Thursday, February 21, 2013

My Time with Macy's Parade Studio

Macy’s Thanksgiving day Parade studio represents a pivotal point in my art career.     It was the first time that I had been exposed to a studio that could fabricate just about anything.What ever material, what ever the genre, all of it gigantic, all  of it robust enough to withstand 100 dancers dancing as the float ran down its route.One of the great motto's there was “Every thing must withstand cannon fire!” That and “consider all metal to be hot”. Architectural element telescoped in and out or, craned together. Everything folded up into tidy little packages small enough to get through the Lincoln tunnel.Every float was essentially theater in the round and every helium inflatable as big as a building. I was hired as a carpenter in  my first season back in 1987. By the first month of the following year the studios chief sculptor left when she found out she was going to be a mom. Her assistant left for a different gig and I got moved into the sculpture studio. It was trial by fire but, I turned out to be an over achiever. 12 years would follow in which I learned almost everything I could: welding, all manners of metal work, armature construction both static and jointed for animation, electro-mechanical animation,Fiberglass, mold making, model making, foam carving, mechanical drawing, making presentation drawings, concept sketches, ridiculously complicated wood work, balloon and float design, 2 very specialized fields unto themselves. I was also the right hand assistant to the legendary parade designer, Manfred Bass. He was in the habit of pushing me very, very hard but, in so doing, he opened my eyes and over those years, taught me how to build  anything that was demanded of me. He taught me a lot about being a parent as well. To Manfred, nothing was more manifestly precious than his offspring. It is much by his example that I consider myself a really good dad. For a fella, there is no better thing to be.
Another interesting aspect of working with Macy’s was the amount of different major studios that I would be involved with. We did floats and balloons for so many major names:

MGM, Warner Brothers, Ablin, Pixar, Disney, Jim Henson Studios, United Artists, HBO, Marvel Comics, Fox, Scholastic, Nickelodeon, Met Life, Sega, Animal Planet, Aol, Family Channel, Days Inn, American Express, The New York Daily News, Planters Peanuts, M&M’s, NBC,

I’ve worked on Big Bird, Bart Simpson, Bugs Bunny, The Cat in the Hat, The Rug Rats, Snoopy and Woodstock, Barney and Blues Clues, I had a hand in building a Thai palace for The King and I, I’ve built more crazy things there than I can list.

As I had become a fairly cracker jack welder, in the summers I would spend time out on the barges doing structural welding and rigging for 4th of July fire works show on New York's East River. It’s a whole other thing to see when your standing directly under the shower of scattering sparks and falling debris as the barge’s deck rumbles like thunder beneath your feet and through your bones till the fire show's most bass profundo concussions rattle your ribs like a rock show.

Despite all of this seeming artistic splendor, after a dozen years I felt a need to explore different artistic paths. I had learned so much there but, there were things that I was hungry to learn beyond the Parade Studio's scope. I wanted to do serious, life sized figures. I wanted to learn an art form fit for museums and the fine art world.

For more Floats and Balloons click HERE

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