All About Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons – 2011

Macy’s flying wonders rise to the occasion once more for America’s favorite holiday spectacle – the 85th Anniversary Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade®. Featuring a worldwide phenomenon and a giant blue blur, the parade’s signature line up of balloon wonders will fascinate and mesmerize millions as they soar between skyscrapers this Thanksgiving.

The giants that take Manhattan each Turkey Day owe their larger-than-life forms to a Macy’s parade genius. In 1927, Macy’s designer and famed puppeteer Tony Sarg developed a new concept for the infant spectacle when he imagined upside down marionettes joining the procession. His first such creation was a giant balloon version of Felix the Cat. First floated above the streets by sticks, Sarg filled the creations with helium the next year and helped solidify one of the parade’s signature elements for years to come.

Since their inception, the Macy’s parade has featured a storied cast of the world’s most famous characters, from Mickey Mouse to Kermit the Frog and Betty Boop to Bugs Bunny. This year, taking flight in the 85th edition will be a jetpack sporting awesome monkey, Paul Frank’s Julius, and Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog, which returns to the big show after its pioneering debut in 1993 as the procession’s first-ever video game character.

The parade’s new giant balloons begin life as a pencil sketch in the hands of a skilled Macy’s artist. Under the direction of John Piper, vice president and lead designer of the Macy’s Parade Studio, the Studio’s design team and resident group of “Balloonatics” are faced with the ultimate challenge – to create a larger-than-life version of the well-known character and combine both whimsy and aerodynamics to see it soar. From a pencil design, the character will undergo a series of transformations. The balloon creation process combines artistic design with aerodynamics and engineering. Macy’s conducts the creative and high-tech process in collaboration with consultants, Aerostar, who together calculate the balloon design’s flight patterns, aerodynamics, buoyancy and lift. Once a flight-worthy balloon concept has been approved, it moves on to the clay and painted model construction phase. This step helps the team create a blueprint from which the balloon will be built. After those elements have passed inspection, the next phase begins. From giant reams of polyurethane fabric, hundreds of patterns will be cut then sealed together, to create multiple chambers which ultimately produce the character’s head, body and limbs. Once the balloon has been created and painted to the exact specifications required of the character, it will undergo many tests including indoor and outdoor flights, inflation and deflation tests and final touch-ups before taking flight on parade day.

Before a new balloon joins the famed parade line-up, the new recruits must undergo their official outdoor test flight. On Saturday, Nov. 5, the new class will take flight at Macy’s Balloonfest. Under the watch and supervision of a seasoned flight management team, which include balloon pilots and captains, the flight team of 12 will guide hundreds of handlers, as they fly the balloon in an extreme real world setting. At its successful conclusion, the balloon will be deemed flight-ready and prepare for its Thanksgiving Day debut.

Following is the Complete Cast of Giant Helium Character Balloons in the 85th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade


Disney•Pixar’s superhero Buzz Lightyear returns for his fourth trip down the streets of New York City after spending 15-months in space aboard the International Space Station. Toy Story’s fearless Inter-galactic Space Ranger measures 67.7-feet long, 39.9-feet wide and 34.3-feet tall.


After conquering the Big Apple, as well as the box office this year, and poised to hit homes on DVD and Blu-ray across the nation, Clumsy Smurf returns to fill the sky blue this Thanksgiving. Always sporting a smurferrific holiday smile, Clumsy will wish millions a Happy Smurfgiving on his high-flying trip. Measuring 57.6-feet long, 38.7-feet wide and 47-feet tall, the whimsical Clumsy Smurf is filled with 15,050 cubic feet of helium for the holiday jaunt down Manhattan.


Greg Heffley returns to the sky clutching his journal to the delight of millions of kids. At 60-feet long, 25-feet wide, and 56-feet tall, wimpy is not the right word to describe this balloon behemoth. Clutching his precious book close for comfort and security, Greg is celebrating the completion of his sixth book, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever”, this holiday season.


Returning to the line-up to say hello to her many friends is “Super Cute” Hello Kitty. Spreading happiness and friendship, Hello Kitty is dressed in her super cute superhero outfit. Donning a cape and tiara to complement her trademark red bow, Hello Kitty stands at 33.6-feet tall, 34.8-feet wide and 45-feet long, as she soars over the Big Apple bringing smiles to her millions of fans.


Julius, who has rocketed into world wide fame, makes his parade debut in style. Soaring above his friends with the help of his trusty jetpack, Julius brings his iconic presence and awesomeness to the skies of New York. Measuring 41-feet tall, 65-feet long and 39-feet wide, this will be Julius’ biggest day ever.


Kermit the Frog is back on top…of Manhattan, that is. Everyone’s favorite amphibian is soaring today. And who can blame him? He’s got a new movie starring his old friends the Muppets…and of course, there’s his very long-term relationship with Hollywood’s most famous pig, Miss Piggy. And there’s plenty of Kermit up there for Piggy to wrap her arms around. He stands at 78-feet long, 36-feet wide, 60-feet tall and is filled with 11,000 cubic feet of helium. Being green never looked bigger or better.


