouse balloon was 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 first parade of the new millennium.
That same year, Mickey Mouse was named the Macy's Holiday Ambassador of 2000. 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, most likely due to licensing issues, he 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 most recent 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 passerby's 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. Overall, Mickey has made 20 Appearances as a Balloon.
Mickey's theme park counterpart made a return in 2021, standing on the top of the Magic Meets the Sea float, joined with several other Disney characters, including Minnie Mouse, being the captain herself.