Updated on November 23, 2022
To go along with the post on Chicago’s Thanksgiving Day parade balloons, I thought I’d also look at the “granddaddy” of Thanksgiving Day parades, the Macy’s parade in New York City. Unlike the Chicago parade, New York’s parade tends to be much higher in spectacle (befitting the Big Apple), with the use of Broadway performers for various musical numbers. The Macy’s parade is also a lot more commercialized than Chicago’s parade, for better (the Broadway numbers, fancy elements, big-name cartoon character balloons) or worse (the commercialism, the cartoon balloons sometimes being flash-in-the-pan characters). As a result, the cartoon balloons tend to be big-name characters (Spider-Man, Snoopy, etc.), but there are also a lot of currently-popular cartoon characters that might leave older viewers scratching their heads or rolling their eyes, depending on how they feel about shows like “Pokemon.”
A full list of balloons and similar balloon-like displays are available here. Macy’s split their balloon displays into three categories:
- Hello Kitty: The popular Japanese cartoon character/marketing icon has a float.
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The popular children’s book series has a balloon. Kids will easily recognize the hugely popular literature character, as should their parents (if they’re paying attention to what their kids are reading).
- Julius: A sock monkey.
- Spider-Man: New York’s favorite superhero gets a balloon. Assuming their favorite heroes aren’t the Fantastic Four, X-Men, Daredevil, the Avengers, the Teen Titans (in their 80s run) or Supergirl (ditto).
- Ronald McDonald: The only clown left that doesn’t give children nightmares/cause fear of Joker-like mass carnage among adults, if Hollywood/TV is to be believed anyway. Interesting that the only clown now deemed “not scary” is a merchandising figure that sells mediocre hamburgers. That said, the Macy’s parade does feature various non-artery-clogging-food-selling clowns participating.
- The Pillsbury Doughboy: One guess whose ads run during the commercial breaks on a popular food-oriented holiday.
- Pikachu: “Pokemon” has had a steady presence in the parade in recent years, and will have nostalgia from young adults who grew up with “Pokemon” in the late 90s/2000s. Older adults/those that aren’t video game or anime fans will probably make the common mistake of thinking Pikachu’s some sort of cat. (For the record, he’s a mouse with electrical powers.)
- Buzz Lightyear: The popular “Toy Story” character and real-life toy appears.
- Sonic the Hedgehog: Another popular video game character has his own balloon. Kids and younger adults will easily recognize Sonic; I’m not sure about older adults, unless they’re video game enthusiasts themselves.
- The Wizard of Oz: Macy’s is celebrating the movie’s 75th anniversary, and thus has a Dorothy balloon in the parade.
- Papa Smurf: The elder Smurf leader has his own balloon.
- Toothless: The dragon from the Dreamworks movie “How to Train Your Dragon.” Suspect it’ll be a case where kids recognize the character, but some adults watching won’t.
- Finn and Jake: The popular duo from “Adventure Time.” See Toothless above for recognizability among kids/adults.
- Chippey the Elf: From the book, TV special, and merchandising series “Elf on the Shelf.”
- Snoopy and Woodstock: The popular “Peanuts” character is a Macy’s parade mainstay; this year the beagle has Woodstock the bird in tow.
- SpongeBob SquarePants: The still highly popular Nickelodeon character has a balloon as well.
- The Kool-Aid Man: Not sure what kids will make of the big red guy, though adults will easily recognize the wall-breaker.
- The AFLAC Duck: The popular AFLAC duck has a parade display.
- Spinning Dreidel: In recognition of the Jewish holiday, as well as Thanksgiving falling during the start of Hanukkah this year.
- Various Macy’s-themed shapes, including a baseball, football, candy cane, and stars
- Virginia: From the TV special (and some related merchandise) based on the newspaper editorial “Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus.”
- Uncle Sam: The patriotic figure puts in a non-Fourth of July appearance.
- Planet Earth: A display as the backdrop for… something about the Power Rangers. Assume a certain generation of viewers will love it for nostalgia, less so older viewers. Do kids even care about the Power Rangers these days?
- Harold the Policeman: An old-time parade balloon.
- Harold the Fireman: Another old-time parade balloon. Is Harold pulling a “Lunchlady Doris” (“I get two paychecks this way.”)?
- Holiday elves
- Arrrtie the Pirate: A pirate balloon.
- Happy Hippo: A purple hippo-themed balloon. Presumably no relation to Hanna-Barbera’s Peter Potamus.
Along with the above balloons, there’ll also be various cartoon character-themed floats, including the Minions from “Despicable Me” and the Smurfs.
Image by Kevin Sanderson from Pixabay