Feel like going back in time? (Probably.) Let's do it and set the WABAC for 1989 this time. I just picked the '89 parade this year because I felt like it, but the recent discovery of this probably brought those feelings on (still working on finding a way to extract those files without living in Canada; any ideas?)
There's a bit of bad news, however....due to circumstances, the Platypus Comix coverage of the 1989 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will not be complete. My DVD-R copy has about an hour cut out of it, and though most of that is the Broadway material (which I point out every year I don't care for), it does mean there might be interesting bits I'll never know about. But this is the only recording of the '89 parade anyone's ever found, so it'll have to do.
|And what an opener! A fifty-foot human cake of high school marching band singers, surrounded by flipping, somersaulting cheerleaders, blasting to the beat of a thousand drums, "STRIKE! UP! THE MACY'S! PARADE! STRIKEUPTHEMACYSPARADE!!" over and over. It's the best leading act of a Macy's I've ever witnessed. Gets you in the parading mood fast!|
Willard Scott returns for another year, joined this time by Deborah Norville -- who, unlike most of the hosts in these old recordings, is still working today as the host of Inside Edition, a position she's held since the 90s. In the 80s she was part of the Today Show which is how she got transferred here. Via the same connection, they hired this morning's third host, ALF.
Wasn't kidding about ALF. This isn't his first parade-hosting gig for NBC, but it would be his last; the alien would be handed a pink slip at the end of the 1989-1990 season. And he already feels like he's being demoted...his job this year is mostly to appear at a window before the commercial breaks and tell you what's next in the lineup. "Coming up next...Dawnn Lewis, Buddy Hackett, and the BIGGEST TURKEY YOU EVER SAW....next to Ishtar! HA! Yum Yum! Somebody---" He was cut off at that moment. Wonder how profane it was.
It was actually snowing that year, and the ground had a pretty decent blanket of white -- and so did some of the floats. The turkey bore a unique dusted look in 1989, and riding his backside was country singer Clint Black. They play one of his songs, and ordinarily the one atop the turkey would at least pretend to sing, but Clint was like "screw this, it's cold" and simply waved while his own voice played over his shut mouth.
|Every kid had an RC car, but the COOL
kids had a hovercraft car. It travels at
near-frictionless super-speed, it spins in place, it even
floats in water. Whoever brought this thing out was
instantly the most popular kid in the neighborhood.
I remember getting the opposite thing one Christmas: an RC car minus the RC, meaning its remote control was attached to the chassis with a cable. I didn't play with it much, because having to chase after it so that its cord didn't run out wasn't much fun.
Oh boy, it's a Marvel Comics float -- the mangling Willard and Deborah are going to do to these properties should be amazing. Sure enough, Deborah starts talking about Metropolis and Wonder Woman while Willard does an impression of Hulk by curling his fingers and going "GRR!" The special guest singer is Melba Moore, who sings "Holding Out For A Hero" while being harrassed by Green Goblin and Magneto at the same time. Daredevil pokes his head around the corner, then lightly pushes Goblin against a wall (it's bad enough that it's unclear if the guy in that suit knew Daredevil was blind). Then the characters just kinda forget what they're doing and wobble around aimlessly while Moore sings. There's a woman in a white cape who looks like she's supposed to be Emma Frost, and she starts air-punching at Spider-Man, who's like "Did you ever show up in my book or not?" It's a complete mess, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Unfortunately you get no video because YouTube loves to take down anything with a Top 40 hit in it.
The Buddy Hackett mentioned by ALF appears a couple minutes later, but if he was intended to be a star attraction, he got stiffed...he doesn't get to do anything. They spend ten seconds on his float presence and then move on. If that wasn't bad enough, the costume he got stuck wearing was that of Mother Goose.
|"The Lost And Founds" are the most depressing toys I've ever seen. They come with large, forlorn eyes that actually shed tears, and the situations the marketing team puts them in makes the concept even sadder. They're stuck under a hollow log in the thundering rain. They're peering into your window in the freezing cold. And they happen to be just BABIES -- they come with feeding bottles. Geesh.|
There's Mighty Mouse. He gets about as much screentime as Buddy Hackett. Kids would know who he was -- the revival series by Ralph Bakshi placed him back in the public light. It would be Mighty's last wave, though...no one's seem the rodent since.
Batman was HUGE in 1989 due to the Tim Burton movie. Deborah mentions that the most popular Halloween costume that year was Batman, and the second most popular was the Joker. Batman does not appear in the parade, but Joker does, and anyone who's seen the movie knows why that makes sense. I don't have to upload a video of this great moment because Matt did it for me. He hasn't covered Macy's parades in a long time, and the ones he did cover are nearly offline, but the man comes through now and then.
It's comedian Fred Travalena under the makeup, doing a Jack Nicholson impression. He switches it up at the end and performs the Joker as Robert DeNiro, Clint Eastwood and Arnold Schwarzenegger. "Ello Batmahn, I blow you up." Be careful what you wish for, guy.
Pick any Macy's Parade with Willard Scott and he'll tell you about the time he was the original Ronald McDonald. He'll find the opportunity, especially if it's one of those years when the clown comes in a giant balloon. A Ronald balloon has actually appeared in the parade fairly recently, even though Ronald himself has not been used in any TV advertising for many years.
|Awwwwwwwww yeah -- it's the original ad for Game Boy! A robot wanders through a post-apocalyptic wasteland, holds out his finger, and zaps an enthusiastic teenager holding a Game Boy into being. Seems the robot needed someone to play with and use the Game Boy's much-touted two-player Link Cable feature. After a Tetris match, the kid reveals he has lightning powers too and zaps his creator into oblivion. Dark tale, but it sold lots of Game Boys.|
These days, the musical acts the Macy's Parade tends to land are complete unknowns...whether that's due to a decreased budget or something else, I couldn't tell you. But in 1989 they had the gravitas to pull in the hottest boy band of the age, the New Kids On The Block. Someone actually trendy in the parade -- imagine that. They perform "This One's For The Children" atop the New York float.
