Sunday, December 11, 2011

Holiday Specials: Thanksgiving 2011

by Amy K. Bredemeyer

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is one of my favorite things about Thanksgiving. And, honestly, I can't start getting into Christmas until after I've seen it. Being out of town for the holiday, it took me a while to find the time to watch the three-hour special. And, it wasn't the only thanksgiving Special I found this year. I also took in an 85th Anniversary Special of the parade, plus a Food Network Challenge where the contestants had to make cakes resembling scenes from A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, one of my very favorite holiday programs. The cake competition was a little big of a let-down, honestly. Maybe I just expected too much, or maybe I wasn't thinking about the time crunch that would keep the desserts from being more along the line of Cake Boss quality. But, both the parade and the parade anniversary special were wonderful, so it was a win in the end.

Food Network Challenge
: "Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Cakes"
Each team had to do a cake based on the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Special. They had eight hours to make the masterpieces, which needed to be based on a scene and include at least two Peanuts characters. Judging would be based on accuracy, technical merit, and artistic value. [I love that accuracy was factored in!] The judges were a pastry chef, the son of Peanuts creator Charles Shultz, and a hall-of-fame sugar artist. The big catch to this challenge? At four hours in, the mothers of each competitor arrive! And, since Charlie Brown had to make Thanksgiving dinner at the last minute in the special, the teams receive the additional challenge of doing a second cake in the remaining four hours - this time to feature a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Luckily, the moms can help. [do the judges really watch the process the entire eight hours? did the teams not have stills or images or anything to look at, or was it all done by memory??] Now, let's look at the competitors...

Wendy from TX: calls her cake scene "Thanksgiving Toast," which clearly is the scene where Snoopy and Woodstock make toast, with Charlie Brown looking on. Three characters is a lot to do, plus there's a large stove in that scene. Snoopy's head alone takes an hour and 20 minutes.. Woodstock gets made at the last minute and kinda looks like a chicken. It's a 400-pound cake in the end, and the judges tell her that Woodstock wasn't great... he suffered horribly, actually. She gets 4th place.

Orlando from Chicago (reigning champ): he does a great scene and entitles it, "Where's the Turkey, Chuck?" Peppermint Patty and Charlie Brown are having Thanksgiving dinner with jellybeans, pretzels, toast, etc. The big focus in this scene is the emotions on the faces, and he does the wrong mouth for Charlie Brown and bad hair on Peppermint Patty. All of the food on the table is made during the final hour, so he's lucky that he had his mom to work on most of the Thanksgiving cake, and she did an entire feast, rather than just a plate of food. The judges call him on the expressions, but also say that the necks were too raw. He gets 3rd place.

Anne from New Jersey: her choice was the most difficult to place for me. Called, "Pilgrimage in the Trunk," it's the scene where Snoopy and Woodstock get dressed. The big hat on Snoopy makes him lean forward quite a bit, and she uses dowels for support, right up until they have one minute to go, when she yanks them and fills them in. Her mom does a "Baby's First Thanksgiving" cake. She gets second place.

Matthew from Ontario: It wasn't the greatest idea, but he does "Some Boys Never Learn" really well. The design is the scene where Lucy pulls the football from Charlie Brown. [very simple design, but Charlie Brown being in the air is neat.] The head gets a bit heavy and begins to crack, so they have to take it off and fix it. He has his mom roll out fondant and cut out clouds. He's saving the Thanksgiving Dinner cake to do in the last two hours, and his mom starts it without him. The judges tell him that he was lucky to have his mom - he needed three people to finish that! He could have done the details better if he had had more time, but his clean design earns him first place. 

Macy's Inc.
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 2011: It wavered between 37 and 41 degrees this year at the 85th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which runs a 2.8 mile course that ends on 34th street. [Cute opening number.] Newsies, which is headed to Broadway does their song, "King of New York." [Loved the tapping, especially the quiet little bit by the woman.] Then we have "Spread the Love" from Sister Act. [eek on those costumes! kinda gaudy, don't you think?? Not that I was in love with the song, either... I do, however, always love watching Al Roker run into the parade to talk to people. I really, really get excited when he does that!] Before long we have Daniel Radcliffe in "Brotherhood of Man" from How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying. [Not the catchiest thing ever, but I thought it was okay.] Next, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert's "I Love the Nightlife" and "I Will Survive," both of which were about average. And, rounding out the Broadway showcases, SpiderMan: Turn Off the Dark, with a disappointing number. [Not that I expected it to be memorable, LoL.]

