Snoopy is a fictional character in the popular comic strip Peanuts by legendary Charles M. Schulz. The pet beagle of the main character Charlie Brown, Snoopy debuted on the strip's first week, in October 1950. He is one of the most recognizable and iconic characters in the Peanuts franchise, including the original strip, its television specials and, feature film adaptation. He was ranked by TV Guide as the eighth-greatest cartoon character of all time, and in 2015 he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
History with the Macy's Parade
Snoopy has been a regular staple character in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade since 1968. Since then, he has had more unique variants of balloons than any other character, with eight in total, and has appeared the most out of any character, with a grand total of 39 appearances so far.
Snoopy made his Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade debut in the 1968 Parade in the form of a giant helium balloon. The 50-foot-tall balloon likeness of the beloved beagle was designed by Goodyear engineer William Ludwick of Akron, Ohio. Filled with 8,500 cubic feet of helium, the famous beagle didn’t even need a Sopwith Camel to zoom through the air.
“Fashioning an inflatable likeness of Snoopy was a sizable undertaking at Goodyear,” John Bird of Goodyear PR wrote. “Nearly eight months and 1,500 man-hours were required to design, cut, seam, glue, and assemble the more-than-4,000 square feet of fabric going into the carcass.”
For the 250-pound balloon's unveiling at the Wingfoot Lake hangar in Suffield Township, Goodyear's PR department hired Ohio airshow pilot Everett Dyer to dress up like the Red Baron in a leather jacket, helmet, goggles, and red scarf.
The dedication and time towards the Snoopy balloon would pay off later that November, as he became an instant Parade mainstay.
Hot off the trails of the Apollo 11 space program, which had successfully sent Neil Armstrong to the moon earlier that year. To celebrate this massive achievement, the Parade team decided to have Snoopy refitted in space gear for the 1969 Parade.
The engineers at Goodyear began to determine which parts of the Aviator Snoopy balloon could be removed in order to turn him into a dashing astronaut, while at the same time attempting to maintain the “free lift”, in order for the balloon to fly properly. A liquid material was used to remove the balloon’s various aviator attributes including the goggles, the green helmet and its trim. The balloon's scarf was also removed, and all of the removed elements were placed away in storage as Goodyear officials knew the aviator incarnation would one day return.
The second Snoopy balloon depicted the cartoon pup gearing up for a historic trip to the moon. Constructed out of the same basic shapes as its predecessor -- a series of spheres, cones, cylinders and doughnut shapes -- Snoopy flew down the streets of New York City celebrating the wonder of space flight decked out in space gear.
The 1971 Parade brought with it gale-force winds and heavy rainfall. The inclimate weather caused many of the giant helium balloons to be shelved for the year with only three planned to make appearances which were Smokey Bear, Happy Dragon and Astronaut Snoopy. All three balloons would be severely damaged, however it was Snoopy who suffered the worst of it. The wind carried the half-inflated helium carcass through the air, eventually crashing into a tractor-trailer parked on the side of 77th Street. The impact wrapped the balloon’s head around the vehicle, tearing it open. The balloon was freed and deflated entirely, placed back in its phone booth-sized crate and would not make it to see Thanksgiving Day 1971.
The balloon took Goodyear officials several weeks to dry out, patch up and repaint. The balloon would later be fixed and was able to fly high for the 1972 Parade.
Astronaut Snoopy would once again face turbulence during the 1973 Parade, suffering a puncture to its chest in addition to a limp wrist. The puncture was not severe enough to remove the brave beagle, and the balloon would continue down the Parade route without further incident.
The balloon encountered further difficulties during the 1975 Parade, which had been affected by heavy rain and strong wind gusts. Upon arriving at 73rd Street, the balloon veered into a lamppost and rapidly deflated. Unlike its previous incident, the balloon was damaged enough to be removed from the procession entirely.
The balloon returned to its home at Goodyear’s Rockmart headquarters, where its soaking handling lines were baked to dry in special ovens. It was repaired alongside another balloon which had been removed from the 1975 procession - the brave and heroic Underdog. Three weeks passed by and both balloons were in fine-flying shape again and were able to return to the lineup in 1976.
