In December, Inglewood Drive in Toronto becomes “Kringlewood” because almost everyone puts up a giant inflatable Santa Claus. That started in 2013, as the neighborhood embraced the absurdity of giant inflatable holiday decorations. You see them everywhere, but where do they come from?
Most of the oversized blow-up decorations you see staked and inflated on holidays like Halloween and Christmas are from a company called Gemmy. (Last year, the company estimated they owned 90-95% of the market share.) They’re the same business behind the Big Mouth Billy Bass, the singing animatronic fish that took the country by storm around the turn of the millennium — a truly viral moment before we called things “viral moments” (just be glad that caroling fish and TikTok didn’t intersect). As the Wall Street Journal reported in 2006, Gemmy had moved on to inflatable decorations after positing that regular consumers would get a kick out of owning versions of the “gorillas and dinosaurs that retailers sometimes use to announce grand openings and sales.” They were right.
Even back then, the Journal made note of the immense size (four to 12 feet tall) and relatively high price (up to $300) of the inflatable decorations, but you get the sense in the article that the popularity was among the kind of people who set their Christmas lights to music; and certainly those who take pride in their annual festive displays — I’m thinking Tim Taylor in the sitcom Home Improvement here — go through phases and trends like any hobbyist. But slowly, surely, these inflatables started spreading to more conventional households, the kind who had traditionally just pulled out the same box of string lights and garland every year.
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