Pikachu in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade - photo Kent Miller Studios- Macy's, Inc.
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Credit: Macy's Inc.

A nerd's guide to geeky Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons and floats

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Nov 21, 2018, 1:00 PM EST

If there's one thing left that can bring this divided nation together, it's massive balloons shaped like our favorite mass-market cartoon characters, rumbling and winding their way through the windy streets of New York City.

(Sure, shutting down major avenues and throughways creates hell for us New Yorkers, but the public transportation system here is increasingly terrible anyway, so we might as well be distracted by gigantic synthetic fantasies floating above us.)

Thursday will mark the 92nd annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which began in 1924 with big floats shaped like zoo animals and then quickly and smartly moved on to more crowd-pleasing (and lucrative) branded mascots and characters. It is a tradition that lives on to this day, with a roster of new and old favorites being filled with helium and soaring above the heads of onlookers lining Midtown sidewalks.

Some of the most iconic balloons and floats have recently been retired, including Spider-Man (retired in 2014 after having its arm ripped off by a tree in 2013) and Sonic the Hedgehog (retired in 2013, to be an internet meme), but this year will see a few new additions that will be sure to please some niche fandoms and confuse parents.

Here's a guide to the geekiest balloons and floats in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Goku Macy's Day Parade


The Stats: 70-feet long, 36-feet wide, 56-feet tall

This year will mark the debut of Goku, who will no doubt be vaguely familiar to many parents as they half-watch the parade at home. The first anime balloon is being introduced in support of Dragon Ball Super: Broly, which hits theaters in January.

Pikachu in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade


The Stats: 36-feet long, 29-feet wide, 53-feet tall

This is the third Pikachu to appear in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, though the original, introduced in the 1990s, was more of a float (they probably had to see if Pokémon would stick here before committing to a whole balloon). This time around, Pika is bundled up for winter; maybe next year, he'll be dressed like a detective.

Ninja Turtles

Ninja Turtles

This is surprisingly only the second Ninja Turtles float to make the parade cut; the first was introduced in 2012, about 25 years after the franchise was at its most popular. The float is meant to promote the newest version of the series, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Red Mighty Morphin Power Ranger in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade - photo Kent Miller Studios- Macy's, Inc.

Power Rangers

The Stats: 77-feet long, 26-feet wide, 56-feet tall

This is the fifth consecutive year that the Red Ranger will tower above frozen New Yorkers. The balloon was originally introduced to celebrate Power Rangers' 20th anniversary; now, it will fly with the lingering feeling that it has to start to figure its s**t out as it reaches 25 years.

How to Train your Dragon Toothless Balloon

How to Train Your Dragon

The Stats: 72-feet long, 36-feet wide, 48-feet tall

This is the sixth year flying for Toothless, who will remind people that the third How to Train Your Dragon movie comes out in February, as if they don't already have it circled on their calendars.

Jett Super Wings Balloon

Jett Super Wings

The Stats: 47-feet long, 39-feet wide, 31-feet tall

I don't have kids, so I have no idea who this plane guy is, but he's on Netflix (Alpha Group) and has a balloon so I'm going to assume he's super popular and the joke is on me. Fun fact: His wingspan is the length of an actual lear jet's.


Oil dinosaurs

There are both balloons and floats devoted to these green dinosaurs, which go all the way back to the 1960s. The irony is that they're presented by Sinclair Oil, a massive oil conglomerate that uses the green dinosaur as its logo, which would be like Purdue using a friendly cartoon chicken as its logo. It's less funny now that I write it out, because Big Oil is helping to destroy our planet.

Olaf Balloon


The Stats: 58-feet long, 32-feet wide, 60-feet tall

Remember when Frozen was a gigantic, world-conquering smash hit? Feels like forever ago. Now it's a Broadway play, and due to the price of tickets these days, this is probably the closest most people will get to seeing Olaf IRL in NYC.

Grinch Balloon

The Grinch

The Stats: 49-feet long, 24-feet wide, 37-feet tall

This is the second Grinch to fly in the parade. It's been remodeled to look like the Grinch in the new prequel movie. It's probably way too big to get away with stealing Christmas with no one noticing.

Pillsbury Doughboy at Macy's Balloon Inflation

Pillsbury Doughboy

This isn't really genre-related, I just wanted to give you an idea of how bleak these things look before they're fully inflated. This image suggests the Pillsbury Doughboy has been captured on Skull Island and is being brought back by an exploitative producer for an ill-fated run on Broadway.


SpongeBob SquarePants

The Stats: 41-feet long, 34-feet wide, 44-feet tall

This is SpongeBob's 14th year in the parade. Unfortunately, his musical did not last nearly that long on Broadway. This town isn't big enough for two SpongeBobs, I guess.