So many giant helium balloons float down the city streets in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade®, you’d think things would go wrong sometimes. They do. A lot.
Yesterday, we gave you a quick history of the evolution of the Thanksgiving Day Parade helium balloon character, which all started out with Felix the Cat in 1927. What we didn’t tell you was, Felix suffered a horrible fate when he got tangled in telephone wires and caught fire.
It got us to thinking about the other parade accidents that have happened after helium balloon characters got out of control.
And as it turns out, there have been a lot of them.
1957: Popeye’s neck not as strong as his arms
Heavy rain poured down on the 1957 Macy’s Parade, which ended up filling up the concave hat on the top of the Popeye the Sailor Man helium balloon, causing it to sway off course. The added weight caused the head of the balloon to tilt over and all of the collected water dumped down on the crowd. No one was hurt, but the mishap resulted in a new hat design for Popeye in the following parade.
1962: Donald didn’t talk to Popeye
The designers of the Donald Duck helium balloon failed to learn from the Popeye incident just five years earlier. It rained hard again in 1962 and the concave hat on top of Donald Duck filled with water, leaned to the side, and dumped out onto the crowd.
1971: No balloons
It rained so hard in 1971 that parade managers grounded all of the helium balloons. The parade went on as planned but the balloons never made the show, making 1971 the first year of the parade without helium balloons since 1926.
1982: Bullwinkle’s collapse
Just a couple blocks from the finish of the 1982 parade, the Bullwinkle helium balloon blew a nostril. The balloon’s helium leaked out quickly, and Bullwinkle deflated before he could finish the walk.
1985: Kermit attacks
It rained hard again in 1985. The rain caused the Kermit the Frog helium balloon to veer out of control, slamming into an apartment building. The collision tore Kermit’s stomach open causing him to deflate. No one was hurt in the accident.
1986: No helium balloon character is safe
It seems like all of the helium balloons went wild in the 1986 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. First, the Raggedy Ann balloon took out a lamppost, knocking it over into the middle of the street. Then, the Superman balloon had its hand amputated by a tree, seen in the footage below.
Olive Oyl suffered a similar fate as Superman, having her entire arm ripped off. Then, as she neared the end, Betty Boop collapsed just yards from the finish line. Incredibly, no one was injured by any of the crashes.
It was very windy at the start of the 1989 parade, causing two of the helium balloons to miss the show. Both the Snoopy and the Bugs Bunny balloons blew into trees before the event even started. Each balloon character was punctured and neither appeared in the parade.
1991: Strike two Kermit
After attacking a building six years earlier, the Kermit the Frog helium balloon went after a tree this time around. The collision caused Kermit’s head to rip open and deflate.
1993: Wind killed the dinosaurs
High winds once again wreaked havoc on the parade in ’93. The Rex the Dinosaur balloon was blown into a lamppost, causing his head to burst and expel its helium. The Sonic the Hedgehog balloon also crashed into a lamppost. Unfortunately, that collision reportedly injured a police officer and a child, but both were minor injuries.
The Spider-Man helium balloon also lost its head after running into some trees, and the Bart Simpson balloon, which also snagged a tree, had its t-shirt ripped open.
1994: I don’t love you, you don’t love me
Nobody was hurt in 1994 and everything pretty much went smoothly, except for the moment when the Barney helium balloon nailed a streetlight and ripped its side open.
1995: Showered in glass
Thankfully, nobody was hurt when the Dudley the Dragon helium balloon speared itself on a streetlight in 1995, shattering the lamp and causing the glass to rain down on the crowd below. Sonic the Hedgehog crashed into a light post that year as well, and the SkyDancer helium balloon took a tree to the face, causing the head to deflate.
1996: We have to take the hand, Woody
A random gust of wind caught the Woody Woodpecker helium balloon in ’96. Woody’s arm got caught in a tree, causing his hand to be ripped off.
