The South Pasadena Tournament of Roses is proud to be the oldest of all self-built floats in the Rose Parade. The float is built and decorated in the City of South Pasadena and relies on volunteers to design, build and decorate the floral masterpiece.
Brian Ewing, a longtime South Pasadena resident, was inspired to submit a float concept ten years ago. We chatted with him about design and his love of toys.
Are you a South Pasadenan?
Yeah, I would definitely consider myself a South Pasadenan. My parents moved into town from Arcadia when I was less than a year old. I’ve pretty much been here my whole life and attended South Pas schools through High School and then taking a 13 year sabbatical in the So Cal beach communities for college and initial jobs out of school.
I graduated from CSULB with a BS in Industrial Design and moved on through many experiences designing a variety of consumer products from surge protectors to motocross chest protectors to toys. It was a lot of fun having the opportunity to work on such a wide variety of products.
Then one day a good friend of mine from school convinced me to interview at Mattel….where the next phase of my design career took over….a love of toy design, which is primarily where I have been ever since.
I’m currently with Disney for the past 14+ years working on just about every franchise they have from Mickey preschool toys to Star Wars toys. I’m now full-time on the Lucasfilm team, designing Star Wars toys, collectibles and role-play costumes for Galaxy’s Edge at the Parks. A true dream come true for me and my love of Star Wars.
Somewhere amidst my career path, I made it back to South Pasadena right when I started working at Disney Stores, which was located in Pasadena at the time. I bought the house I grew up in from my parents, which is truly home for me and a great sense of comfort in this amazing small community of South Pasadena that I call home!
What sparked you to submit a design?
It’s funny, I had always thought about submitting a design concept for the South Pas float throughout my design career, but quite honestly never had the time to do it. Work kept me very busy. Then, 10 years ago, a family friend, Alan Vlacich, I believe member of the Float Committee, reached out to me to come up with a concept for the float.
So, I thought it could be a cool thing to try and an exciting diversion from my usual line of work. The theme was “Imagine”…so that’s where my brainstorm process kicked in and I began jotting down ideas.
Where did the design inspiration come from?
As I started brainstorming float concepts, I tried to relate the theme “Imagine” with the story of South Pasadena and what makes us unique. Instantly, the idea of ostriches came to mind since I know the city was the home to the famous Cawston Ostrich Farm in the late 1800’s. It went from there and quickly developed into “what would an ostrich imagine”. Well, how about flying?
So, then I began to expand on that idea with other iconic South Pasadena symbols…the water tower on Monterey Hills became the perfect launch pad for an aspiring ostrich to take his first flight. In keeping with the idea of when ostriches actually existed in the city, I started thinking a rudimentary mechanical wing contraptions attached to the ostrich, such as a Jules Verne or Leonardo DaVinci type device which could be a fun apparatus the ostrich might have acquired during that time.
I was thinking in line with the many other floats I had seen over the years with cool mechanical movements, which is why I had gone with the all out “blue sky” direction to have a really fun animated float, of course, with the cost savings and possible removal of features necessary for budget in mind.
In my line of work, you shoot for the moon with concept designs. Therefore, it is a true testament of a seasoned designer to work with budgetary limitations and manufacturing restrictions to make a final product that still has the true essence of the original concept.
When did you submit the design?
I submitted the concept 10 years ago, about 1 year before it would have actually become the South Pasadena float, had it been chosen back then, since that’s how far in advance they start the process in building the float for the following year. Design and development takes time.
After submitting it though, I did receive a little feedback that the committee liked it, but thought it may be a little too “involved” and cost prohibitive to build. In hindsight, I would have loved to have had the opportunity to carry through the design changes and made it work for the city.
In the end, I’m very excited to see a version of my concept become an actual float for this year’s Rose Parade.
How long did it take to put your design submission together? In what medium?
Honestly, the entire brainstorming process and sketching up the idea with pencil and paper took maybe 3 hours total. The ideas came quick to me and I sketched it up fast just trying to get an initial concept to Alan quickly since they were on a deadline. It was just a matter of drawing up the concept and emailing it to him. It was that simple.
Thanks to homegrown talent, Brian Ewing, and his float concept about how an ostrich could fly, the South Pasadena Tournament of Roses float is getting ready for it’s closeup in the 2022 Rose Parade.