Last Tuesday my coworker Ally and I had an opportunity to tour the production shop / initial staging ground for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade out in Hoboken. I took a lot of pictures. Here are some of them:
This rococo monstrosity is the first thing you see when passing across the studio’s surprisingly fortified driveway. Housed outside were an unidentified sleigh float (not Santa’s), three red inflatable Macy’s stars, and a blue cat on the rusty roof of a shed, all surrounded by barbed wire and a few forklifts.
It took me awhile to realize but this is OfficeMax’s float and a retinue of ElfYourselfers, alive and high kicking. It was press day, and there were lots of cameras and schoolkids for them to entertain. These five did not pause their herky jerk routine once in the two hours we were there.
Here are the finals plans and a clay model of the South Dakota tourism float. Jon Piper, Macy’s VP of Parade Production or some awesome title like that, was telling us that anyone hired to work at the studio has to wear multiple hats. If you’re a computer design, you paint, if you’re a carpenter, you’re also helping to test out the balloon upstairs, etc..
Planning is a year round thing. There are around 25 floats in each parade, and this year seven of them will be new. To be involved, a company — like our host, Homewood Suites — has to submit a somewhat lengthy proposal around this time the year before. Once accepted, everything is in the hands of the Macy’s crew until a final plan is decided on. These models are what the partner is presented with, and they tweak from there.
And here’s the final product. FOX 5 was there shooting a segment, and their enterprising reporter snatched one of the school kids out of the crowd to help out with the report. Sick buffalo club hat!
The Morton’s Salt float centers around anodyne folks dressed as cupcakes and gingerbread men frolicking in the land of hypertension. Struck me as a little nefarious, but whatever.
Seems like Takashi Murakami is everywhere these days. These two are KaiKai and Kiki (interchangeably?) and they will be riding the same float as Kylie Minogue because why not! I don’t know what size people they have wearing those costumes, but walking around in it looked basically like being in shackles. KiKi’s maximum land speed: .5 MPH, give or take.
Murakami isn’t the only artist in the parade’s history. This Keith Haring float made the trip down Broadway in 2008 and had a run-in, literally, with Meredith Vieira and the Today Show’s broadcast booth. Unlike more floats, which lean forward and lurch along, “Untitled (Figure with Heart)” was fully upright and thus much harder to control.
Po of Kung Fu Panda fame. I assumed each balloon is one large volume, but it’s actually made up of many smaller pockets. Each is inflated and left for six hours to guarantee there are no leaks. If there is a leak, they patch it then do another six hour test. It’s a long process, but the combination of diligent testing and the the balloons’ piecemeal construction limits the chances of a disastrous deflation.
Kind of makes you long for a time when the world only existed in fiery-orange hues.
I mentioned that Macy’s has been in their Hoboken space for the last forty-fifty years, and you can tell. There a paint spatters all of the floor, and the place is jam packed with plans and models of the past years’ glories.
Jon mentioned wistfully that they’re in the midst of constructing a new studio deeper in Jersey, closer to the storage facility. They are going to have a lot of packing to do.
Terrifying giraffe perspective.
Joan Rivers is this year’s Ice Queen, and this is her sleigh. Note the terrifying disembodied elk head.