Rio Parade Floats Majesty Photos

Brazil Carnival Floats: Majestic Giants of Carnival Parades

Brazil Carnival Parade or Rio samba parade, as sometimes referred by foreigners, as we all know have impressive numbers.  Just as to provide some figures, the Rio 2012 Carnival itself (excluding all other Brazilian parades and expressions) attracted 5.3 million tourists, (being 850 thousand from abroad), had 215 samba-schools of different sizes (some with up to 4.000 revelers each), revenues derived from tourism of US$ 1 billion, broadcast reach to 180 countries, and more than 6.000 media professionals (from Brazil and abroad).   Samba dancers’ graciousness, as well as the glamour of the Brazilian Carnival costumes or fancy dress costumes carnival are also already well-known and even being exported, in mini-parades or pocket samba-shows.

Below, the impressive "King-Kong Float", from Salgueiro, 2011.  

Carnival of Rio Parade Floats

Photo Credit: Bruna Prado / Futura Press Rio

The samba beat  on the other hand, also faces a crescendo, with the increasing use of samba songs re-mixes into the “pop” music environment or even sung on their original style, but in many different and exotic languages such as Japanese, Finish, and even Arabic!   The stunning charm of the Brazilian Carnival Divas goes without saying, as many even consider them a world “synonym” for Brazil.    But still, there are many other elements that are still left un-explored by Carnival and festival parade lovers all around the world, and which without them, Rio´s Carnival not be celebrated as the  “the World´s  Greatest `Party on the planet”.    One of these items, is the subject we will explore today: The magnificent and ostentatious world of Carnival floats in Brazil.


The perfection of details of a cup of tea, were reproduced at this e “British Five Clock Tea”  Float from União da Ilha Samba School  in 2012

Floats Photos of Rio Parade

Photo Credit: Ricardo Moraes / Reuters

The ´s website called carnival cultureexplains and the defined the origins of this important element constituent of the Rio Carnival parades.  But that constitutes only an introduction on the theme of the carnival floats, which is pretty complex and lengthy.   Carnival floats in Brazil started out very humbly, with simple structures of wood and were initially improvised and mounted on cars or trucks.   Some of the first historic photos of Brazilian Carnival floats were registered still on the 20´s!  This is really impressive!  Smaller type of “floats”, which may not be technically considered as true parade floats, were registered even before, in 1915 in Rio´s street carnival, with small “sculptures” mounted on regular cars, with revelers dressed as masquerades, in the famous “confetti battles”, played at Rio Branco Avenue in Rio de Janeiro.

Below, one of example of a luxurious floats built in Rio, which can cost anywhere from US$ 150,000,00 to US$ 230,000.00 


Today, carnival floats in Rio and São Paulo parades became essential artistic adornments not only within the contest scenario, but within the carnival industry itself.  Brazilian Carnival floats in order to excel today at the competitive environment of the samba-schools contests, need to have several characteristics such as reliability, functionality, versatility, combined of course, with the prized carnival aesthetics of the Brazilian carnival.

To provide new carnival readers some specific requirements of the “giants of the parades”, within Rio´s “Special Group”, which is the elite team of Rio ´s Carnival Samba Schools, each samba-school/ group is obliged to parade minimally with 5 Carnival Floats and a maximum of 8.  Their measurements are regulated by a board, and have to be within certain limits.  If for example, they stop because of any mechanical problem, during the parade itself, the samba-school may be penalized or even disqualified.   Some the floats have reached impressive 40-60 meters in terms of length, having in average 8 meters-10 meters in terms of maximum width:

Carnival Float Description:  The luxururious “Dragons from Thailand” from Estacio in 2007

Brazils Carnival parade floats

Photo Credit: Jaime Silva - Prefeitura do Rio de Janeiro Divulgação

These are truly “Titanic” measurements and opens space for the creativity of Carnival Art Directors.  On the other hand, it creates “interesting problems” for the carnival and logistics engineers who have to make those eccentric but magnificent Floats, not only functional, but in a way that none of the “inside gears”, appear.    This is one of the greatest tasks of these truly creative engineers, who are able to “hide” complex wooden, iron, steel, glass structures to mention a few, and make everything look light and magical.  


Carnival Float Description: 

Brazilian Parade Floats old

Photo Credit: Internet Video

Below we compiled a list of some historic floats which have paraded in Rio: Just a very tiny selection, which caused a great public response and emotion.

