Tim Burton Makes Thanksgiving Day Parade Debut With ‘B.’

Oct 22, 2011 8:00am

Gather ’round children and listen here: Director Tim Burton will be a part of Thanksgiving this year.

The playfully dark artist and filmmaker known for his hit movies such as “Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Edward Scissorhands” and Sweeney Todd,” will make his Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade debut with a new, original balloon unlike any other on Nov. 24.

His character, “B.,” has a blue, round-shaped head, a face crisscrossed with Burton’s signature surgical stitches, a mouth full of fangs drawn into a smile, and wears a red-and-white-striped jumpsuit.

The balloon, which is 32 feet tall and 19 feet wide, is built and being painted.

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Tim Burton's original sketch for B. that he sent to the Macy's parade creative team. Credit: Macy's

Orlando Veras, a spokesman for the Macy’s parade team, said parade attendees should not be put off by the balloon. Just like with any of Burton’s creations, the balloon’s features are more tongue-in-cheek than spooky.

“It’s very whimsical, it’s very childlike,” Veras said. “It’s not at all scary.”

The idea for recruiting Burton for the parade, Veras said, came when a group of the parade’s creative designers went to see the artist’s exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York early last year. On display was a character with a blue, lightbulb-shaped head and a small, black-and-white, round body.

“At the entrance, there was a character that was very balloon-like and we thought ‘Oh my God, we should ask him to build a balloon for the parade,’” Veras said.

Parade organizers sprang into action to recruit Burton and were able to get ahold of him early this spring.

“He immediately said yes,” Veras said.

The parade’s creative director and design team met with Burton in London, bringing a “plethora” of old art from past parades. Burton decided to create a new character who would fly alongside Spider-Man and SpongeBob. But the parade’s creative team did give the artist some direction for the balloon’s design.

“We told him that he needed to stay away from anything pointy and skinny,” Veras said. “These balloons need to be round … to actually float.”

In a phone interview with the New York Times, Burton said he was surprised that he was asked to contribute a balloon character to the Macy’s parade.

“It’s such a surreal thing that you don’t even believe what you’re hearing. Somebody’s trying to play a joke on you or something. It had that kind of feeling,” he said.

He added that after designing B., he realized he was drawing back on his 1989 “Batman” film, in which the evil Joker terrorized the streets of Gotham City with a ghastly parody of a Thanksgiving parade. It was a blast from the past he didn’t discuss with parade executives.

“I didn’t bring it up with them,” Burton said. “It wasn’t really on my mind when we were talking. It sort of hit me later.”

Burton’s name will be added to a list of other artists who have participated in the parade’s Blue Sky Gallery series of balloons, which was launched in 2005. Blue Sky has featured the inflatable characters of Tom Otterness, Jeff Koons, Keith Haring and Takashi Murakami — whose characters Kaikai and Kiki made their parade debut last year:

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Takashi Murakami's "Kaikai and Kiki". Credit: Macy's

“Kiki is a colorful character with fangs,” Veras said in a seperate email to ABC News. “Their fun spirit and colorful design really translated well to flying giants and even small fangs did not stop these balloons from being a massive hit with spectators last year. We expect the same from Mr. Burton’s very whimsical balloon boy, B.”

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