Then we get into balloons, floats, and other performances. Thirty-six Rockettes performed a bit of their Christmas show. [lovely! and the Sonic balloon was cool... hard to believe that Sonic launched 20 years ago already! Also, I thought it was nice to see Avril Lavigne again.] There's a marching band from Homestead High School in Cupertino, California [caught my attention since I live in Silicon Valley] that has 250 members and played "Fantasia on Ode to Joy." Of course we see the cast and muppets of Sesame Street, and they sing "Meet me at Sesame Street." [one of my earliest memories of the Macy's parade is marveling at the fact that characters from a television show I loved got to be in a famous parade!] We see something new - tricaloons - where the balloon rides behind the cyclist. [strange but neat. Too bad I didn't recognize the characters being portrayed....] The Kool-Aid Man ballonicle (which caught me by surprise) boasted the fact that 500 million gallons are consumed each year worldwide! Also, the newest flavor is peach-mango. [I'm slightly tempted to buy some... sounds delicious. But I stopped drinking Kool-Aid back in high school, LoL.] Spongebob Squarepants, in his seventh appearance, is the first ever square balloon. [I feel like the probably mentioned that in previous years, but it caught my ear as if I was hearing it for the first time! Also, the Aflac Duck was a strange balloon... didn't you think so?] The all-state Hawaii marching band wore yellow grass-like skirts over their pants, and rehearsed over 11 months for their performance in the parade. [... how? they were from different islands and whatnot...] Then there's a balloon for Sailor Mickey, representing Disney Cruise Lines, which will debut a new ship in March. [The Power Rangers Samurai jumping in to save Al Roker was funny. The Iroquois dancing was cool. Is it just me or have we been bombarded by "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" this year?? It was fun to hear "I Need a Hero," even if it was performed by some seemingly random guys (New Orleans group 610 Stompers).] The Pokemon balloon isn't new, but the light-up cheeks were something that I never noticed before. There were some 25-pound antebellum-inspired dresses from Mobile, Alabama that took 4 months to make. [holy cow! that's amazing! The Tim Burton balloon, however, was not. It was underwhelming, actually. Having a marching band do some Grinch was different.] There was a 200-apple-tall The Smurfs balloon, depicting Clumsy. [cool.] I always like the Virginia balloon, and this time there was a cute little commercial afterward that featured Virginia & Co. depositing letters into Santa's mailbox at Macy's. [Cute dancing elves from David DeMarie Dance Studio.] But, it was clear that they saved one of the best acts for the end... instruments being played live by Mannheim Steamroller! [win!]

The 85th Anniversary of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: This special was just filled to the brim with fun facts for parade enthusiasts. I thought that they could have made it much longer, but perhaps I just need to do my own research and reading on the parade's history, LoL. Let's look at this one as more of a list, shall we?

The History:
- In 1924, a group of employees had the idea for the parade, and they borrowed live animals from the Central Park Zoo! Balloons eventually took over. The only years since that didn't have the parade were 1942 and 1944, due to WWII.
- Back in the old days, the balloons flew upside down, but in 1927, Goodyear figured out how to make the balloons soar.... and they would just release them into the air!
- The Snoopy balloon debuted in 1968 and holds the record for most outfit changes - 6 so far.
- It aired on the radio 1932-1947, and now 50 million people tune in to watch it on television! Plus, about 3 million people line the parade route!
- The Macy's may be the longest running regularly broadcast events in America, and was featured in the 1947 movie Miracle on 34th Street.
- In 1989 there was a snowstorm for the first time in about 50 years, and they had 8-10 inches of snow. In 2000, it was 32 degrees but no snow.

The People:
- Betty White hosted for ten years, starting in 1962, back before there were scripts at all. She rode a horse in the parade in 1940, too! There were no scripts then. Katie Couric did 8 years with Willard Scott (who once rode the nine-story turkey in the parade). Willard Scott hosted for 13 years. Pat Sajak hosted for three years, one of which was in driving rain (it wasn't cold enough to snow). Phylicia Rashad also hosted, and when she did, she put her feet in saran wrap before putting on her socks. She and Florence Henderson have both performed and hosted.
- In 2003, Donald Trump flew his helicopter over the parade and narrated. 400 employees back then.
- The hosts have their families there, too. 
- It has really served as a who's who in the music industry, and Green Day has even named a song after Macy's Parade! Other pop culture references include on episodes of Seinfeld and Friends, plus in a 2008 Super Bowl ad for Coca-Cola. Most recently, however, would be that Tower Heist was shot DURING THE PARADE in 2010. Harpo Marx (in 1933), Vanessa Williams (twice, the first being in 1983 - before she blew up), Diana Ross, Ricky Martin (in 1984!), Usher, and the Jonas Brothers have all performed. In 2007, the Jonas Brothers didn't have instruments or mics minutes before they were supposed to go on. The car in front of them had 2 microphones and a guitar so they used those. 
- The Radio City Rockettes have performed every year since 1957.
- Christina Applegate, star of Up All Night, performed in the parade when she was in Sweet Charity in 2005. 

The Process:
- They work on the parade stuff at a 72,000 sq ft warehouse in Waunakee, NJ, and they can't make the floats too big... they have to fit through the Lincoln Tunnel to get to the parade! The staging area for the floats is the Upper West Side.
- The night before the parade, all kinds of things happen. The balloons are inflated (and tons of people go to see that!), Matt (14 years of experience now), Anne, and Al (who has hosted 17 years in a row!) have their one rehearsal. Starting at 12:01am Thanksgiving Day, the masterminds and parade performers rehearse. At 3am, the bands line up and march in to their center lines. At 4am, the float escorts, balloon handlers, and clowns arrive. At 5am, fans really start to gather (by 7am, the streets are jammed!]
- You run up to the moving float and jump on, according to Jessica Simpson.
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