Step Back November: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Joan Feder

Feature Article
This article appeared in the November 17, 2020 (#1111) edition of ALL EARS®

Editor’s Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.

Macy’s Balloons

Join us on our monthly journey into the past as we explore the history of Walt Disney World and the Walt Disney Company. This time we look back at Disney balloons that have flown in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The first parade was held in 1924. Giant balloons were added in 1927. They were the brainchild of Tony Sarg. He was a professional puppeteer who became Macy’s Parade Director. It was his idea to build an upside marionette and fill it with helium.

In 1934, Walt Disney and Tony Sarg worked together to create the first Disney balloons for the parade. The star, of course, was Mickey—only this Mouse was 40 feet tall!

Mickey was accompanied by smaller Disney balloons, including Pluto and Horace Horsecollar, as well as the Big Bad Wolf and Practical Pig from the Three Little Pigs.

Donald Duck joined the gang in 1935. He was retired after this appearance, along with the rest of the Disney balloons.

In 1962, Donald became the first celebrity to be honored with a second balloon. He flew for 9 years and was set to retire after Thanksgiving 1971.

The second Mickey balloon was going to debut at the same parade. That year, torrential rain and heavy winds kept the balloons grounded for the first and only time in the event’s history. Donald and Mickey flew at the 1972 parade instead.

Twelve years after his retirement, the Donald balloon was refurbished. He led the 1984 Macy’s parade in celebration of his 50th birthday.

Goofy did not become a balloon until 1992. He was dressed as Santa and tangled in Christmas lights. This was the balloon’s only parade appearance. However, it spent the rest of that holiday season as part of the Macy’s New York Christmas at Disney’s MGM Studios.

A new Bandleader Mickey balloon kicked off the 2000 parade. He was dressed in his red and gold outfit from the original Mickey Mouse Club.

The most recent Mouse balloon was Sailor Mickey. He debuted in 2009, dressed in nautical gear and holding onto an anchor. He was part of the promotion for the Disney Cruise Line’s new ships, the Fantasy and the Dream.

Other Disney characters have also flown in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Buzz Lightyear joined the lineup in 2008. In 2012, four Disney brands each had its own balloon: Disney’s Sailor Mickey, Kermit from the Muppets, Pixar’s Buzz Lightyear, and Marvel’s Spiderman.

The most recent addition to the Disney balloon family was Olaf the Snowman in 2017. He appeared again in 2018 and 2019.

The Thanksgiving Day Parade will be a little different this year. It will not follow the traditional 2.5-mile route, but rather will take place in front of Macy’s 34th Street store. There will be balloons, but Disney will not be part of this year’s show.

For my family, Thanksgiving would not be Thanksgiving without the Macy’s Parade. We will still be watching, will you?