Bart Vs. Thanksgiving is a great Simpsons episode, and one I make a habit of watching every Thanksgiving. It's a great capsule of what the holiday was like when I was a kid (minus the running away and passing out in a gutter part). The Macy's Parade makes an early appearance in the episode, and Bart snarks that it's lame to still have Underdog and Bullwinkle balloons in 1990. Homer explains to him that "if you threw in every flash in the pan character, you'd turn the whole parade into a farce!" At that moment a Bart balloon appears on the TV.

The Simpsons writers apparently hadn't seen the Macy's Parade in a while, or they would know Bullwinkle and Underdog, despite being the most iconic balloons in Macy's history, hadn't appeared in the parade for years. I certainly don't remember either of them showing up in a parade I watched. I do remember Bart, though -- a Bart balloon really did make its debut in the parade that year, something the writers couldn't have known about as the scripts were written nine months prior to air.

As for turning the parade into a farce, it was far too late for that concern. It's more common for flashes in the pan to get balloons and floats than truly iconic, test-of-time-winning characters, and this is because Macy's doesn't choose what appears in the parade. The companies pay for space in it and the expense of the balloons themselves. What you get in any particular year is what Corporate America most wants you to see, which is why the "Ryan" kid from YouTube had a balloon recently, and why so many 1990 balloons were product mascots.

Willard Scott and Deborah Norville repeated their hosting duties this year, only Norville was wearing that giant, yellow, loose-fitting circus tent because she was very pregnant at the time.

There are a couple things worth mentioning about the boring Broadway part: one thing, Kid 'n Play are one of the acts. Remember Kid 'n Play? Probably not, but they were all over the place between 1990 and 1992. They were a pair of rappers in stylish, loud Early 90s Clothing. They had their own comic book and Saturday Morning TV show. But did they ever crack the Top 40? It's one of those things where I have to wonder if the duo were ever REALLY popular or if someone powerful just wanted them to BE popular. There will be a more blatant example of this a bit later.

Another thimg worth mentioning is that after Kid 'n Play came five tap-dancing nuns. Quite a shift in tone. They were from a Broadway act called "Nunsense" and Deborah claimed at first they were real nuns, but corrected herself at the end and said they weren't. The nuns did not have their own Saturday Morning show but should have.

In between musical numbers, a clown dressed like an old granny comes into the square and opens a music box. The tinkling sound plays for a few seconds, and then a man in a tuxedo comes up to the clown and shuts the box. This happens three times in a row, and each time, the clown could just open the box again but instead looks at the crowd with a sad face.

The second time the man with the tuxedo approaches, the crowd starts to boo him. Eventually you know the man is coming even if he's not on camera because you can hear the boos first. The fourth and final time, the crowd begins booing the moment the CLOWN shows up, because they know the tuxedo man will be coming after that. And Tuxedo Man fully embraces his heel status at that point by snatching the music box away, smashing the innards with a hammer and then dumping the whole thing in the trash.

There's a beat for a few seconds, and then the clown opens the trash can, and of course the music is now coming out of THERE instead. Predictable ending,'s not the ending. This is now when things get REALLY weird.

After the trash can bit, the clown spots a second trash can a few feet away. She opens that can and "Can't Touch This" by MC Hammer starts playing out of it. The clown starts dancing Hammer's robotic moves from the video, then another man approaches and starts breakdancing with her,'s a real pity YouTube would autostrike the clip for this song. You're just gonna have to trust me. This all really happened.

As we enter the 90s there's still a heavy McDonalds presence in the advertising. They would gradually ease off the gas throughout the decade, but at the moment they were still an inescapable presence in any family-targeted TV show. The 60-second spot here doesn't try to be anything but cute, so there isn't much you can say about it. BUT I can point out the computer that makes a brief appearance was an Apple IIGS and it was running an educational game in the original six-color Apple II mode. It must've been a real game because McDonalds wouldn't care to make something fake AND accurate.

After this, Santa discusses his preference in underwear, and then Texaco claims it wants its customers to ride bikes, an act I don't believe for a second.

The final "Broadway" thing we're shown before the parade starts is probably not from Broadway; it's an original song called "The Herald Square Dance" performed by the dancers we saw at the beginning -- and Willard, who sneaked into the line and is now wearing suspenders while playing a fiddle.