In the summer of 1978, the Astronaut Snoopy balloon would see a similar refurbishment process to the one it was put through years prior in 1969, as the Aviator Snoopy balloon was brought back from retirement. The green aviator helmet and accompanied goggles were brought out of storage and carefully placed on the balloon to cover the helmet of its astronaut incarnation. The body was painted a clad white, and Snoopy would once again don his red scarf in preparation for his fight with the dreaded Red Baron.
During preparations on the night before the 1980 Parade, the fearless pup’s right leg was torn open by a shard of glass and deflated, leaving a tear too serious to be repaired on site. As a result, the Snoopy balloon would be a no-show at that year’s Parade. Following the procession, Snoopy returned to his Rockmart doghouse and was given a repair - a massive bandage. The balloon was able to fly for his triumphant return in the 1981 Parade.
The bandage was not enough to heal Snoopy, however. As the balloon rounded the corner onto 34th Street, the bandage fell off as Snoopy's leg began to lose helium. The balloon was able to make it to the deflation area before any further damage could be done.
The Aviator Snoopy balloon was once again retired after the 1982 Parade. A statement from United Media spokesperson Jay Pointer explained that, “We always had our Snoopy balloon in, but we had an accident last year and we had to retire him”.
Replacing the balloon was a costumed character version of the beloved beagle, who appeared on United Media's “America's Comic Stars” float. The sprawling float featured the most iconic comic strip characters on a float waving to the crowd. Perched 26 feet off the ground is Snoopy, sitting on his rotating doghouse in a cloudy yonder, joined by his bird buddy Woodstock. The float would appear once again in the 1984 Parade, and was then retired.
The Aviator Snoopy balloon would make a grand return to the 1985 Parade, repaired and bringing a special gift to Parade spectators. The addition of a letter with a red ribbon was made to the balloon, which was placed in the balloon's hands. Upon arriving at Herald Square, the letter was “opened”, revealing it to be Santa's Nice List, naming all the good boys and girls from around the world. While turning onto 34th Street, the list fell off of the balloon and onto the ground below. No one was injured and the balloon completed its march without further incident. After this appearance, the Aviator Snoopy balloon was officially retired from the Parade.
Though the balloon was retired from the main Parade, its legacy would live on as it made an appearance in the 1986 edition of Macy's-Egleston Christmas Parade alongside Goodyear contemporary Donald Duck and newcomer Yogi Bear.
Following a leap of absence in the 1986 Parade, Snoopy would return as a brand-new giant helium balloon for the 1987 Parade. The six-story tall balloon depicts Snoopy lacing up his 19-foot-long ice skates as he glides gracefully down the Parade route, keeping warm with a scarf and a 30-foot long red-and-green-striped stocking hat. Dubbed the “Snoopy on Skates” balloon, it was the first balloon version of Snoopy to be created by Raven's Aerostar division. Technological advancements that were made since the original Snoopy balloon's debut allowed the balloon-making company to construct an inflatable figure that matched more closely to its cartoon counterpart. At 62-feet-tall, the balloon is 62 times the height of a real-life beagle.
The balloon's creation and development was documented in an episode of Reading Rainbow, titled “Brush”. In the episode, host LeVar Burton follows Parade legend Manfred Bass through the Macy's Parade Studio, presenting the creation of the Snoopy on Skates balloon from a pencil sketch to its clay model, and later its fabrication and inflation.
The balloon was sold as a plush at Macy's stores nationwide for the holiday shopping season, with Snoopy being Macy's Holiday Ambassador of 1987. A special commercial was made featuring original animation of Snoopy and Woodstock frolicking through a winter wonderland, bundled up in Macy's-branded apparel.
The Snoopy on Skates balloon made only one appearance, and was then retired.
Akin to his previous balloon incarnation, the Snoopy on Skates balloon would appear at the 1987 edition of Macy's Egleston-Christmas Parade, joined by fellow balloon colleagues Baby Shamu, the White Macy’s Stars and an array of ornament novelty balloons.
