Every Macy's Parade seems to have one standout pop article that makes it perfect for the kind of people who (I think) read this site. Such an article is on this page, about two and a half miles down. We'll get there someday.
I'm not schooled enough on the parades of the 90s and TODAY to tell you if the trend continued, but certainly, Macy's Parades of the 80s were ruled by McDonald's. They were the largest advertiser, with the most commercials. This particular parade features no less than 7 different McDonald's ads, each appearing at least a hundred and fifty times. Even more striking was the diversity of the commercials -- some of them were kid-skewed and costarred Grimace, others were made with the elderly in mind and always faded out with sad music that really make you think. Unsatisfied with just taking over commercial time, McDonald's wiggled its way into the parades themselves.
They had bands, oh yes, and they were always the biggest bands in the events, always clad in yellow and white, and always...always...always playing. No breaks, no Hamburglar standup sidebar -- these people came to make noise and raise the roof. Led by Ronald McDonald (not the real one, of which there were 76), the troop's self-made score was footnoted by a huge new tradition up in the sky: Ronald McDonald, The Big Giant Balloon. He's holding balloon and he is balloons. How can the man do it?
Garfield's always at these things, and the balloons always look just like that. They are my Thanksgiving Happy Thought, and my Thanksgiving Happy Thought is having serious doubts. Now that he's had that movie, the movie that ruined everything, what's to say that Jim Davis and pals won't want to transfer balloon rights over to the CG version of Garfield to perhaps boost sales of the recently released DVD, the one with a picture of Garfield shaking his ass on the back of the box? I'm really, really worried about this. I'm just speculating, of course, but doesn't it seem perfectly natural? Shit, it totally does. It's so gonna happen. Man. I feel a bad case of the Mondays coming on.
God, this skit was just bizarre. I mean, I know I could make sense of it, but I've got the thing on tape and am thus at a huge advantage over the many millions who watched it live on that cold Thanksgiving morning in 1987. I can just keep rewinding till I find out why Jim Henson's puppeting Kermit and getting awards shaped like Kermit and who that weird dude in the middle is. Watch in awe as the great Henson openly puppets his star, his hand in places you don't want to know, while the gigantic Kermit balloon lumbers over the crowd, obviously waiting for the opportune moment to pop, fall and crush that poor old Russian lady from the previous page. Henson is also by far the most enthusiastic interviewee of the parade, reason #577 why everyone should love what he was.
There isn't much to punctuate the respective song numbers of Phylicia Rashad and Alaina Reed, but I'm reminded of the slogan I read every morning on the small carton of grapefruit juice I buy on the way to work: "Sass in a glass."
Okay, now we're up to the BIG PART. It's the reason I didn't skip the '87 parade and move straight into a later edition co-hosted by ALF himself, stationed up in a little window box obscured just enough to allow six people to move him around inconspicuously. This next bit is just nuts. We've already seen a strong comic book presence in the form of the Spider-Man and Superman balloons, but things were about to take a turn towards the supreme holy pizza outta control with what we're about to discuss. A float, a Marvel Universe float, covered with superheroes, supervillains, add drumroll, Power Man.
A Marvel Comics float, dressed like a big rolling city, was going to be a hit no matter what was on it. One of the only aspects of the '87 parade clearly meant for little boys outside those two measly balloons, anything featuring Spidey and pals was going to be welcome. They should've left it at that, with a few costumed characters waving to the crowds while heavy music blasted through hidden speakers. Someone else had another idea: put on the most bizarre stage show in the history of modern day parading.
Visually, it's impressive. A superpowered medley of every major city featured in the Marvel Universe, the ungodly float is absolutely covered with costumed heroes and villains, in numbers so high that, during faraway shots, the whole thing looks rather like a discarded half-finished chicken bone covered with ants. The costumes are expectedly goofy, but only upon close-up shots can we really complain about their appearance.
Willard Scott introduces the float, so confident that the payoff will be huge that he spends no less than five minutes talking about how great it's gonna be. At first glance, it is! Then, once the blaring score of music you will immediately associate with Back To The Future starts, it becomes a promise land for the absolutely insane.
Our first sight is of Doctor Strange, a ringer for Sonny Bono (and I would've picked someone funnier if this wasn't true), doing what only can be described as the forbidden love dance of Bul'cheka while a nearby basketball floats in the air. He's interrupted by Captain America, who literally busts out of a twelve foot comic book and proceeds to walk off the float as if he's not part of the act. Doctor Strange: "Wait! Captain America! Wolverine needs your help!"
So, we pan up, and what's happening up on some scaffold or something? It's the Enchantress, beating the fuck out of Wolverine. She's just throwing around the guy like a doll -- he doesn't get a single offensive move. Captain America runs to the action and starts battling with Enchantress himself, not really faring any better. After a few thousand years of this, Enchantress runs away and Captain America, rather than continuing the chase, starts picking on Doctor Doom who just walked out of a big purple box and, as of yet, hadn't done anything wrong. "You're through, Doctor Doom!" Doom shoots back a "What the fuck? I'm just standing here!" kind of look, which Captain America graciously responds to by just pounding the holy hell outta the guy, climaxing with what appeared to be the electrocution and death of Doctor Doom. Then he puts Power Man in charge of cleaning up the leftovers. Power Man?!!
