March 15, 2011 by EVE · Comments Off
There was a terrific write-up about EVE in the Topeka Capital-Journal last weekend. Most of the article is about our Amelia Earhart statue project, but the reporter also devoted some space to our balloons:
The balloon, which depicts Earhart in her red Lockheed Vega, made its debut at the Circle City Parade on Oct. 2 in Indianapolis. Scoggins said the balloon, which has a 45-foot wing span, may make an appearance July 4 at the National Independence Day Parade in Washington.
The balloon likely will not make a stop in Earhart’s hometown. Pregont said she was unsure if Atchison has “the capability to get it down our streets.”
“But any publicity with Amelia Earhart is great for Atchison,” she added.
November 30, 2010 by Lynette Long, Ph.D., President of EVE · Comments Off
On November 24, the day before Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Lily Blau wrote an interesting commentary for the Huffington Post on the almost total lack of female character balloons in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. (And You Thought You Had Thanksgiving Off: Gender Inequality in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade). Only ten giant female character balloons have been built since the inception of the parade in 1924. Macy’s has built 112 giant character balloons, yet less 10 percent of the balloons created are of female characters. A dismal record considering over half the United States population is women and Macy’s primary customer base is women. You could argue that the dearth of female balloons is due to the fact that it took decades for Macy’s to introduce its first female character (Olive Oyl, 1982), but an analysis of the giant helium balloons showcased in this year’s parade paints an equally dismal picture.
There were 15 giant character balloons in the 2010 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: Buzz Lightyear, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Horton the Elephant, Kermit the Frog, Pikachu with Pokeball, Pillsbury Doughboy, Kung Fu Panda, Ronald McDonald, Sailor Mickey, Shrek, Smurf, Snoopy as Flying Ace, Spider-Man, Spongebob SquarePants and Super Cute Hello Kitty. Note that the only female character balloon in this year’s parade was Hello Kitty. There were thirteen male character balloons and one sexually ambiguous balloon (Pikachu with Pokeball). In terms of percentages only seven percent of this year’s giant balloon characters were female while eighty seven percent of the giant character balloons in this years parade were male. That’s an eighty percent visibility gap (87% – 7% = 80%), not the kind of number anyone raising a daughter wants to see in 2010. In addition to giant character balloons, this year’s Macy’s parade also included 43 smaller novelty balloons and balloonicles. This year’s new additions included a balloonicle of Kool-Aid Man, and smaller balloons of Takashi Murakami’s sexually ambiguous Kiki and KaiKai, and Yes, Virginia, modeled after nine year old Virginia O’Hanlon, who wrote the editor of the New York Sun about the existence of Santa Claus.
What I find particularly disturbing in Macy’s selection of balloon subjects is Macy’s selection of “only half” of famous pairs. Macy’s built its first balloon of Mickey Mouse in 1934 and has created a total of four giant Mickey balloons, the most recent being Sailor Mickey which appeared in this year’s parade. Yet Macy’s has never built a balloon of Minnie Mouse, even though Disney currently presents Mickey and Minnie as a pair in their theme parks. Similarly, Macy’s created a balloon of Donald Duck (1962), but never created a balloon of his sweetheart Daisy. Fred Flintstone has his own balloon but his wife Wilma does not. Macy’s has built three balloons of Superman (1939, 1966, 1982) and two balloons of Spiderman (1987, 2009), but Macy’s has never built a balloon of Wonder Woman or any other female super hero. There’s a balloon of a Smurf (2008) but not of Smurfette. Bart Simpson is represented by a giant helium balloon but his sister and counterpart, Lisa Simpson, was passed over. Macy’s created a balloon of Charlie Brown (2002), and even built a giant balloon of the elusive football to accompany Charlie, but Macy’s forgot to build a balloon of girl who held the football, Lucy. Lots of famous cartoon characters and toys have their own balloon including Mr. Potato Head (2005) but Macy’s did not build a balloon of Mrs. Potato Head. Macy’s also built two versions of Kermit the Frog (1977, 2002) but has not created a giant helium balloon of the colorful and beloved Miss Piggy. Why does Macy’s ALWAYS pick the male part of a famous pair?
Who is the most re-introduced character in the Macy’s giant balloon line-up? It’s Snoopy! Macy’s has built six different versions of this male dog including Flying Ace Snoopy which appeared in this year’s parade. Not a single female character has been introduced more than once. It’s interesting to note that if you add the number of renditions of Mickey and Snoopy produced by Macy’s, it is equal to the total number of female character balloons created in the entire history of the parade. Finally in the interest of patriotism, Macy’s has created a balloon of Uncle Sam in 1938 and then introduced a new version of Uncle Sam seventy years later but has never created a balloon of Lady Liberty.