1997: Disaster strikes
High winds again barreled through New York City in 1997, causing both the Barney and the Pink Panther helium balloons to drift out of control. Concerned for crowd safety, New York City police officers were forced to stab the balloons and stomp them to the ground in front of a lot of crying children. Watch Barney’s demise below:
The Peter Rabbit helium balloon lost control, and the Quik Bunny, Cloe the Holiday Clown, and the Sonic Hedgehog balloon all speared lampposts and deflated. Due to all of these accidents, two other balloons were pulled from the parade to prevent further mishaps.
However, everything changed when the Cat in the Hat balloon lost control. The Cat in the Hat also hit a streetlight, but the collision caused large parts of the post to fall, which can be seen in the video below.
The debris hit a woman in the crowd and fractured her skull, leaving her in a coma for over a month. This accident led to new rules the following year, limiting the permitted size of future helium balloons.
1998: False starts
The Wild Thing helium balloon had a short lived march when it was torn by a tree right at the start of the parade. It faired better than Spider-Man, Garfield, and the Quik-Bunny balloons however, which never even made the start of the parade because of damage caused by overnight storms.
2000: Bullwinkle’s solo tour
There were no major mishaps in the 2000 parade, however the Rocky helium balloon was accidentally deflated behind the scenes before the start, and could not be inflated in time to soar with Bullwinkle. Bullwinkle flew solo.
2001: Unhappy meal
It was trees once again that this time took down beloved Ronald McDonald. Other than losing the clown, everything else went off without a hitch in 2001.
2003: Formerly Gorgeous Gobbler
The pace car of parade balloons, the Gorgeous Gobbler led the Thanksgiving march, but sacrificed some of its plumage after clipping a tree.
2004: So many trees
Garfield had to lick his balloon wounds after a tree opened up one of his paws. Clifford the Big Red Dog got tangled up with a tree as well, but escaped unscathed. SpongeBob SquarePants slammed a light post in Times Square but bounced right off without incurring any harm.
2005: It was the worst of Times
M&M’s sailed their infamous characters in 2005, but the chocolately helium balloon hooked a light post in a windy Times Square. A pair of sisters reportedly suffered minor injuries from falling debris, which led to new rules pertaining to the raising and lowering of balloons during inclement weather conditions.
2006: New rules, same old SpongeBob
The SpongeBob SquarePants helium balloon once again hit a light post in 2006 and once again, was freed and unharmed. Barney was also a repeat offender in 2006. The resurrected purple dinosaur balloon clipped a lamppost, ripping open a foot.
2008: Live, from New Y*&#%!
There were two rogue characters in ’08. A New York artist’s heart balloon actually collided with the NBC Live broadcast booth, causing hosts Meredith Vieira, Matt Lauer, and Al Roker to have to leave the air while the balloon was cleaned up. The clip is below:
The giant Energizer Bunny balloonicle (basically an air-blown balloon that sits on top of a vehicle) also lost control and just kept on driving down 34th street, escaping the parade route. You can watch that clip here.
2010: SpongeBob is invincible
He has the longest helium balloon rap sheet of any other Thanksgiving Day parade character. He’s also indestructible. For the third time, SpongeBob whacked a street post, and for the third time, he was freed and unharmed. The Wiggle Worm balloon tried to pull its best SpongeBob act, but failed miserably after getting punctured by a street sign.
2011: Oh no!
The Kool Aid Man made his appearance in the form of a balloonicle in 2011 and he survived the parade route. After the show however, he tipped over before being deflated. Uncharacteristically, no walls were damaged.
2012: Buzz, Pfffffff
A giant hole ripped open in the helmet of the Buzz Lightyear helium balloon in 2012. SpongeBob, while remaining unharmed as usual, along with Pikachu, struggled to get through the parade route after not being inflated with enough helium.
2013: Spidey sense-less
Strong winds again wreaked havoc on the parade in 2013, leading to the NYPD ordering all balloons be lowered. The Spider-Man helium balloon still had problems, however. The balloon caught a tree by Central Park, ripping open and deflating his left arm, seen in the footage below.
Sonic the Hedgehog had trouble again after getting caught in lamp post, but was freed without harm. One of the handlers holding a line for the Buzz Lightyear balloon was run over by a golf cart. The 39-year-old woman had to be taken to the hospital with a foot injury.