Snoopy returned to the procession as a giant helium balloon once again for the 1988 Parade, now joined by his best friend, Woodstock. The dynamic duo were represented as skating down the streets of New York City, bundling warm against the frigid fall temperatures with a line of Macy's-branded winter wear; Snoopy wore a pair of red earmuffs and festive jumper, with Woodstock wearing a red-and-white striped stocking hat.
The Snoopy balloon measures 50 feet tall, 25 feet wide and requires 9,000 cubic feet of helium to help the cartoon mutt reach fine-flying form. Woodstock is also of giant proportions, weighing a total of 70 pounds and measuring 18 feet wide and 24 feet tall. The Woodstock balloon took its very own test flight in mid-November 1988 outside of Macy's flagship Herald Square department store, joining the American Star Ornaments.
For its appearance on NBC's telecast of the Parade, the Snoopy balloon was equipped with a special camera, known as “Snoopy-Cam”, which gave Parade viewers at home an up-close-and-personal look at what the balloon saw as it travelled down the Parade route. This feature was eventually discontinued after the 1990 Parade.
The balloon duo would later be used in a variety of events, store openings and other festive Parades over the next few years. Their first appearance outside of the Parade was in Atlanta, as Snoopy and Woodstock flew high in the sky at the Macy's-Egleston Christmas Parade.
Heavy snowfall affected the 1989 Parade, leaving New York City covered with over six inches of snow on Thanksgiving Day. The resulting high winds caused the Snoopy balloon to have its nose punctured by a tree shortly before Parade step-off. The damage was unable to be fixed in time and the balloon was removed from the lineup, alongside Woodstock. Archival footage from its previous appearance in the 1988 procession was used on the NBC Parade telecast.
Repairs were made to the beloved beagle's nose, and the balloon was able to return to the 1990 Parade.
Continuing to appear outside of the Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Snoopy and Woodstock balloons appeared at the grand opening of the Cherry Hill Macy's location, which featured a Parade with balloons, floats, clowns and marching bands. Among the lineup were Snuggle Bear and Clifford the Big Red Dog, who floated through the skies to the tune of the Funny Factory Clown Band and The Cherry Hill West High School Band.
Macy's Balloon-A-Thon, an exhibit that gave guests a close look at the Parade's iconic inflatable elements and fantasy floats, was first held at the Park Slope Armory for four days in May 1995. The balloons that were helium-inflated and put on display include Snoopy and Woodstock, Quik Bunny, The Pink Panther, Barney and various other novelty balloons.
Snoopy and Woodstock would make their final Parade appearance in the 1995 Parade, with an incident spoling the event. After passing by the NBC cameras and round the corner to 34th Street, the Snoopy balloon was blown into a flagpole on the Macy's department store. The impact caused its muzzle to be punctured and deflate. As a result, the Snoopy and Woodstock balloons were officially retired from the Parade.
Between 1996 and 1998, there was no representation of the Peanuts franchise in the Parade, despite the comics and holiday television special's massive popularity.
Snoopy made yet another triumphant return to the 1999 Parade, ringing in the new millennium with a brand-new giant balloon. Known as “Millennium Snoopy”, the balloon featured Snoopy partying through the streets of Manhattan, wearing a jester's hat as he blew into a gaudy party horn, which read “Macy's 2000”, anticipating the arrival of the year 2000. The balloon likeness of the beloved beagle measured 47 feet tall, 64 feet long and 28 feet wide, serving as the opening act for the 73rd annual procession down the Great White Way.
Joining the festivities even further, a costumed character version of Snoopy was escorted en route to Herald Square by the UCA Cheerleaders, heralding the New Year and the holiday season.
Snoopy would once again be named Macy's Holiday Ambassador of 1999, with a specialty plush sold at Macy's stores nationwide, with a design very similar to that of the Millennium Snoopy balloon. To celebrate the occasion, a cold-air version of the Millennium Snoopy balloon was placed on Macy's 34th Street memorial marquee, greeting holiday shoppers from high above his “Millennium Countdown” clock, which ticked away until the year 2000 arrived.
