"How much time do you want to try to get on camera?" Joe Monaly, the front-seat observer of the Eastman Kodak float, called out through his headset.
Scrunched inside a plywood and steel cockpit, the float's driver, Mark Bevan, grinned. "As much as we can soak them for," he said.
To every float operator, the row of TV cameras on Colorado Boulevard after the turn from Orange Grove Boulevard is the most important stretch of the Rose Parade. The Kodak float, a pirate ship thrust out of the seas by a serpent, was not about to miss its picture-perfect moment, which came at 9:05 a.m. Wednesday.
"You want to get the most air time without slowing down the procession," Bevan said, as he kept his eyes on the pavement below his feet, where a pink painted line led down the center of the parade route.
Monaly, who had the only clear view forward from a box hidden under the serpent's head, barked directions every few seconds. The animator, Dick Gillespie, swiveled the heads of the animal pirates to the cheers of the crowd.
"Our big objective is to get them to clap. We figure they've paid enough to get the seats. We should give them a show," Monaly said.
Bevan, who was spending his 36th consecutive New Year's Day driving a Rose Parade float, said camera time matters the most to their bosses -- the float's sponsors and builders. The ultimate shame, he said, is to be towed.
Five minutes later, they were by the cameras without a hitch. Though Bevan had to stop the float momentarily on Sierra Madre Boulevard, and Monaly had to climb out of his chamber to hold a wire as the animator lowered the masts to clear the Foothill Freeway overpass, they passed the route mostly free of care.
They joked about the tortillas they could see rolling by underneath the float and recalled the days when friends would drop off soda or beef jerky when they popped the hatches.
After two and a half hours of 80-degree temperatures inside the float, Monaly and Bevan emerged with seeds stuck to their shirts and headset-imprints on their hair, relieved that they had finished the parade without a tow.
They shook hands and then headed toward a row of green stalls.
"The best part about finishing early is that the Port-a-Potties are new," Monaly said.