Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Maurice Sendak's Wild Thing Balloon Design

Here are Maurice Sendak's original 1998 designs for the front and back of the Wild Thing balloon from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. All four pieces are framed together. (I've changed the order of the images.)
Maurice Sendak, Wild Thing Balloon, Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 1998, August 9, 1998

Maurice Sendak, Study for Macy's Thanksgiving Day Wild Thing Balloon, pencil, July 15, 1998

Maurice Sendak, Wild Thing Balloon, Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 1998, August 9, 1998

Maurice Sendak, Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon Study, July 1998.  "The tail is not properly placed--as you can see!"

323. SENDAK, Maurice (b. 1928) Wild Thing Balloon Two watercolors (each 220 x 170 mm). Executed for the front and back of the Wild Thing Balloon for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade; with two pencil studies for the balloon. .both signed and dated 'july-august 1998'. Together four works framed together.
exceptional watercolors of the most famous creature in Sendak’s classic picture book Where the Wild Things Are (1963). One drawing is annotated “The tail is not properly placed--as you can see!” (2)
est. $35000 – £45000
Wednesday 9th December 2009 at 2:00 pm
          Capture the Imagination: Original Illustration & Fine Illustrated
Bloomsbury Auctions. New York, NY

Here is Brechtbug's flickr photo of the balloon in the 2003 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade:
Wild Thing Balloon, Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 2003. Photo by Brechtbug.
Notice how circular the contour of Moishe's head is, as if he's wearing a space helmet. Sendak's original artwork gives the hair its own spiky contour and texture. Sendak also gave the legs a little more animation. The balloon, at least in this view, appears rather static by comparison.

This balloon was introduced in the 1998 parade. I don't believe it has been in the parade in recent years.

Note:  I have more on Sendak here.



  1. Sendak is literally right up my alley at the Rosenbach Museum & Library. Sendak used to hang out there with Dr. Rosenbach. "The Maurice Sendak collection at the Rosenbach includes approximately 10,000 pieces and covers a period from the 1940s through the early 21st century. The collection is home to about 3000 pieces of art by Sendak, with another 7000 pieces of various working materials." The Rosenbach is a very neat place to visit and explore.

    Loved the photo of Moishe at the parade. Have a great Thanksgiving. Leo

  2. You have a great Thanksgiving too, Leo. I've never been to the Rosenbach Museum, but it sounds incredible. I saw a small part of the collection at the Morgan Library, a selection of fabulous artwork from Where the Wild Things Are.

    Beth, welcome back. I'm glad you liked the balloon.

  3. I was the first captain of this balloon in the macy's parade years ago, It was a rainy day and Sendak was there to see it's debut. We had done a test flight in New Jersey and that went well. It was a cold and rainy thanksgiving, and the balloon never made it past 79th street :( As we were lifting the balloon, a gust of wind hurled it into a street lamp, and POP, it was done. I was so bummed, and not happy about having to get back down to 34th street with no balloon in the pouring rain.
    If you look at the parade that day, the televised version cuts to a sunny day of the footage taken from the test flight, and then cuts back to the rainy announcers on NBC. What an embarassment!