Through the Years: Pikachu & the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Today marks Pikachu’s 17th consecutive appearance in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade! And although seventeen isn’t an especially exciting or important number, I thought we could take a look back at the parade and Pikachu’s multiple appearances! also because #newsdrought

The Parade: A Brief History

The roarin’ twenties were a rather glamorous time in America’s history: flappers were a plenty, speakeasies were open for business, and Macy’s was beginning to become the house hold name it is today with all time high profits. It was 1924 when Macy’s president Herbert Straus realized how big the department store had become, and how it deserved an even larger event to celebrate it. You see, at this point, Macy’s had officially taken over an entire New York City block becoming the biggest store in the world, so Straus’ promise of a “holiday event like nothing the city had seen before” didn’t seem that Farfetch’d. Planned and executed only two weeks before the holiday, the first ever Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was born! Over the years the parade has evolved and undergone several changes: TV gained interest, broadcasting the annual celebration to millions every year, and massive character balloons slowly became the focus. Watch it or not, you can’t deny the parade has become an American institution and tradition; and reaching close to it’s 100th anniversary, it doesn’t look like it’ll be stopping anytime soon. Fast forward to 2001, and we see Pikachu’s first appearance in the parade…

Flying Pikachu, 2001-2005

Fresh off the “Pokémania” craze of thd late 90’s and early 2000’s, Pikachu made it’s debut at Macy’s 75th Annual Thanksgiving Day Parade! Preceded by a Pokémon themed Volkswagen Beetle, the balloon’s design had the TV audience more in mind with it’s belly down and friendly face shooting straight to the city’s horizon. In the balloon’s first year, due to Pokémon’s crazy popularity, Pikachu had the honor of having a walk-around style mascot costume appearance on the 75th Parade SuperStars float – one usually reserved to showcase characters and properties from retired balloons of parade’s past. The Pokémon themed VW Bug was moved to follow the Flying Pikachu balloon from 2002-2004 until it’s sudden disappearance in 2005 to make room for…

Pikachu & the Pokéball, 2006-2013

Come 2006 a new design of the Pikachu balloon was unveiled! This new balloon featured a more spectator-friendly design (with it facing slightly downwards in a more bipedal position) with light-up cheeks, and an additional Pokéball balloon. Although the Pokéball almost always came before Pikachu, this era had the most “variations” among the three: To celebrate 10 consecutive years in the parade and the upcoming release of Pokémon Black & White in 2010, floats carrying larger-than-life size statues of game mascots Zekrom and Reshiram guided the main balloons along the parade route. And although it’s more of a mistake, Pikachu’s ears weren’t inflated properly in 2012, causing it’s ears to be deflated for most of the parade.

Holiday Pikachu, 2014-Present

Inspired by the facelift Generation VI gave to the main series games, the balloon got another re-design in 2014 bringing Pikachu to its current iteration. This new balloon features a much more cartoon-y style, and is explicitly holiday with its scarf and little Pikachu snowman in hand. With 17 consecutive parades under its belt Pikachu rounds out the the top 5 most appearances by a single balloon character in the last 40 years of the parade – only behind much older brand and character juggernauts like Ronald McDonald (McDonalds), Snoopy (Peanuts), Big Bird (Sesame Street), and Spider-Man (Marvel).

As time has gone on I’m admittedly less and less interested in the parade; What started as me watching godzilla-size versions of all my favorite characters fly by on TV as my parents prepared a turkey turned into the parade passively being on in the background as I checked social media on my phone. Nowadays I tend to just specifically look up the Pikachu balloon up every year to keep my nostalgia in check. Either way, I see our favorite yellow mascot being a parade regular for the past two decades (and the changes it’s undergone) as a testament of Pokémon’s permanent stamp on the past, it’s current influence, and it’s continued evolution as a brand that will forever withstand the test of time.

Anybody else have memories of watching the parade? Which iteration of the balloon is your favorite?