Sad: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to include first NFT balloon, Cool Cat

Two things we normally like here at Stately Beat Manor are cats and Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade balloons. But when you throw NFTs into the mix….yuck.

Sad yet true: this year’s parade will include its first ever NFT based balloon, Cool Cat, a blue feline who stars in Cool Cats, “a rich ecosystem of captivating characters and comics, innovative games, unique merchandise, and fun animations.” He’ll be accompanied by his chaotic sidekick, Chugs, a milk carton.

Macy’s blockchain adventure actually started last year with a parade in the “metaverse” and a contest to choose which NFT would get a balloon. Cool Cats won out in a tough competition against Boss Beauties, gmoney, SupDucks and VeeFriends.

It’s all the creation of an artist who goes by the name of Clon. According to his about page, his dream of making cartoons saw him journey from comics to Instagram before joining in on the Web3 fun in 2021, when such things were red hot.

Many drops and gas fees later, I guess, they get a balloon, a very large balloon.


Macy’s will be selling physical Cool Cats merch that you can hold in your hands and while many folks are afraid to use the term NFT – preferring the term “digital collectibles” which has fewer negative connotation – it seems Macy’s did not get the memo in time:

“As two of the most popular Web3 characters, we could not be more thrilled to build upon last year’s success and introduce Blue Cat and Chugs in the physical world at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade this fall,” said Jordan Dabby, producer of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. “We know that our fans will be delighted to see these iconic characters soar above the streets of Manhattan this Thanksgiving.”

At the end of the day, Cool Cats is just another licensing brand based on a sort of cute cat:

While Cool Cats soared to success on the blockchain, the essence of our brand lies in mainstream appeal for our iconic character brand with a mission to connect and inspire people across the globe through immersive storytelling experiences.

How big a hit is Cool Cats on Web3? Well, OpenSeas lists their total volume as 143,000 eth, or about $232,000,000. So a lot of bitcoins were changing hands at some point. But all is not well in Cool Cats land, according to Decrypt:

Last October, the Cool Cats NFT collection was one of the hottest around. Back then, the average price of just one cartoon cat avatar was $92,000.

Six months later, Cool Cats’ newly-appointed CEO departed under vague circumstances after just three months. And despite the NFT collection signing with one of Hollywood’s top talent agencies for representation, Cool Cats appeared to have suddenly run out of steam.

As of June, some numbers on a digital ledger are worth only, “2.85 ETH each, or $3,556, numbers not seen since August 2021.”

I read the whole story at Decrypt and it’s quite fascinating to someone who thinks all this is hooey, from the “goblintown” disaster to complaints about the since departed “boomer CEO” who didn’t post enough on Discord, and a problem with “killing value of rares with poor MILK multipliers.” Rich stuff!  But the real problem came when Cool Cats launched an online game, Cooltopia, which had a working in-game economy but apparently wasn’t a very riveting game, drawing many complaints from the Web3 community.

This old fart finds some irony in this: an ephemeral digital token launches into the real world, where it has to compete against a lot more things and finds its actual entertainment value is being judged. Looking at all the badly drawn NFT collections, I can’t imagine what the innate value of this stuff is. For $92,000 you could buy a lot of real art.  For a mere $40,000 you could buy a page of Brian Bolland Batman art, say.

Despite the setbacks, Cool Cats has signed with CAA, and is launching more things in the non-metaverse, i.e. real world. Including a balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

You may be wondering, just how do you get a balloon in the parade, anyway? Old characters are always cycling out and new ones appearing. While I don’t often watch the whole parade, I’ll often turn it on and see a balloon based on some character that people without kids may find totally mystifying.

But the internet has the answer: in a piece on a site called Hollywood Branded.  Yes, brands pay to be in the parade, it’s a big marketing spend.

Sponsoring a balloon and/or float is no small cost. Companies that participate must pay for the construction in addition to a parade fee of $190,000. However, some companies choose to participate for several years, which helps offset the construction cost as it doesn’t need to be rebuilt every year, and the parade fee drops to $90,000. Average construction fees range from $30,000-$100,000, bringing average totals to $120,000 – $300,000 for a brand to participate. Of course, this number doesn’t include the cost of costumes, helium, and manpower, and if you include a celebrity, the cost will most likely increase significantly.

In addition, it is quite costly to inflate a balloon for the parade, VERY costly: A balloon requires an actual gas fee of $510,000 for the helium alone, and that’s in 2018 dollars. The total costs of the parade – floats, costumes, Hoda Kotb – add up to about $13 million.

Back to Cool Cat and Chugs. Being an old softie, I’m sympathetic to a cartoonist who dreams of making comics and cartoons and getting their work out into the world. When that success comes in the form of an energy wasting phoney marketplace, I’m a lot less sympathetic. Cool Cat is shooting their shot with a giant balloon in a beloved holiday tradition, but I suspect most people will be asking “Who dat?” as the hot air is gradually let out of the entire NFT balloon.

Cool Cat’s adventures find him and Chugs in a strange animated world called the Fracture. But I suspect an even more terrifying adventure will be in a very ordinary world called Planet Earth.







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