As a psychologist, do I think the omission of giant female character balloons from the Macy’s parade is important? You bet. It reinforces in the minds of the millions of girls that watch the parade a message they receive in subtle and insidious ways every single day. Girls don’t matter.
UPDATE: Huffington Post has picked up the story! Yay!
Synergy! The folks over at Hardy Girls Healthy Women saw Lynette’s recent blog post about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and were stunned to learn that Macy’s has had only 10 female character balloons in its entire history. That’s only 8%. (Tell us about it.)
So now Hardy Girls Healthy Women and SPARK have launched a social media petition asking Macy’s CEO, Terry J. Lundgren, to commit to building an equal number of female characters balloons into the parade line-up. We are delighted to join with them in spreading the word. Click the Petition tab, sign it, and text PETITION to 61827.
We also thought it would be interesting to do a quick straw poll on which female character balloons people would like to see. The petition lists 10 possibilities, which we’ve included in our poll below. We’ve also added in 8 more possibilities with an eye towards the kind of thing we know Macy’s is looking for. Our own experience (see EVE’s Great American Heroines balloon project) has taught us that Macy’s balloons are almost always animated characters from major studios with big merchandise tie-ins. That’s because the fee to be in the Macy’s parade is astronomical. The popular characters we chose for the poll even include a couple of Disney princesses—and yes, I know a lot of people think Disney princesses are just about the worst possible role models for girls. They’re not all bad, though: many feminists of my acquaintance grew up loving Belle and are now happily introducing their daughters to Princess Tiana. And realistically, Disney has more money to put behind female characters than just about anybody.
You can select as many in the poll as you like (pictures of all are at the bottom), and tell us in the comments if you’d like to see others. …continue reading
UPDATE: Wednesday, November 24—see our new post with a petition to Macy’s and a poll on which female character balloons you’d like to see!
Holidash reports on the new balloons Macy’s will debut in this year’s parade:
The 84th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will feature two brand new balloons this year that are sure to delight kids of all ages — especially those in the tween set.
This Thanksgiving we’ll see character balloons from “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and “Kung Fu Panda.”
…The Wimpy Kid balloon, a giant 3D version of Greg Heffley, the 2D middle schooler who stars in the wildly popular illustrated novels by Jeff Kinney, joins an elite group of children’s literary characters who have been made into Macy’s Day Parade balloons, including The Cat in The Hat, Curious George, Clifford and Arthur.
It’s a big holiday season for Po, better known as Kung Fu Panda, the superhero wanna be panda voiced by Jack Black in the 2008 Dreamworks animated film — he has his own 3D holiday TV special premiering this year on Nov. 24th, the day before Thanksgiving, as well as the debut of the Macy’s balloon on Thanksgiving day.
Macy’s will also showcase new balloons of Kaikai and Kiki, cartoon figures created by Japanese pop artist Takashi Murakami. And of special interest to us, Macy’s is also introducing a new balloon of a real live actual female human: Virginia O’Hanlon, the little girl whose letter prompted the famous reply, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”
We’re glad to see this year’s new balloons feature both male and female characters. Last year all four of Macy’s new balloons were male: Sailor Mickey, Ronald McDonald, Spider-Man, and the Pillsbury Dough Boy. Macy’s has still had only 10 female balloons in its entire history.
Parade balloons are not a trivial issue. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade regularly has 2 million live viewers and 50 million television viewers. Every year millions of young girls eagerly attend Macy’s and other parades, only to look up and see nothing but male characters float by. While we applaud the inclusion of new female characters in this year’s balloon line-up, Macy’s still has a long way to go to achieve gender parity.
EVE’s Great American Heroines balloon project is committed to creating balloons that celebrate outstanding women in American history and culture. (Our first balloon is of Amelia Earhart, launched in October 2010.) We’re also encouraging parade planners to select and request more female characters from their balloon suppliers. Hopefully, one day, the parade skies of the United States will be filled with an equal number of male and female characters.
On October 2, in a constant downpour of rain, EVE’s Amelia Earhart balloon had its first test flight in the Circle City Parade in Indianapolis, Indiana. The rain might have decreased the size of the crowd but not their enthusiasm. The parade was televised locally so most likely tens of thousands of people got to see EVE’s Earhart balloon on television and hear about the accomplishments of Amelia Earhart. The Indianapolis Star featured a write-up of the parade and a picture of only one of the balloons, Amelia Earhart.
The unrelenting rain did cause EVE to make an adjustment in the display of the balloon. The balloon handlers did not wear their white “flightsuits” with an AE logo because we did not want our new costumes to be damaged in the rain.
