Whither Pikachu?

The AV Club ran an inventory this week of obscure balloons that appeared in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade long beyond their pop culture relevance. If you’ve been wondering why the Cheesasaurus Rex and Eddie Cantor balloons aren’t part of the annual gala anymore, well, you’re probably alone, but you can get the answers there.

But what about the balloons still in the parade? Which ones have staying power and which ones will become tomorrow’s Izzy, mascot for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics?

We place odds on who will stay and who will go…after the jump.

Fifteen balloons will float around Manhattan in this year’s parade. Below, the chances that each one will be around for the 2015 Thanksgiving Day Parade. (With the usual caveats that none of us might be around in 2015 due to: economic collapse, al Qaeda, destabilized Russia, Chinese takeover, global warming, the next supervirus, Mayan apocalypse, zombie apocalypse, or some combination thereof.) Five years may not seem like a long time, but Ferris Bueller taught us that life moves pretty fast, and so does pop culture. Hence, the lifespan for these balloons tends to be pretty short, whether due to popping, tragic accident or shifting tastes. See for yourself. Here we go…

Buzz Lightyear (80% chance of survival)
Toy Story is one of the most beloved and lasting children’s film franchises, and it could easily turn into Pixar’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Buzz’s astronaut profession also fits in well with the whole flying balloon motif. Plus, despite protests to the contrary, the odds of a Toy Story 4 being made right around 2015 are pretty strong.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid (15%)
A new balloon this year. I’ll admit I’m not as current on kids’ pop culture as I used to be, but this one seems like a fad guaranteed to pass.

Horton (20%)
As in Horton Hears a Who. Dr. Seuss is obviously a firmament on the kiddie lit landscape (and adult lit, thanks to nostalgia and kids who grew up reading Seuss passing the books on to their kids), but the Horton balloon was only introduced in 2008 to promote the Horton movie. Within a few years, that film will be forgotten if it isn’t already, and a different Seuss presence will replace the elephant at the parade. Maybe based on a sequel to Mike Myers’ beloved Cat in the Hat film?

Kermit the Frog (95%)
If Kermit’s made it this long past Jim Henson’s death, there’s no reason to believe another five years will do him in. Especially with a new Jason Segel-penned Muppet film in the works.

Pikachu (40%)
I’ll admit to being puzzled by this one. Is Pokemon really still a thing? Didn’t that die out around the time of pogs? Pikachu’s odds are only as high as 40% because I can’t figure out how this balloon is still around, which means there’s a decent chance I’ll be wondering the same thing in 2015.

Pillsbury Doughboy (60%)
The Doughboy was only introduced last year, which means that unless someone pokes its belly hard enough to pop it, the little bastard probably has a few years left. Another odd choice for a balloon, as it would seem that there are more timely food mascots who deserve their place in the sun. Like the new, rebranded, Robert Downey Jr.-voiced Mr. Peanut. Or the Snapple Lady.

Kung Fu Panda (50%)
The other new balloon this year. Did you know that Kung Fu Panda made $630 million at the box office (including foreign grosses)? It’s true. That was more than enough to get Kung Fu Panda 2 greenlit, and that will be released next year. Hence, this balloon. If the sequel can pull in 80% of the original’s returns, then there will be a Kung Fu Panda 3, and this Jack Black avatar may be around for a while.

Ronald McDonald (90%)
The Ronald balloon has been around in some form since 1987, and McDonald’s has some cash and promotional muscle, so he’s a safe bet to stick around. If my grassroots campaign is successful, however, the clown will be replace by a giant floating McRib within two years.

Sailor Mickey (30%)
Too…many…gay jokes. Look, I’m sure the mouse will be around in some costume or theme in 2015, but there’s no way the sailor thing lasts. Disney will need to promote something other than its cruise lines, like Prom, “written by Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience associate producer Katie Wech.” So — expect Mickey in a tux.

Shrek (80%)
Another new one from last year, Shrek should have some life left in him. Unless Mike Myers does indeed make that Cat in the Hat sequel and decides to turn his hilarious attention elsewhere. Shrek also seems most likely of the current balloons to crash into and kill a group of parade-goers. Misunderstood ogre, etc., etc.

Smurf (90%)
There’s a ridiculous-looking new Smurfs movie coming out next year (with Neil Patrick Harris!) that will either invigorate or crush the brand, at least among the American public. And knowing our shitty taste, my money is on “invigorate.” Sorry, Gargamel.

Snoopy as the Flying Ace (55%)
Like Mickey Mouse, Snoopy as a character isn’t going anywhere, but I can envision a revamp with a different costume. However, the Peanuts empire doesn’t have as much crap to promote as Disney, and Charles Schulz is not cranking out new cartoons or TV specials (because he’s dead), so Snoopy may stay as is until the balloon falls into disrepair.

Spider-Man (95%)
With a film franchise re-boot in development, Spidey is here for the long haul. He’s also one of American pop culture’s most enduring icons. That’s what you need for balloons to last through the years — enduring iconic status and a major corporation’s financial backing. Spider-Man has both.

SpongeBob SquarePants (75%)
Certainly a more permanent part of children’s culture than Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Dora the Explorer or something like that.

“Super Cute” Hello Kitty (5%)
Hello Kitty comes and goes as a fad, and will be gone when and if Macy’s holds its 2015 parade. Perhaps the Japanese cultural slot in the parade can be filled by a giant vending machine of used panties instead.

So that’s that. It is my fervent hope that this post establishes me as the world’s foremost Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon endurance  expert. Before we sign off, a few humble suggestions for new balloons to capture the moment of 2010 and keep the parade firmly in the pop culture zeitgeist:

  • The Twitter “Fail Whale.” It’s a natural! It’s already being lifted by birds with wires in their beaks.

  • Mike and Molly. Already scaled to size!

  • Eywa, Goddess of the Blue People in Avatar. It’s been a year, but let us not forget that James Cameron and the Avatar gang are our new overlords. Imagine the spectacle of the goddess Eywa floating above us all, leading us to the Tree of Souls and sprinkling us with magic 3-D pollen.

[Image not available. Much like Muhammad, we are not allowed to represent Eywa with a likeness.]


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