The Creepiest Parade Balloons You've Ever Seen

The Photo Blog
Nov. 21 2012 9:30 AM

Fit to Be Tied: Holiday Parade Balloons in Bondage

Behold is Slate's brand-new photo blog. Like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter @beholdphotos and Tumblr. Learn what this space is all about here.

Frank Hallam Day, Blown Ups, Buzz Lightyear
Buzz, diptych.

Frank Hallam Day/Addison/Ripley Fine Art, Washington, D.C.

As America gears up for the world-famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the perspective of photographer Frank Hallam Day offers a darker and more unusual view of those perennially cheerful oversized cartoons. For four years, he captured photographing balloons the night before various parades for a series he calls Blown Up.

Frank Hallam Day, Blown Ups, Mountie
Mountie with Truck.

Frank Hallam Day/Addison/Ripley Fine Art, Washington, D.C.

Already inflated with helium and ready to float through city streets, the balloons were by necessity pinned down in nets, giant prey to tiny predators who couldn’t otherwise capture them. The bug-eyed looks on some of their faces evoke captivity, bondage, or even torture.

Advertisement

Via email, Day says, “I'm not really interested in the specifics of what/who the balloons depict. … I like the ambiguity of identity, of scale, of location, and of time. The creepiness comes in, I think, with the multi-stage recontextualization that's going on here. ... we are supposed to recognize the balloons as warm, cheerful characters on screens, as real personae to children. But these gigantic things lying late at night in the street are chillingly corpulent, wrinkly things ... neither warm nor cheerful. Horrifying, in need of an oxygen mask and surgery, perhaps. … Maybe they look magical, floating up in the air the next morning; I wouldn't know ... I'm always sleeping in.”

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade began featuring balloons in 1927, as a replacement for zoo animals, which, up until that time, had been a regular feature of these parades but were removed because they frightened some children. The first balloons included cartoon characters, like Felix the Cat. In 1934, due to the popularity of Disney, Mickey Mouse was debuted as a balloon. It was briefly halted due to lack of resources during World War II. However, parade balloons have become a cultural mainstay for generations—and you may never look at them the same way again.

Frank Hallam Day, Blown Ups, Mr. Potato Head
Mr. Potato Head.

Frank Hallam Day/Addison/Ripley Fine Art, Washington, D.C.

Frank Hallam Day, Blown Ups
Heads on Green Tarp.

Frank Hallam Day/Addison/Ripley Fine Art, Washington, D.C.

Frank Hallam Day, Blown Ups, Uncle Sam
Uncle Sam.

Frank Hallam Day/Addison/Ripley Fine Art, Washington, D.C.

Frank Hallam Day, Blown Ups, Kermit the Frog
Kermit No. 1.

Frank Hallam Day/Addison/Ripley Fine Art, Washington, D.C.

Frank Hallam Day, Blown Ups, Dora the Explorer
Dora, diptych.

Frank Hallam Day/Addison/Ripley Fine Art, Washington, D.C.

Frank Hallam Day, Blown Ups, Energizer Bunny
Energizer Bunny.

Frank Hallam Day/Addison/Ripley Fine Art, Washington, D.C.

Also see Miriam Krule and Noam Prywes' article on whether we should be wasting our dwindling supply of helium on floating cartoon characters.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

Subprime Loans Are Back

And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 23 2014 6:00 AM Naked and Afraid Prudie offers advice on whether a young boy should sleep in the same room with his nude grandfather.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Books
Sept. 23 2014 7:14 AM Fighting the Sophomore Slump, Five Novels at a Time Announcing the Slate/Whiting Second Novel List.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 23 2014 7:00 AM I Stand with Emma Watson
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.