Captain America runs off to the other side of the float, giving us a chance to view some of the other little battles happening throughout. The White Queen caught my eye, not so much for nailing the comic book version's trademark sex appeal, but because she was spraying everyone in the face with Silly String. It's around this point that the Incredible Hulk wakes up, screams, and knocks over the same building he was sleeping in. Then, for whatever reason, he and Captain America start punching each other (aren't they both good guys?), and even though the Enchantress got the better of him, Cap has no trouble popping Hulk right off the ledge of another building, who is saved by the Green Goblin, Doctor Doom...and Power Man?! Of course, this is the big finish. After the music cuts off, both hero and villain alike raise their arms in victory, causing the twenty-million people from all over the world watching to at once explode. Check out the clip, and remember, your eyes are telling the truth.
The parades only felt like such a huge deal because of who signed on to be a part of them, and is there any star bigger than THEPRESIDENTOFTHEENTIREPLANET? Reagan gives a heartwarming speech, a little light on the action callouts but heavy on the relatable "eat turkey" asides, and lest ye think otherwise, this wasn't just a case of his people giving the parade people a tape and telling 'em to fit it in somewhere. No, both teams worked together with the obvious symbolism of two warring nations shaking hands and trading zany soup titles. Reagan even introduced the next parade act at the end of his speech, wiggling his eyebrows just enough to circumvent any rumors that he had recently become paralyzed, since other than that brow wiggle, the president hadn't moved a muscle through the entire speech. Not even his mouth. It rank of voodoo. Unrelated but amazingly part of the very same program, a gorilla in a bra.
Let's pretend for a moment that nobody had ever heard of "Starlight Express" before their big appearance in the 1987 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I was there, and I sure hadn't. My sister had baited me with claims of "skating robot droid people," a thought that filled my eight-year-old head with as much delight as Christmas morning itself. When I saw the guys stroll into view in preparation of their performance, I was sold. It was like Star Wars met Tron and had a threesome with the Road Warriors. These dudes looked half badass, half robot, all cool. I shimmied my way up to a better position just as these mythical creatures took center stage. Soon they were ready to burst forth with whatever crazy lights-and-explosions show I was expecting, but instead, these otherwise deadly robot folks belted out a tune that'd make Fierstein himself sit up and shout "GAY." Red-faced, I slid back to my former position, head buried in popcorn, hot dogs or whatever giant pretzel I grabbed to hide myself with.
Oh, and look! There's that adorable little huckster, Emmanuel Lewis, draped in clothes just shiny enough to mark this as part of that small but substantial era in time when he and Michael Jackson sunk each other's battleships. I can't tell if he's riding a bird, a flower or some creepy subversive artist's vaguely defined vulva statue, but whatever the case, he looks really fucking bored. Off-camera, Susan Clark bitched at the coffee guy, believing she should've been riding the giant vulva instead.
Check it out -- balloons! Lots of 'em! We've already done balloon-by-balloon rundowns in previous parade reviews, so I'll refrain, but I thought Woody Woodpecker was worth mentioning again because, as Willard's talking about the bird's storied history, the guy working the big metal box that spread sonic booms of Woody's trademark cackle across NYC would not..stop...pressing it. Willard handles pressure well and never seems even close to buckling, but you can so tell he hated Woody Woodpecker after this.
Snoopy was no stranger to the Macy's Parades, having had his big ass balloon in 'em for years. This particularly version is special -- it was part of a huge Macy's ad campaign involving the very same style of Snoopy, in more reasonably sized plush form, being sold at select Macy's stores during the holiday season. The doll wasn't cheap, but you still had to spend like a hundred bucks just to be eligible to buy it. You'll see the commercial Macy's used to promote the doll on the next page, rightfully feeling that a planet-sized balloon wasn't enough.
Actually, I love the whole damn Shamu family...it's just that Baby S. got most of the attention. Even on those dark days when one of the little murdering whale's brothers or sisters passed on, the short news report would always go something like, "Oh, and one of BABY SHAMU's brothers died. The middle one. But BABY SHAMU IS STILL OKAY!" Baby Shamu was probably treated a whole lot better than his siblings, fed only the fanciest of albacore, cleaned with sponges that really came from the ocean and not made in some sponge-making evil factory.
As always, the Radio City Rockettes made an appearance, legs in the air, in the world not a care. Sadly, the parade's special effects crew hit every button on their Tonka Video Doodler, causing those who watched from home to have seizures and develop acute psychosis. The Rockettes and psychosis were usually good indicators that Santa was about to waddle his fat ass down 34th, and sure enough, there he was!
Ah, Santa. Santa, Santa, I just have nothing interesting to say about you. Santa Claus always marked the end of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, waving at and catering to anyone bold enough to make eye contact. Shouting "MERRY CHRISTMAS" as loudly and as often as possible, Santa rolled down the street completely oblivious to the fact that Willard Scott and Mary Hart were talking over him, about completely not-related-to-Santa subjects, no less. Not one of his shiniest parade years, but at least the beard stayed on.
And those be the highlights -- have a great Thanksgiving! Check the final two pages to see a bunch of the commercial spots that aired during the '87 parade, starting here. And don't forget to watch the 2004 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, starring EVERYONE.