They decide to briefly let ALF out of his cage to do one other thing besides bumpers: completely lose it over the sight of the Pink Panther balloon. "AH! WHERE'S THE PLUM SAUCE? DELECTABLE! THAT WOULD FEED MY WHOLE PLANET!" he cracks. They bring him back for the Garfield balloon where he pretty much does the same thing, even repeating the "whole planet" line. ALF needed to find a new routine quick or he would be shown the door. He didn't find one.
Things were about to get huge for Bugs Bunny, and we don't just mean the size of this new balloon. The balloon was commissioned by Warner Bros. as the first of many, many publicity stunts throughout 1990 calling attention to the fact that Bugs was now 50 years old. He got a TV special, a new theater short, and a bad NES video game. Tiny Toon Adventures (which premiered in 1990) also referenced his anniversary. Sometimes these birthday celebrations are only a momentary bump, but Bugs was able to ride the wave through most of the 1990s. The Looney Tunes became hotter than ever, showing up on all kinds of merchandise and clothing. Bugs only started to decline again in the years following Space Jam, which was probably just a coincidence.
This was archival footage from the test flight, as Bugs had popped earlier that morning. There was still a Looney Tunes float, though, which would be repurposed the following year as a Tiny Toons float and then again in 1991 as a Taz-Mania float.
|A Macys McDonalds ad I don't hate?? What's going on? ....It's not actually from the 80s, that's the deal. McDonalds had just turned 35, and to commemorate the occasion they were bringing back some ancient ads. I don't know how old this one is (UPDATE: looks like 1971) but it would still work today. If they cleaned the film up, transferred it to HD and ran it again, people would love it. There's a sincerity to this cornball concept - they're really trying to put on a show, as if this was Broadway.|
|I don't normally pay much attention to the marching bands, but this one put on an act almost as good as the opening number.|
|This is a V-Tech device I've never
heard of, and I thought I'd seen them all. Socrates, both
a Johnny 5 ripoff and an educational computer, taught
kids math, geography and history on an 8-bit processor.
1989 is a bit too early for a toy this advanced to be affordable. Socrates' main hurdle was its price, and that was for the base unit alone -- the cartridges cost more. VTech's other educational gadgets used LCD displays and were much cheaper, so the company's worst competition was itself. Socrates was discontinued by the early 90s, but one of its built-in programs, a primitive set of art tools called "Super Painter," would be developed further into the Video Painter (which rocked).
For the last few parades Mattel has brought out the same Barbie float, with the same strategy (respond to whatever musical trend is hot). This year, they got an executive who was feeling a little more nostalgic, specifically for the early 60s and all those #1 hits about doing a specific dance. They tried to make one happen in 1989: "The Barbie." Doing the Barbie involves flailing your arms around and kicking yout legs up; kind of like what the limbs of a doll would do if you shook it. It'd be a fun dance for a kid to perform, but woe to any living room fixtures in their way.
Looks like 1989 was the first year the Rockettes weren't the last act before Santa. They actually got that spot back in 2020, and since it'll be a long time before I talk about THAT parade, I might as well now: they dressed as wooden soldiers with tight facemasks and waddled around very slowly. No high kicks, no tap-dancing. It was the most bizarre thing to ever come from them. I don't THINK kicking your legs is a way to spread COVID, so what gives? Maybe they just weren't into it.
Next was the MetLife float starring Jill Schulz the skater, and her last name should sound familiar: she was indeed Charles Schulz's daughter. She received no end of support from her dad and was involved with many Peanuts productions around this time, including being rotoscoped for the movements of Peppermint Patty in She's A Good Skate, Charlie Brown as well as playing the live-action love interest of Spike in the still-bizarre The Girl In The Red Truck, Charlie Brown, which only aired once and got bewildered reactions in reviews.
Looking at my notes, this float is a repeat from last year, and I already said all those things about it in the review of the 1988 parade five years ago. It's followed by the Snoopy and Woodstock balloon, which also happened the year before, but this time they added loud sound effects of Woodstock chirping and Snoopy laughing, which startled Willard for a bit.
|It was a good holiday season for kids' movies: Prancer, All Dogs Go To Heaven, The Wizard, and The Little Mermaid all at once (and, if you lived in Portland, The Black Cauldron for some reason). McDonalds held the Little Mermaid license, but it was too big a movie to waste on cheap plastic...they gave you a plush Flounder or Sebastian ornament with the purchase of gift certificates. They even went far enough to commission a custom bit of animation where Ariel and Flounder discover a McDonalds is now open under da sea. The expansion didn't work out...King Triton said "WHAT IS THIS HUMAN ABOMINATION" and blasted it to bits with his trident.|
One more marching band after the break and then....Jolly Saint Nick already? Seems way too early -- oh right, there's a lot missing. Overall I would give this year's parade a solid B, but the advertisements get a C minus. There's a surprising lack of toy ads compared to previous years. Seeing Game Boy was nice, and whanever that Socrates thing was, but you know you're in trouble when the highlight is a McDonalds rerun from over 15 years ago.
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