Evolution of a Rose Parade float
What Rose Parade viewers see on Colorado Boulevard is the end product of a design evolution, often bearing little or no resemblance to the first inspiration. A case in point: Trader Joe’s 2012 parade entry.
Expanding the idea
Step by step
Using the 2012 parade theme — “Just imagine … ” — Trader Joe’s begins to think about the imagination of children and how they build fanciful structures and decorate them with household objects. As a starting point, designers conceive of something along the lines of a red wagon, a symbol of childhood. Incorporating household items and some kind of wheeled frame, it would transport riders over imagined hot lava — a nod to the game in which the ground or floor is declared to be hot and players must find a way to stay off it.
Expanding the idea
Still in the sketch mode, the idea takes on a more inspired structure including a snake handle and talking rocks. Riders with toilet-plunger headgear would be accompanied by a fairy or lion at the rear of the float. The means of avoiding the “hot lava” is still a wagon, but with a domed structure topped by an umbrella. Assuming a bit of Trader Joe’s branding, the wagon is named Fearless Flyer, also the name of the retailer’s somewhat whimsical newsletter promoting its products.
Building on the idea of a Fearless Flyer red wagon, Trader Joe’s uses computerized and hand-drawn images to refine an “empty the garage” collection of objects that could populate the float. The Trader Joe’s crew adds some more branding but mainly wants the float to promote Trader Joe’s as a fun experience. This version is sent to the design team at Phoenix Decorating, the float builders.
Phoenix responds with a more stylized version of the red wagon concept. It includes more objects including a rolled newspaper, prominent strings of lights and possible positions for crew members — providing an idea of the float’s size. The bottom has taken on a racier look with bigger tires and spoke wheels at the back of a set of pistons and engine headers. Most conspicuously, the wagon is now towing a skateboard bearing a sail on a toilet plunger mast.
With a few changes, Trader Joe’s approves this Phoenix Decorating version. Opportunities for animation and other special effects become more obvious. Most notably, the skateboard behind the wagon acquires a second rider and a spatula rudder. More than 70 feet long, the wagon will not ride on a float platform; the wagon is the float and will roll through the parade under its own power.
The Times follows construction of the float, beginning in April.