The first balloon to appear is that of Clifford the Big Red Dog, marking his first appearance in a Macy's Parade. Willard comments "I hope he can find a fireplug his size or we're all in trouble!" That actually brings up a valid point. When Clifford has to go out for walkies, and does his business, does Emily Elizabeth have to somehow bag up and carry a gigantic dog turd three times her size? Is there a park trash receptacle big enough to take it? Or do they just dump and ditch? I wouldn't blame them, but they'd be easily caught, as only one culprit in the neighborhood could have done it.

Up to now I had assumed the Great Googly-Eyed Turkey of the Macy's Parade had been a part of it since the beginning, or at least went back a few decades...but Willard mentions the turkey is 19 years old, which means it didn't exist before the 1971 parade. Last year it was Clint Black riding the turkey saddle; this year it's Garth Brooks (with his wife as a special passenger).

The first Product Mascot Balloon is the Nesquik Bunny, who was then called the Quik Bunny...but he's quickly (quik-ly?) shoved aside so NBC can show off the float that contains the boy band it wants to promote. The New Kids On The Block were part of the parade in 1989, but who needs them this year when you can have....THE GUYS NEXT DOOR! See, their name implies they're even closer to your house, so they're even better! And they're exclusive to NBC's parent company!

Kid 'n Play might have had an audience somewhere, but no one went for the Guys Next Door. NBC desperately tried to make them a thing; they got their own Saturday Morning show next to Saved By The Bell before anyone knew who the heck they were. But no one would ever really care. Going by this one appearance they look rather silly gyrating in their entirely black, overly baggy jackets and pants, but a lot of boy bands looked silly to me so I'm not an effective judge.

They show a little girl in clown makeup doing a shimmy to the tune the Guys Next Door are lip-synching to, riding a ceramic seahorse. I thought "Isn't that Raven?" but the parade refused to caption her. The camera drifted away, but then it quickly focused back on Raven and displayed the correct chryon one second before fade-out. Someone nearly got fired.

Then by coincidence, the next ad was about trying to determine if a guy in a McDonalds is a celebrity or not. Of course it obviously is -- it's His Airness himself, who was going to appear frequently in ads for this restaurant over the next few years. These kids can't figure it out, though.

Favorite part:
That's what he'd probably say in real life.

Before Big Bird floated his big beak down the street, Bert and Ernie made an appearance on a small float, and sang a song that did nothing to quell the rumors about their relationship:
"Do you like me, Bert? Do you think I'm swell? Do you like me? You know me well. If you like me, won't you tell? I wanna hear it from you."
However, Bert refused to come out in front of millions at the Macy's Parade, and handwaved the question.

There's actually an official response from Sesame Workshop CEO Gary Knell regarding this: "Bert and Ernie are not gay, but they're not straight either. They're puppets. They don't exist below the waist."
That quote was from a while ago, though. Now that we know the truth about characters like Velma Dinkley, it's only a matter of time for Bert and Ernie. Queen Elsa will NEVER come out though.

The best commercials are for the products that no one would flip out for today like they do in the ad. "Hot Lixx" is a toy plastic guitar that produces tinny boops when the large buttons on its neck are pushed. It's a little more advanced than primitive musical instruments like Foot Notes from years prior -- it has its own whammy bar, if that's worth anything. But it's still hilarious to watch the preteens in the ad freak out over what this is. "Never had a single lesson!"

Woody Woodpecker made his ninth parade appearance in 1990, but absent for the first time was creator Walter Lantz, who usually rode in a car before the balloon. We wouldn't have Walter for much longer and, for that matter, Woody.

This is a pretty impressive concept for a float: themed after The Wizard of Oz, it has Dorothy, Cowardly Lion and Tin Man waving from inside a crystal ball, over which a giant inflatable Wicked Witch peers. The effect works and probably scared a lot of small kids.

It's strange that the Ninja Turtles, or at least ONE of the Ninja Turtles, did not have their own balloon in 1990, and it's stranger still that they NEVER have had one. What we did get in the parade was the Ninja Turtles BAND, something that's received plenty of coverage on similar websites, due to its off-putting stinkitude. It's four humans in Turtle outfits that are covered in garish sequins (even on the face), with big bulging eyes and creepy hanging mouths on each Turtle. Why would the Turtles have a band to begin with? Wouldn't it take away time from their ninja training?