Following the passing of Peanuts creator Charles Schultz, in February 2000, a special parade was held in his honor in Santa Rosa, California. Among the elements was the original Aviator Snoopy balloon, which was filled with helium and given his first proper flight in decades. The balloon would later be given a partial air inflation at the Peanuts Museum, with the balloon's head poking out of his storage crate.
Later that same year, Millennium Snoopy would once again take to the skies of New York City.
Millennium Snoopy was given minor changes in preparation for the 2001 Parade, as the millennium celebration had long since ended. The theme of the balloon was changed from Snoopy celebrating the new millennium to Snoopy celebrating the Parade's 75th anniversary. The “Macy's 2000” logo on the balloon's party horn was replaced with a message celebrating the diamond jubilee. After this appearance, the balloon would be retired from the line of march.
In a novel twist, Snoopy would be replaced by his faithful owner Charlie Brown as a balloon in the 2002 Parade. The balloon’s design featured the lovable blockhead attempting to kick the Elusive Football through the canyons of skyscrapers. Though his pet beagle was absent from the Parade in balloon form, Snoopy appeared as a costumed character on the Pep Rally float, which followed closely behind the Charlie Brown balloon.
2003 marked a special year for several Snoopy balloons, as the original Aviator Snoopy balloon and Snoopy on Skates were cut up into swatches along with many of their Goodyear contemporaries. The swatches were framed and given to several Macy's Parade Studio employees and company executives.
When the Charlie Brown balloon was in the Parade, Snoopy would continue to make appearances outside of the Parade. In September 2004, the Millenium Snoopy balloon was flown at the grand opening of a Macy's store at the Maine Mall in South Portland.
After being absent from the trek down Herald Square since 2001, a new Snoopy balloon was crafted for the landmark 80th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The new balloon featured Snoopy as an aviator for the second time, this time identified as his Flying Ace persona from the comics. Now, he sported a brown aviator hat and a pair of binoculars to spot the dreaded Red Baron. Fully inflated, the 15,000 cubic foot balloon measured 52 feet tall, 49 feet long, and 25 feet wide.
Flying Ace Snoopy served as the Holiday Ambassador for the 2006 Parade, and was placed in the leading position of the march that year as a result. Despite the wind and rain, Snoopy braved the weather to fly through the route without incident. Joining him was a float replica of his doghouse, with Woodstock signaling the way for the brave aviator.
With the title of Macy’s Holiday Ambassador going once again to Snoopy, another cold-air inflatable was created, now joined by Woodstock as the duo relaxed in comfy winter gear on the Macy's marquee, mirroring Snoopy's sleeping position in the Peanuts comic strip. A specialty plush doll was created for the occasion, featuring Snoopy in a cozy red sweater.
The balloon continued to take annual voyages down the Great White Way for another five years. In 2010, it had the honor of leading the parade for the second time, making it the only balloon incarnation of Snoopy to accomplish this feat.
Flying Ace Snoopy would be re-inflated just weeks after the 2010 Parade, and flown along Central Park West as one of many Parade units staged for the filming of the 2011 film, Tower Heist. The scene was filmed over the course of two days and featured appearances by the Jolly Polly Pirate Ship, the Confetti Clowns, Tom Turkey and the Macy's Great American Marching Band.
Ben Stiller, who played the role of Josh Kovacs in the film, recounted the experience in an interview saying “We have to figure out to get up to the apartment on Thanksgiving Day while everyone's watching the Snoopy float go by, because everybody's fascinated by Snoopy.”
It was eventually retired following the 2011 Parade due to wear-and-tear, and has not been seen since.
Charlie Brown and the Elusive Football would return to the 2012 Parade, once again taking place of his pet beagle. However, Snoopy would appear on the aforementioned Snoopy's Doghouse float alongside Linus and Lucy.
