Updated on March 5, 2022
Chicago’s annual Thanksgiving parade is being held Thanksgiving morning from 8 AM-11 AM (Central Time) as usual. Unlike the heavily commercialized feeling of the Macy’s parade in New York in recent years, Chicago’s parade feels less so: marching bands from various regional (and some national) high schools participate; various Chicagoland-area organizations and businesses have floats, some of which aren’t just advertising their sponsors’ product/service; street performers that aren’t just promoting Broadway plays, though Chicago’s theater scene is represented too; and no awful NBC programs being pushed. The parade’s telecast on WGN locally (who also has a float) and across the country on cable on superstation “WGN America.”Granted, it helps Chicago as a city has always been quite bullish on parades for any and all occasions, from gay pride to Bud Biliken. If it’s a holiday, Chicago seems more than willing to hold a parade for it.
Of course, the parade, like Macy’s in New York, also has giant balloons (a relatively late but popular addition). They seem to go for a mix of old-time and recent cartoon characters, including a few balloons the Macy’s parade doesn’t use anymore, such as last year’s Rocky and Bullwinkle balloons.
The cartoon character balloons for this year’s parade (as listed on the parade website) include:
- Arthur: The character from the near-Simpsons-length, very-long-running PBS animated series (and book series by Marc Brown). No doubt popular among children (and younger adults who grew up in the 90s/2000s).
- Mighty Mouse: The popular Terrytoons character and longtime syndicated broadcast TV staple (until the 80s/90s) has a balloon this year. A rather obscure choice in my opinion, given Mighty’s been off TV for years. While I like MM, I wonder if Underdog might’ve been a better choice. Thanks to the mediocre live-action Underdog movie from a few years ago being rerun fairly often on the Disney Channel, kids will be much more familiar with Underdog than Mighty Mouse. As will, hopefully, the WGN announcers; last year, they seemed barely familiar with Bullwinkle as it was, to my disappointment…
- Mr. Potato Head: While not a toy, the Don Rickles-voiced character in the “Toy Story” movies has helped push MPH back in the public eye.
- Tom and Jerry: A new balloon for the parade features the classic theatrical animated short stars. Sure to be quite popular.
- Curious George: A classic children’s literature character for decades, plus more recently the star of a PBS animated series.
- Pilgrim Garfield and Odie: Garfield and Odie are ubiquitous newspaper comics page characters, plus of course, their various animated TV shows (and specials, DVDs, movies, etc.). The two each get their own balloons here.
- Woody Woodpecker: Although much less visible these days than he used to be, Woody does seem to have a strong presence on Hulu’s animation section, plus a presence at Universal Studios, which is more than what Mighty Mouse gets.
- Paddington Bear: Though a children’s literature character, Paddington has had a few animated series over the years. I grew up reading Paddington Bear’s books, which served as some of my first exposures to British culture (or the existence of Peru and marmalade).
Overall, the above seems to be a decent mix of classic and more modern cartoon characters.