On November 20, the Amelia Earhart Balloon will fly high again. Amelia will be one of the featured balloons in the Festival of Trees Holiday Parade in Davenport, Iowa. The parade will feature over 20 giant helium balloons.
Stay tuned to find out where Amelia will fly next!
Major announcement today! Quoting our press release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 27 — There are giant parade balloons of Olive Oyl and Miss Piggy, but until now, no one has ever produced a balloon of an actual historic woman.
All that will change on October 2, when a forty-five foot helium balloon of Amelia Earhart in her red Lockheed Vega will make its first test flight in the 2010 Circle City Classic Parade in Indianapolis. Three to four hundred thousand people are expected to be on hand to witness the launch of the balloon. The parade will also be televised in Indianapolis, greatly increasing the viewership of the historic moment.
The Earhart balloon will be one of five balloons in the parade, all supplied by StarBound Entertainment. The balloon will escorted by thirty balloon handlers dressed in white jumpsuits patterned after Amelia Earhart’s famous flight suit. …continue reading
Here it is, the artist’s rendering of the new Amelia Earhart balloon:
Bear in mind this thing will be humongous—with a 40-foot wingspan, it will be the same size as the real airplane!
The art has been through several iterations and tweaked in response to feedback from EVE’s 99 Club, and now it’s ready to go. The Earhart Estate has approved the renderings and the engineering crew is ready to start sculpting the clay model. (There are other elevations too, showing the balloon from all angles, but this one gives the best overall view I think.)
Now for the hard sell: if you haven’t already donated to the 99 Club, please consider helping out.
The contributions we’ve received so far have enabled us to make the first payment on the balloon, pay for the parade banner, and pay for the balloon handler suits (they’re going to look like a ground crew in flight suits).
But we still need to raise the rest of the money to cover expenses. …continue reading
We are HUGELY grateful to all the 99 Club members who have helped us raise the funds for the Amelia Earhart balloon. We would be absolutely nowhere without your wonderful generosity. Thanks to you, we have made the down payment on the balloon, hired the artist, ordered and paid for the parade banner, and ordered and paid for the balloon handler costumes.
But we’re still short! So we’re thinking of offering some CafePress items as another way for people to support the Amelia Earhart balloon. The design would say something like, “I helped put Amelia back in the skies!”
What do you think? Which of these items do you think we should offer? You can check off more than one box, or suggest something else in the comments.
I’ve just placed the order for the white jumpsuits the balloon handlers will wear while guiding the Amelia Earhart balloon. We’re going to dress them to look like a ground crew, wearing suits similar to what Amelia herself wore. The costume pictured at right was worn by Hilary Swank in the movie “Amelia.”
Toni McKay at StarBound Entertainment (the balloon company) came up with the brilliant idea of using inexpensive Tyvek-type suits. They’re much cheaper than real jumpsuits and can be easily replaced. We don’t plan to have the balloon handlers roll around in mechanic grease to get that authentic lived-in look, but a little wear and tear won’t hurt. We’re also going to put stickers on the suits that say “A.E.,” though probably we’ll put them on the front rather than the back (for a variety of reasons).
We could have gone with custom t-shirts, the way a lot of balloon sponsors do, but we think the “flight suits” are much better. And cheaper!
P.S. Watch the slide show on our Amelia balloon page to see several pictures of balloon handlers in action.
August 5, 2010 by Suzanne Scoggins, Director of Women's History · Comments Off
The sketches for our new Amelia Earhart balloon are in—and they’re gorgeous! We sent our 99 Club members the first view earlier this week and got some great feedback. The artist made a couple of tweaks based on their comments, and now the final versions are ready.
Here’s the birdseye view:
Yes, we’re being sneaky—don’t you want to see Amelia’s face? But we’re holding on to the other elevations and detail drawings until our 99 Club members can see them first.
The next step is for the designers and engineers at StarBound Entertainment (the balloon makers) to create a clay model of the balloon. We’re shooting for a test flight in a Labor Day parade, with a big-venue major debut for Thanksgiving. Our volunteer staff at EVE is busy getting the parade banner designed, ordering the flight suits for the “ground crew” (the balloon handlers who guide the balloon in the parade), and doing a thousand other things.
But we still need to raise the rest of the cash!
We already have 52 members of the 99 Club, and we’re looking for 47 more. The clock is ticking and the calendar pages are flipping. We need to pay the artist, pay for the balloon, pay for the parade banner, pay for the flight suits—pay, pay, pay!
Please join the 99 Club today and invite all of your friends to do the same. And remember—your contribution is tax-deductible.
We’re almost there!