The World's Most Famous Beagle returned to the lineup for the 2013 Parade, debuting in the form of a brand-new giant balloon. The Snoopy balloon took flight alongside his pal Woodstock, making another record-setting stint in the Macy's Parade. Vicki Scott of the Peanuts Studio took pencil to paper and sketched a series of ideas for the new balloon. Macy's loved the idea of a Snoopy and Woodstock combination balloon, but attaching Woodstock and his bird friends to Snoopy proved to be a challenging feat.
The final design features Snoopy soaring down the streets of New York City with outstretched arms as Woodstock is perched atop his head, steering his ears as he flies.
Parade Executive Amy Kule commented on the balloon's debut, saying “Seeing Snoopy take to the sky for his record breaking 37th flight is truly an incredible thrill. As the many millions of Macy’s Parade fans know, Snoopy and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade are synonymous and this seventh iteration of this magnificent beagle and his rascally friend Woodstock will carve an indelible image in the sky as he has ever since the late 1960s.”
While preparing for its first trial run at BalloonFest 2013, the Snoopy and Woodstock balloon experienced a few tense moments, when the inflation net caught on the poor pooch's left ear. Crews swarmed to Snoopy's left side and eventually Macy's Parade Studio Vice President John Piper climbed a ladder and freed the net. Minutes later the balloon was up and away and ready to be seen on Thanksgiving Day.
In 2015, Snoopy was once again named Macy's Holiday Ambassador as part of a promotion titled “Macy's Hearts Peanuts”. The promotion was held in honor of the 65th anniversary of the Peanuts comic strip, and the golden anniversary of the television special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. A specialty inflatable of Snoopy, joined by his sister Belle, was perched upon Macy's 34th Street marquee and greeted holiday shoppers who walked by. Likewise, a push toy was sold at select Macy's stores dressed in a warm holiday hat and vest along with a bonus backpack clip of his sister Belle.
Celebrating the special anniversaries further, Snoopy and assorted Peanuts characters appeared in the annual Macy's Holiday Windows. The Snoopy's Doghouse float was also given a facelift, depicting Snoopy decorating his blue doghouse in hopes of winning a Christmas decoration contest.
The Snoopy and Woodstock balloon made its final appearance in the 2015 Parade, but would continue to be used in several Balloon Field Training sessions, with it last being used in September 2019.
Snoopy would once again be replaced by Charlie Brown in the 2016 Parade, which was a new balloon and featured the world-renowned blockhead getting tangled up in his kite. Snoopy would appear as a costumed character on his doghouse float, having to his many fans and Parade spectators.
Cleared for take-off, Snoopy returned as a giant balloon in the 2019 Parade, replacing his owner once again. Celebrating the wonder of space flight, Snoopy, decked in astronaut gear, will launch his new mission in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing this year and future missions to the moon and beyond.
Designed by the artists of Macy's Parade Studio in collaboration with the Peanuts team, the newest Astronaut Snoopy was sure to live up to the incredible high-flying legacy of his predecessors. Dressed in an orange flight suit and helmet similar to a modern astronaut, the Astronaut Snoopy balloon measures 49 feet tall, 43 feet wide, 29 feet wide and was the 100th giant balloon for the Macy's Parade to be created by Raven Aerostar Industries.
“Snoopy flying in the Macy's Parade has become a tradition that fans from all over the world expect and have loved to enjoy for more than four decades,” said Jordan Dabby, producer of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. “This year's flight will not only extend Snoopy's record as the character with the most balloon designs to eight, but will add a record-extending 40th flight in the Macy’s Parade line-up. We are thrilled that he is coming back dressed in the style of a modern day astronaut, after having first debuted as an Apollo astronaut in the 1969 Macy's Parade.”
The Astronaut Snoopy balloon was originally planned to appear in the reimagined 2020 Parade, being flown down 34th Street with a five-vehicle framework. However, rising cases of COVID-19 caused the Astronaut Snoopy balloon to be demoted to a pre-recorded appearance. Archival footage of the balloon from its 2019 appearance was used, dubbed over by commentary provided by The TODAY Show's Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb.
- This information was retrieved from the MACY'S PARADE NATION Facebook page, and provided by Macy's guest historian Bill Smith.
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