Column by Steve Bennett
Posted by Steve Bennett on November 29, 2018 @ 12:44 am CT
I’ve almost always been hyper-fascinated with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, for the balloons, sure, but also because it's such an effective marketing tool for everything from products to kids cartoons to Broadway shows. I wrote "almost" because I have to admit that I did go through an extended adolescent phrase where I found the marching bands and floats utterly naff. But happily, I grew out of that.
Last week’s was the 92nd Macy’s Parade and as you might imagine, trying to keep a form of entertainment as antiquated as a parade relevant in a social media-saturated world can be something of a struggle. Which was outlined in a piece in Variety: NBC Works to Keep Thanksgiving Parade in Step With Modern Viewers. The major problem being (to quote Susan Tercero, executive producer of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade), "What is it that’s going to get people to turn on from the very beginning and keep watching from 9 a.m. to noon?"
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade producer previews this year's surprises and highlights, where Tercero talked about her hopes that the new Goku balloon would bring a lot of new viewers to the parade.
"Dragonball Z is celebrating its 30th anniversary, so you have a bunch of super-fans out there who are tuning in for the first time to the parade because they are dying to see this character," she says. "It’s really exciting to see him come to life, and he’s really representative of that cartoon character. He’s an action character, and he looks like a cartoon come to life in balloon form."
And while balloons based on movie, game, and TV characters are common enough, Goku seems to have actually been something of a big deal. The story How Goku Became the “Unexpected" Hero of the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, which appeared on the Inverse website, quotes Jordan Dabby, Vice President of Partnership Marketing for Macy’s Parade Group.
"Everything about him is different from the average character you see in the parade," Dabby tells Inverse. "We’re entrenched in some of the most iconic characters around the world, be it Peanuts or Olaf. And we’ve had strong characters. But Goku is distinct. His hair is distinct."
His balloon got a big sendoff as Al Roker's Dragon Ball Intro at Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Goes Viral. In part, Roker said, "Featured here in his Super Saiyan Blue form, you can experience Goku’s other forms — his blazing speed, power of light — in his new movie Dragon Ball Super: Broly." And while Roker took some hits on social media for mispronouncing some of those names, most agreed he did a fine job of essentially introducing the franchise to a wide swath of Middle America who almost certainly had no idea who Goku was.
As you might imagine, social media was all over this in pieces like The Internet Is Obsessed With Goku's Thanksgiving Day Parade Debut and People Can’t Get Enough Of The Goku Balloon At The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. I found it interesting that the latter piece which appeared on the Fraghero website, felt it had to explain to its readership what exactly the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was:
The annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is an event that every American household looks forward to, and it showcases some of the best balloon characters you could possibly imagine. If you’re not tuning in, you’re missing out on one of the best traditions of the year.
While this is in no way comic book-related, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention something else new occurred during this year’s parade; The Prom celebrates ‘first LGBTQ kiss’ in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade history. At the conclusion of a number performed by the cast of The Prom, a musical about two Indian high school girls prevented from attending their prom together, the actors playing the girls kissed on live television.
Which I suppose is one way of attracting new viewers. I’ve always thought of the Parade as being an accurate reflection of the tastes and sensibilities of contemporary Middle America, which seems to have been borne out by the reaction to this kiss. Some groups and individuals strenuously objected to it, quite a few people on Twitter thought it "cool," and the majority of America shrugged and went about their business of eating turkey and watching football.
It certainly didn’t hurt the ratings any, according to a Variety piece, Thanksgiving TV Viewers Feast on Macy's Parade, NFL, "NBC's broadcast of the 2018 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and The National Dog Show also improved year over year and drew millions more viewers.”
Previously I reported (see "Confessions of a Comic Book Guy - Unlikely Comics Match-Ups, And Thanksgiving Balloons") there was also supposed to be a balloon (technically it was a "balloonicle," a "self-powered cold air balloon vehicle") of Disney’s Star Vs. The Forces of Evil. Well, I watched the entire parade and didn’t see it, I couldn’t find any photographic evidence of it anywhere online and when I checked I found all mentions of it had disappeared from official Macy Parade press material. If I ever find out what happened to it, I’ll let you know.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.