Delivering his signature martial arts moves down the route is DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda. Truly a larger-than-life master of the ancient art of Kung Fu, Po returns for his second awesome parade flight. Measuring 42-feet tall, 46-feet long, and 34-feet wide, Kung Fu Panda is filled with more than 16,000 cubic feet of helium “noodles” – his favorite food!


Bringing its signature electrifying presence to the Macy’s parade, Pikachu, the most recognizable character of the Pokémon™ universe, returns to the line-up once again chasing after its Poké Ball. With his rosy cheeks lighting up the route, Pikachu flies at 53.5-feet high, 36.9-feet wide and 40.8-feet long, and is filled with 15,000 cubic feet of helium.


The Pillsbury Doughboy® rises to the top once again transforming from his normal 8 ¾-inch frame to a balloon giant measuring 53.7-feet long, 34.4-feet wide and 46.4-feet tall. With his brilliant blue eyes shining, his warm smile and world famous giggle, the Pillsbury Doughboy is mom’s fun-loving kitchen helper and is ready to ring in the holidays with millions of families.


It’s a McHappy Thanksgiving as Ronald McDonald®, the world’s most famous clown returns to the parade. Getting a holiday workout, Ronald ice skates down the route wearing the world’s largest pair of ice skates. Measuring 76.4-feet long, 28.8-feet wide and 48.6-feet tall, Ronald is inflated with 13,650 cubic feet of helium. Always in a playful mood, Ronald is ready for this fun-filled holiday activity.


All aboard! It’s Sailor Mickey at the helm of the ultimate family cruise. Riding his ship’s anchor, Sailor Mickey is set for the voyage to 34th Street. Sporting nautically-inspired red, white and blue gear, Sailor Mickey will give a Thanksgiving Day salute to the gathered crowds. Mickey measures 48.1-feet long, 33.6-feet wide, 60.9-feet tall and will be filled with 14,750 cubic feet of helium for his Turkey Day sail.


Snoopy returns to the line-up for his record-breaking 36th parade flight. Holding binoculars and sporting an aviator hat, goggles and a red scarf, Snoopy the Flying Ace is ready for another showdown with the dreaded Red Baron. Prepared for the challenge, Snoopy stands at 52-feet high, 25-feet wide and 49.5-feet long and is filled with 15,000 cubic feet of helium.


On Thanksgiving Day, the first-ever balloon based on a video game character returns to the sky to celebrate his 20th anniversary. Sonic the Hedgehog will sky rocket into the atmosphere with his massive blue spikes, signature white gloves and red shoes shining in the sun. For his parade return, Sonic will measure 50-feet tall, 65-feet long, and 37-feet wide, solidifying his presence, once again, as a historic character in the line-up.


Back to patrol the skyline and protect the citizens of New York is Marvel’s Spider-Man®, the legendary crime-fighting web-slinger. All across town Spider-senses will tingle on Thanksgiving morning when New York’s own friendly neighborhood Super Hero™ takes to the skies over Manhattan to ensnare a new generation of fans. Spidey, in full crawling mode with one hand set to release his web, floats down the route measuring 78-feet long, 37.8-feet wide and 29.1-feet tall, filled with 11,800 cubic feet of helium.


This Thanksgiving, pop-culture icon and eternal optimist, SpongeBob SquarePants, will take a special holiday trip to the Big Apple for his seventh appearance in the Macy’s parade. Based on the No. 1 animated kids’ show on TV, the first-ever square balloon in the parade, SpongeBob will absorb more than 16,200 cubic feet of helium to fly down the route. SpongeBob takes on his unique shape with the help of more than 600 internal tie-lines that pull the single chamber sphere balloon into a square. Dapper as always, SpongeBob stands at 62-feet high, 38-feet wide and 28-feet long on his Thanksgiving hiatus from Bikini Bottom.

The following is a complete cast of Balloonicles, novelty/mid-sized and small balloons

Quacking down the route for the first time is the nation’s most loveable bird, the Aflac Duck, taking on a new form for the festivities as a 35-foot tall balloonicle. Riding on a sleigh and wearing a festive scarf, this Duck will be a sure fire hit and a welcomed addition to the legendary parade line-up.

The Macy’s Parade Balloon Cluster brings a bright bouquet of balloons that add color and smiles to children everywhere. With a height of 25-feet and filled with 2,858 cubic feet of helium, the balloon cluster is sure to be a big holiday treat.

The star of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is the big man himself – Santa Claus. To pay tribute to his star status, Macy’s Parade Studio magicians have created a fantastic balloon depicting the cheery man himself with a rather jolly belly, this time full of helium. Big Man Santa measures 26-feet in height and 21-feet in width for his Thanksgiving flight.

Kids will scream in delight wishing they could get their hands on this sweet treat. This 20-foot tall candy cane is a holiday favorite on a sky-high sugar rush.

A Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade staple, Chloe the Holiday Clown is set to tickle many funny bones. At 28.5-feet tall and 18-feet wide, Chloe is filled with 2,242 cubic feet of helium.