They arrived in a very shiny car and boogied to the main theme from the "Coming Out Of Their Shells Tour" that they appeared in. Reactions from some of the children watching are captured, and they look hilariously confused. Not a single one reacted with joy; instead their faces said "what HAPPENED to you, Leo?"

This ad for a TV from Sharp looks WAY ahead of its time....a flatscreen display with LCD technology? They had those back then? No, they did not. For the real answer, you have to look closer...what Sharp is selling is actually a projector. You can see it in some of the shots, but they obscure the box and focus on a fake superinposed image, which is way brighter than what a projected picture on a wall looks like.
I typically don't mention the marching bands because they're all the same....USUALLY. One state got creative and wound up sending about fifty dancing old grannies in cowboy hats -- the Dancin' Grannies of Sunlakes, Arizona to be specific. Look at 'em go!
The Kermit the Frog balloon appears -- the first appearance without its creator, and unlike Lantz there wasn't even assurance he could be watching from home. Jim Henson had abruptly died earlier that year from a case of pneumonia that might've been treatable if he hadn't dragged his feet on seeing a doctor. There was kind of an air of sadness hanging over Kermit in 1990. Fortunately, in this case, Macy's knew what to do. They not only show the balloon, but archival footage from all its appearances in years past, as well as Henson's own contributions to the parade including the 1988 appearance I discussed earlier. Very classy and well worth a watch.

Bugs Bunny sprung a leak last year, but he's repaired and ready to belatedly celebrate his 50th anniversary with a proper (somewhat) new balloon. Below it, the Looney Tunes float has been rebuilt into the Tiny Toons float in order to promote the new, expensive, Spielberg-backed syndicated series that was still currently running new episodes in its first season. This show had a wide cast of characters, but they could only afford so many costumes, so just Buster, Babs, Plucky and Dizzy are Bugs in his teacher's outfit.

Immediately following the Tiny Toons float was....this yellow thing. Looks like the kind of design you might see from a PSA in the 1970s. A solidly yellow blob telling you to brush your teeth, or something....What even is this anyway? He has nothing to do with Tiny Toons or Bugs Bunny. Deborah says "This guy is FROYD! That stands for Friend Of Your Dreams!" Uh, no it doesn't.

On comes another float, this one shaped like a ship, and on it is another boy band that didn't catch on, which simply called itself "The Boys" (not to be confused with the superpowered brats on Amazon Prime). Deborah claimed that some people were calling them "the hottest thing since the Jackson 5!" What people were that, exactly? We're also told The Boys are here to rap about Martin Luther King, which....could be risky, even then. Oh, wait....all The Boys are Black, so they can do it. Crisis averted. In fact there seem to be a LOT more people of color in this wave of boy bands than there were the next time everyone tried this.

There he is, as promised: Bart Simpson! The show he came from had only gotten started a year ago, which is a pretty quick turnaround in Macy's time: normally these characters have to simmer in the public consciousness a bit. Not even "Ryan from YouTube" could get a balloon that fast. But The Simpsons were just that popular, nearly immediately. People look at the quality of Season 1 today and don't understand how it caught on. But the show was incredibly innovative for its time -- just the novelty of having a cartoon for a wider audience than children was new.

Celebrity sightings: Dr. Joyce Brothers was in the Mother Goose float this year; skaters Brian Boitano and Katarina Witt appeared right after her. Then Snoopy made his appearance -- the skating version with the "Macy's" sweater and matching Woodstock balloon floating a few paces ahead of him. Upon his appearance, Willard says something incomprehensible. "Why, I believe he's going to fly right into a station breaker or my name isn't Cowabunga!" I think he's getting tired.

They must have had to pad things out at the end, because the Rockettes act is unusually long -- they kick those legs for over five minutes straight. I can imagine Willard standing off-camera making the "stretch it out" motion with his hands and their thinking "come on, Scott, have mercy." Barry Manilow also appears between that act and Santa, but you can't make me listen to him.

So instead, I'm going to show you....this, which took place before the Rockettes and defies description.

Then, Santa, and the credits. The earliest Macy's I paid real attention to was one where Bart appeared; I'm not sure if it was this one or 1991, but I never missed it afterward. And can you blame me? This is an interesting year -- there's a lot to get one hooked. Between Bart, evil witch inflatables, nuns, and more than one instance of dancing grandmas, you got your money's worth. Also, Scott Bakula appeared and sang "My Favorite Things," but who cares about that.