One of the truly big projects I had a hand in which I worked, during what turned out to be my last year at Cartoon Network as a Senior Character Art Manager, was designing the Finn and Jake balloon for the Macy*s Thanksgiving Day parade.
For the parade, Macy*s selects properties and characters with “staying power” to license for their floats and balloons. Macy*s has a division devoted to the design and construction and care of the floats and balloons.
For show, “Adventure Time with Finn and Jake,” the balloon could have been Finn (the human boy), or Jake (the dog) or some how be both characters. The Macy*s folks had ideas, and we at Cartoon (Jake, Candice and me) had ideas. With the concept of Finn riding on the back of Jake selected, I then iterated multiple versions of what that combination might be. Thankfully, Jake is a shape and size changer, so we stretched his typically stout body making him large enough to carry Finn. I drew the balloon in a couple of key views from which the sculptor could work.
Macy*s’ sculptor created a clay maquette about 24-inches long. On may sole work trip to the Macy*s shop, I gave my typical creative notes, “Make this bigger, move that there, etc.” and since the maquette was as big as it was, I got hands on and reworked parts of it while the sculptor worked on another part. Above is an image I found on the internet of the final painted version. Sharp-eyed folks might have caught sight of a snail that caught a ride with in Finn’s back pack.
The final one-of-a-kind balloon is comprised of many panels, whose measurements and positions are translated from the approved maquette. The process is slightly more complex version of the dress maker’s art. In the above image, also found on the internet, you may suss out what an art from it is to start with something that’s 24-inches long and recreate it as an inflated fabric shell nearly half the length of a American football field.