Continuing his non-stop, Energizer®-powered escapades is America’s favorite pink bunny. The Energizer Bunny® returns to the parade this year to drum up some more holiday spirit. Always a source of positivity, the Energizer Bunny balloonicle is sporting his supercool shades and rocking 45 EEE sized flip-flops. With his quirky ability to keep the party going and going, it’s no wonder that the Energizer Bunny is a fan favorite.

Hot dog! The hottest hound-about-town Frieda returns for a Thanksgiving Day flight down Manhattan. Macy’s brings man’s best friend home just in time for the holidays. The top hot dog spans 52-feet long, 21-feet tall and 14-feet wide.

The winning design of Macy’s Great American Elf Adventure, Gazer is described by creator Keith Lapinig as having an important role to play in the holiday season. When not flying down the streets of Manhattan, Gazer helps fulfill the wishes of thousands of children that visit Santa Claus at Macy’s Herald Square in New York City each year. Gazer’s star and moon design was inspired by the story of R.H. Macy who chose Macy’s famed star emblem after a fateful fishing trip that found him lost at sea.

Icosahedrons rule! For the mathematically-challenged, each of the two geometric balloons are a 20-sided polygon made up of equilateral triangles. These icosahedrons measure 16-feet in height and will be filled with 1,700 cubic feet of helium.

Who better to salute the city’s bravest, the men and women of the New York Fire Department, than that lovable character Harold the Fireman! Originally seen in the parade of 1948, Harold is a recreation of the original balloon. At a height of 32-feet, New Yorkers can rest assured that he will keep a watchful eye over the city.

Joining his fireman twin is the parade’s newest recreation, Harold the Policeman. Joining the line-up after his first stint in service in 1947, Harold the Policeman salutes the NYPD for keeping us safe.

Looking very delicious, the Ice cream cone balloon stands 30-feet tall, top to cone tip, and is a scrumptious treat for the sweet-toothed crowds.

The Gnome Balloon from the 1940s and early ‘50s are back in new form, as the Macy’s Parade Elf Family. At 34-feet high, 18.5-feet wide and filled with 2,100 cubic feet of helium, these novelty balloons give a new meaning to the word “elf.”

A long way from his hometown of Hastings, NE, where he made a splashy return for Kool-Aid Days this summer, is the iconic Kool-Aid Man. Always smiling, the super cool, Kool-Aid Man skateboards down the route at 33-feet tall and 24-feet wide and wearing size 130 sneakers. Enjoying the holiday with millions of fans, Kool-Aid Man will be sure to send a cheerful greeting to them all waving his 6-foot tall hand as he glides down the route.

Measuring 12-feet in height, the giant baseball, basketball and football promise to score a point for the home team this Thanksgiving.

Macy’s is the star of the parade as its signature five-pointed namesake and Believe stars fly high in a variety of colors and configurations. Celebrating the famed red star that guided R.H. Macy to shore during his days as a seaman, the Macy’s star still shines today.


Macy’s knows how to accessorize the holidays! From Pumpkins to Ice Crystals, Macy’s ornament balloons add a splendid touch to the holiday palette. Making their debut this year are two new dazzling ornament balloonicles that will ride down the route reminding everyone that Christmas is almost here.

Proving that saving the world requires teamwork, the Samurai Power Rangers return to the parade with their newest team member, the Gold Ranger, to escort the Planet Earth balloon and protect it from evil. Using special Samurai powers, they will guide the 14-foot wide balloon to Herald Square. Go Go Samurai!

A steadfast balloon boy finally learns to fly when Tim Burton’s B. debuts as a helium giant in the 85th Macy’s parade. Specially created by Tim Burton for the Parade’s Blue Sky Gallery series, B. will join five other works of contemporary art that have been transformed into flying wonders. Firmly rooted in Mr. Burton’s unique aesthetic, B. is a boy who dreams of flight. With the scars that mark his stitched-together birth, B. will finally get his chance to fly on Thanksgiving Day, although his adventure will come with strings attached.

Stars and Stripes Forever! Let’s hear it for the red, white and blue as Uncle Sam makes his way down the route in true patriotic spirit. The first Uncle Sam balloon debuted in the parade in 1938. This recreation of the original represents everything American, from our shared values to our freedoms. Uncle Sam is a proud citizen of the parade and the U.S.A!

Virginia, the little girl who taught everybody to believe, soars once again. Modeled after the animated version of eight-year old Virginia O’Hanlon, who famously wrote to the editor of the New York Sun about the existence of Santa Claus, Virginia is ready to kick off the holidays, but first she must get that letter in the mail.

More information on Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade can be found online at or by calling the Parade Hotline at 212-494-4495.

Source & Photos: Macy’s


If you place an order for virtual office service online via our secure order form, please note that orders completed on a Holiday will be reviewed the following business day.

Make sure to check out our specials page for November’s NYC virtual office promotion.

Click here to chat with a Virtual Office Expert

How can a Manhattan Virtual Office help you?

Website: Manhattan Virtual Office
Tel: 1.212.627.8900
Fax: 1.646.861.6610

Since 1990.

Manhattan Virtual
Follow us on Twitter: @ManhattanOffice

One comment

  1. Pingback: Office Closed for Thanksgiving 2011 | Virtual Office FAQ

Comments are closed.