Olive Oyl is a cartoon character created by E. C. Segar in 1919 for his comic strip Thimble Theatre. The strip was later renamed Popeye after the sailor character that became the most popular member of the cast; however, Olive Oyl was a main character for 10 years before Popeye's 1929 appearance.
History with the Macy's Parade
Olive Oyl made her Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade debut in 1982 through the form of a giant helium balloon. Produced by the little-known Kemp Balloon Company, Popeye's pickle-nosed sweetheart stood at 75 feet tall and 35 feet wide, waving to the crowd with hands that measured eight feet in diameter. The original Olive Oyl balloon appeared throughout the 1980's, always being escorted by her perfect playmate, Popeye.
In the spring of 1983, the Olive Oyl balloon travelled to Washington, D.C. to appear at that year's edition of the Easter Egg Roll at the famed White House.
The Olive Oyl balloon was initially scheduled to appear in the 1985 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. However, high winds and heavy rain caused the lanky Olive Oyl to be removed from the line of march due to the complexity of handling the balloon in such conditions.
In 1986, the Olive Oyl balloon was refurbished to now include a 27-foot tall bouquet of balloons, which allowed Olive Oyl to float down the Parade route with ease. Cradled in the balloon's right arm was her darling baby son, Swee'Pea, who measured in at 33-feet tall from feet to the top of his one-hair head. This balloon was retired shortly after the 1986 Parade, with its existence last being confirmed in February of 1989.
Olive Oyl returned to the Parade in 1996, now appearing in the form of a walk-around mascot costume. During this appearance, she rode with Popeye on the Rocking Lobster as it clawed its way down the Parade route. Olive Oyl would once again appear in the Parade in 2001, riding high with Popeye on the Toon Balloon-Abration float alongside many other characters who had balloons grace the skies of New York City.
Olive Oyl made her final Macy's Parade appearance in 2011, waving to the crowd from atop the Hats Off To Our Heritage! float, which celebrated the Parade's 85th anniversary and featured past Parade Directors Robin Hall and Jean McFaddin, in addition to many cartoon characters who had previously had balloons in the line of march. Since this appear, neither Popeye nor Olive Oyl have been represented in the Parade in any way.
- It is a common misconception that Olive Oyl was the first-ever female balloon to appear in the Parade. This, however, is untrue as many other female characters have appeared in the Parade before Olive Oyl including 1928's Humming Bird and 1929's Mrs. Katzenjammer.
- Standing at 102 feet tall, the redesigned Olive Oyl balloon is the tallest balloon to be made in Parade history.