The “King Kong & Empire State Scene” Float – Salgueiro 2011

The “Pioneers of Brazil” Float, by Cubango in 2007 Rio Carnival parade

The “DNA float” by Paulo Barros, Unidos da Tijuca 2004, with live human sculptures

The Mangueira 2007 Float, representing “The Brazilian Modernist Week 1922” 

The classic  1986 Beija-Flor Float “The World is a Ball”, by the late Carnival Art Director Joaozinho Trinta

The “Origin of Species – Darwin” Float in 2007, by Vila Isabel Samba School

Original “flying Mulata” float of 2012 Sao Clemente Samba-School, (technically not a true float, but an adornment)

The “Queen of Egypt Nefertiti “Float of Salgueiro  in 2007, rich and powerful

The “Mandela tribute & opening Float” from Porto da Pedra in 2007

The “British Five Clock Tea” from União da Ilha Samba School in 2012, a finishing perfection 

And Finally, the luxurious, “Dragons from Thailand” from Estacio in 2007  


Carnival Adorment Description: "Flying Mulata Dancer" from São Clemente 2012 led the crowd wild and hipnotized!

Mulata Float in RIo CArnival 2012

Photo Credit: Rodrigo Gorosito /

Monumental carnival floats may cause really “giant” problems too.  If on one hand, they have the power to cause awe and impressive sensations to samba spectators, sometimes if not well adjusted, especially with regards to their projected scale to which they were originally designed; real problems could arise at the final parade day.   The iconic “King Kong Float” presented by Salgueiro Samba-School in 2011, was one of these astounding masterpieces.   Impeccable in terms of the materials used, adaptation to the parade theme (which was about historical movies & cinema), finishing, but….size.   It was so large, that it had a problem entering Rio´s Sambadrome in 2011, which cost Salgueiro valuable points at the final carnival contest results, and consequently Rio de Janeiro Special Group Carnival title.  

Carnival Float Description: The Brazilian Modernist Week 1922” by Mangueira in 2007 is also contasntly remembered because of its originality and fidelity to the theme.

Mangueira Float Rio

Photo Credit: Jaime Silva - Prefeitura do Rio de Janeiro Divulgação

To a certain extent, many carnival experts considered Salgueiro´s parade in 2011 the best, apart from this problem.  To make a long story short, Beija-Flor Samba School won the coveted title and Salgueiro ended up in 5th place.  Because of scale mistake, the float caused the samba-school, who´s official parade was “Salgueiro Apresenta: O Rio no Cinema!”, “discounted” points in several contest criteria such as "Harmony, “Evolution”, “Overall Parade” ( Conjunto), to mention only two.   So, although Salgueiro 2011 “King King” float was a true bliss for the public, when it finally was able to roll in, and cause a true public commotion, they had already ( unfortunately ) lost it, in terms of the contest, of course.


Carnival Float Description: Below anonther float with a spetacular frontal view, by Estacio de Sá Samba School in 2007 .  We see in the front, the amazing Sabrina Sato, Queen of Drums for Vila in 2012

Giant Brazil Carnival Float

Photo Credit: Danielle Cezar  - Prefeitura do Rio de Janeiro Divulgação

This example shows how floats and adornments are important in the Brazilian Carnival parades.  They may help you win a carnival championship, (or get to the first positions, like Unidos da Tijuca´s  “Human DNA” float  in 2004) , or flunk your parade.   No detail may be left at stake.  As we said at the beginning of the article: the aesthetics, the materials applied, the adherence of the float proposition to the parade theme, the insides-engineering, and finally their appropriate scale (to mention the most important aspects to be viewed and reviewed). 


Carnival Float Description: Iconic “DNA float” by Paulo Barros, Unidos da Tijuca 2004, with live human sculptures, set a new standard in terms of carnival floats in Brazil

Human sculptures float Tiuca

Photo Credit: Unidos da Tijuca Samba-School Arquives - Promotion 

Nonetheless, Carnival floats today in Rio or Sao Paulo may cost up to US 250,000.00 each, have up to 100 meters in full length, and be hand tailored with marble and crystals.  But much like everything else within Brazil´s Carnival and samba world, if they don´t have almost an “inner soul and identity”, the samba will surely not flow.    

Carnival Float Description:  This Float from Cubango Samba-School, shows how even samba-schools from the 2nd Group, are capable of building magnificent carnival floats, bringing everyone at Brazilian Sambadrome ´s to awe!

Brazilian Photos Floats Carnival

Photo Credit: Danielle Cezar  - Prefeitura do Rio de Janeiro Divulgação

We hope new carnival lovers and readers were able with this article to grasp a little bit more of this enormous carnival culture of the carnival floats, which are essential elements and expressions of the foundations of Brazil´s Carnival.

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