"Jungle Rescue"
or "This one's for you, dad"

Well, after having such a great year getting our float built for the 2014 Rose Parade we didn't have much hope we could repeat the success for 2015, but as it turns out not only did we have our designed picked but it won one of the biggest awards Burbank has ever gotten.

The overall parade theme for 2015 was "Inspiring Stories" and I wanted to find something that would salute our first responders. I've long been involved with the Los Angeles Police Department, but my father and grandfather were both firemen and I thought about them as we were kicking ideas around. With the ample and very much needed help of my wife, Carol, and our good friend Stacia Martin, we came up with the idea of a bunch of animal firefighters banding together to put out a blaze in a hard-to-reach nest.

Getting a design from the kitchen table to Colorado Boulevard starts with a blind submittal to the Burbank Tournament of Roses Association. You submit your sketch without anything identifying you as the designer so there is no chance to play favorites. The sketches have to be in black-and-white so they all look the same and don't give an advantage to someone that is good at color design, or to suggest color schemes that might be too expensive to actually pull off. You can also submit a very short description of the float to help explain your idea.

Anyone can submit an idea but most will come from members of the association. The number of ideas received each year will vary but it may be 75-100+. The association's board of directors then meets behind closed doors to select the finalists to be voted on by the general membership. Some ideas may look great but simply could not built. Others may be very similar to a recent design, or use copyrighted characters. Things like these get concepts rejected at the start as there's little sense in having the membership vote on them.

A special meeting open to all dues paying members is then held to vote on the five finalists. The first time the membership sees the submissions is at this meeting - even the submitters don't know if their design is one of the finalists until the drawings are unveiled at the meeting. Each drawing is then shown, that brief paragraph is read, and the construction and decoration chairs share their thoughs on how the float might be built. The members vote for their favorite idea in a series of rounds. The design with the least number of votes get dropped off the list and the process is repeated until one idea gets a clear majority of the votes. The name of the submitter is then pulled from a sealed envelope that was part of the submittal and attached to the back of the drawing, and the winner is announced. When all of this was done that night we were overjoyed to have yet another float picked for the parade.

I hope you took notes on this whole process. You'll want to refer to them later.

Initial concept art

Here's the initial artwork brilliantly brought to life by Stacia. A frantic mother bird is yelling for help as her nest has somehow broken out into flames. A band of monkeys, all attired in fireman's hats, is doing their best to reach the fire. The fire chief, a towering giraffe, also serves as a ladder for the diminutive moneys. In the back a baby elephant does its best to squirt some water on the conflagration.

If you've read the pages for our earlier floats you might recall I mentioned that some of the figures are saved during the demolition process in case they can be recycled on a future float. That worked out well here as I knew we had kept the horse from the 2014 float, and by extending the legs and neck it could become a suitable giraffe, saving some time and money. One of the welding crew later told me he had voted for our design in part since he knew he could have some fun with that part of the project.

Second concept art

The next thing step is to see how the design can best be adapted to fit on the float chassis. A flat jungle floor like in the original drawing would be pretty dull, but even worse, it wouldn't provide any space for the engines, driver, or observer, so this drawing from March 1, 2014 was done to help show the contours that would be used above the float chassis.

Third concept art

By March 29th we had added another element to the design - a powerful gorilla that was happily pumping water for all of the monkeys. Some designers really dislike having their ideas changed during this process but we appreciated suggestions like this to make the float even more amusing.

Fourth concept art

Another brainstorming session added more monkeys and a few other flourishes. This was the design as of April 4.

Fifth concept art

Almost there, almost there...

This drawing from April 8 was pretty much the end of the design process. The next steps were to finalize the name and work on a color scheme that we could carry out on our budget. Some colors are very hard to achieve on a float as sometimes the materials are too hard to work with, don't grow for that time of year, or simply just cost way too much.

Final color concept art

Finally, after all sorts of calculating what we could do and how to do it, we had a color scheme and Stacia brought it to life in our final concept design. There had been all sorts of changes along the way but the end result was very faithful to our original concept so we were quite happy with it.

More about the design and building of the float