It’s a big deal to have a balloon in the Macy’s Day Parade. When I was in brand management at Unilever, we worked to get Snuggle, the cuddy teddy bear mascot for Snuggle Fabric Softener, included in this wonderful event. It made for a few special Macy Day Parades.
There have been a bunch of corporate mascots included over the years (I’m looking at you, Poppin’ Fresh, you Pillsbury Doughboy!) This annual event generally has been very inclusive to comic characters too.
In fact, you could “Look! Up in the Sky” many times over the years to see the “first” superhero: Superman.
The last of son of Krypton actually had three incarnations with the Macy’s Day Parade. The first Superman balloon took to the skies in 1939. Superman’s first’s appearance was, of course, in April of 1938. It’s incredible to us today that a character could debut one year and become a giant balloon in one of the famous parades the very next year. Surprisingly, this balloon even preceded The Adventures of Superman radio show.
And as Superman was so new, it’s understandable that he looked a little “off-model”, a term that didn’t even exist all those Thanksgivings ago.
He was back in 1966 with an updated version. Again, Superman was posing with his famous ‘hands on hips” stance, seemingly goading any gangsters to shoot bullets at his Kryptonian hide. While it worked fine in comics and 50s TV shows, that probably wouldn’t have gone well for this “Man of Helium” incarnation.
The third time was a charm. The giant 1984 Superman balloon finally had Superman flying. What could have made more sense than to have Superman flying over the streets of New York? And why did it take the balloon makers so long to figure it out?
Other comic characters have all had their time to shine floating above Manhattan as Macy’s Day Parade Balloons: Spider-Man, Popeye, Charlie Brown, his dog Snoopy, Papa Smurf, Pokémon’s Pikachu, Felix the Cat, Whimpy Kid and even Kool-Aid Man (he did have a promotional comic or two, so I’m counting him.)
There have also been several comic-adjacent characters floating through the streets on Thanksgiving morning. Underdog, a beloved super-hero spoof for everyone who was a kid in 1980, was created by Total Television but enjoyed a respectable comic run too. American Mythology resurrected the character in 2017.
This year another crime-fighting super hero type, Red Titan, debuted. Red Titan is the alter ego of a real life young boy named Ryan. You might not be familiar with him. I wasn’t until recently. But if that’s the case, it’s just because you don’t know enough preschoolers! Ryan’s World is huge. His YouTube channel has 27 million subscribers, and Ryan’s lifetime views are calculated to be somewhere around 56 billion.
The management company, Pocket.Watch, has so many more similar YouTube influencers lined up!
It’s a fascinating trend. You don’t need a hit comic book, movie or TV show to meet the Macy’s “recognizability” criteria. And that’s undoubtedly a trend for the future. What kid needs a TV channel, or even a streamer, when YouTube on a tablet is always handy?
I was thankful to watch TV Thanksgiving morning and not be obsessed with politics! Have a safe and wonderful holiday.