Design Evolution: Pillsbury Doughboy Balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

By Heather Taylor, Editor-in-Chief, PopIcon

The 97th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in November 2023 featured a series of new and returning balloons on the Parade route. One returning balloon was the Pillsbury Doughboy.

Longtime Parade viewers quickly noted that the Doughboy would be soaring into the 2023 Parade with a new design. For years, the Doughboy’s Parade balloon had outstretched arms. His brand-new look brought one hand close to his face, almost as though he was giggling throughout the Parade.

It isn’t often that we get to highlight a brand mascot’s design evolution via their Macy’s Parade balloon, but who doesn’t wonder what goes into making a significant change like this one? PopIcon spoke to Jordan Dabby, Producer of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, to find out why the Pillsbury Doughboy received a new balloon in 2023 and what it takes to inflate and prep the Doughboy ahead of the Parade celebration.

The Doughboy has been a staple during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade® since 2009. Why did Macy’s/General Mills debut a new Pillsbury Doughboy balloon in 2023? 

Dabby: Our history with Pillsbury™ dates back to 2005, when we debuted their Holiday Lovin’ Oven float in the 79th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade®. As we watched our fan’s fascination grow with the Pillsbury Doughboy™ over the years, we knew he was “ready for the sky” and created our first balloon with their team in 2009 for the 83rd Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

In 2023, we were thrilled to unveil a new Pillsbury Doughboy balloon for the 97th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. After several success years with the original pose, we were ready to try something different and debut a new flight position to delight our live spectators in New York City and viewers nationwide.

The previous design iteration only received one makeover in 2014. Then, the Doughboy’s balloon makeover included a more poke-friendly tummy and a puffy chef’s hat: overall making the balloon puffier and doughier than ever. How would you describe the 2023 makeover? What has changed and what hasn’t with the balloon design?  

Dabby: The original balloon design had the Pillsbury Doughboy joyfully flying down the Parade Route with his hands raised above his head. In 2023, the Doughboy still had his classic chef’s hat and white neckerchief, but the makeover really was a nod to the Doughboy’s signature pose.

With one hand touching his belly and the other over his mouth, you can instantly imagine his iconic giggle as he soars above the streets of New York City on Thanksgiving morning.

By the numbers, what are the Doughboy’s new balloon dimensions? Height, length, width? 

Dabby: The new Doughboy balloon is 55 feet tall, 23 feet long and 33 feet wide.

Fun fact, more than 250,000 Pillsbury Crescent Rolls can fit inside the balloon.

About how long does it take to inflate the Doughboy balloon for the Macy’s Parade? How many balloon handlers does his balloon require? How do you determine who becomes one of the many balloon handlers for this balloon? 

Dabby: On average, our featured character balloons can take 90 minutes to two hours to fully inflate. On Parade Day, the Doughboy balloon was escorted down the 2.5-mile-long route by 90 balloon handlers.

The Macy’s Parade is created by its colleagues, a tradition which started with the first Parade in 1924. The 2023 Parade featured more than 5,000 volunteers comprised of Macy’s colleagues, friends and family, with hundreds guiding our iconic character balloons on Thanksgiving Day.

The Doughboy holds a special place within the Parade’s history for fans of all generations. Each year our balloon line-up features immediately recognizable iconic characters from the world of entertainment that appeal to our viewers nationwide, and it’s a special moment watching families poke their own bellies and cheer for the Doughboy when they see him on Parade Day.

About the Author

Heather Taylor is the senior writer and editor-in-chief of PopIcon, Advertising Week’s blog about brand mascots. Got a pitch on brand mascots or want to wax nostalgic about characters? Drop her a line at

Image credits: Macy’s