Archive | November 2015

Journeys Through Life – We’re Going Back, 30th Anniversary Celebration – Day 4

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In 2010, Joe Walser and a dedicated group of Back to the Future fans, came together to pull off We’re Going Back: The 25th Anniversary Fan Celebration of Back to the Future. The event took fans to many of the film’s locations, held meet-and-greets with cast and crew, and much, much more!

I almost considered going in 2010, but held off…figuring that when the big future-date in the film’s sequel hit, I’d find myself traveling to Hill Valley, in the year 2015.

I jetted out to the west coast in late October, and was soon surrounded by several hundred fans, as we wandered the Courthouse Square, rode DeLoreans on railroad tracks, flew around on hoverboards, and found ourselves at The Enchantment Under The Sea dance (to name just a few things).

Returning to the present, I decided to add my trip to the Journeys Through Life section on my blog, telling a little about my once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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After a breakneck 3 days of being bussed to Universal Studios, the town of Fillmore, and a number of areas around the Los Angeles area, day 4 of We’re Going Back’s events slowed things down a bit.

The majority of the day’s events, would take place at the Hollywood United Methodist Church, at the corner of Highland and Franklin Ave.

It may seem odd, but the church is connected to the film series. For portions of the interior Enchantment Under The Sea dance scenes, the filmmakers found that Whittier High School’s gym was too ‘modern.’

The old-fashioned feel of the Methodist Church’s gymnasium, seemed just right for the big event that we saw on film.

As we lined up to head into the gym, several WGB volunteers were setting up the Lyon Estates signs, that we had seen up in Arleta the night before. Word was the signs would be part of the day’s upcoming auction.

WGB42The line soon started moving, and as we entered through the gym’s rear exit, my ‘reference-senses’ started tingling. We were entering through the area in the first film, where Marty exited the stage, and talked to Lorraine and George, before heading off to get back to the future!

The view from inside the gymnasium, was a little different. While we had seen it decked out with sea-specific theming on-screen, it was a whole other world as an ordinary gymnasium.

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Chairs had been set up in the center, and a number of tables had been placed against the walls. Close to the stage, a number of display cases were set up, showing several of the same auction pieces that we saw up in Fillmore, on the second day.

Many of us quickly took our seats, for the morning’s first event: the premiere of Outatime: Saving The DeLorean Time Machine.

The documentary was only an hour long, but I was very impressed by what had been captured! I grew up watching making-of specials regarding things like cars, film, and animation, and the structure of the special reminded me of those great and informative pieces.

We also got to know a bit more about the condition of the vehicle over the years, as well as the monumentally crazy ways the restoration team went about returning the vehicle to its former glory.

WGB44During its time on the backlot, the vehicle’s Mr Fusion went missing, and in its place, Universal’s craftsmen had concocted a faux-Mr Fusion. It was basically a wrapped metal cylinder, with the logo on it, and the team brought it along to show the audience (see left).

After the film wrapped, the main floor was turned over to those that were going to be bidding on the Screen-used.com auction, which would take bids from both our group, and online bidders.

WGB45One of the original dresses that Mary Steenburgen wore in Part III was also on display as part of the auction, and Ms Erica D Breig accepted my request to take a picture of her next to the original prop.

Erica had caught my eye (and the eyes of many others), with her Facebook announcement that she was crafting her own version of Clara Clayton’s purple travel dress, to be worn during the 5-day event. We had seen her wearing it the day before, but today, was probably the last time we’d be able to see her version, as well as one from the actual film, together under one roof!

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Looking over the screen-used dress, it was amazing to see so many details up-close. The buttons on the front were flower-shaped, and an intricate array of beading was interwoven into the piece. There were even some intricate leaf patterns stitched into the darker portions of the dress: details you would never see on-screen!

The auction soon got under way, and a number of different props and production pieces were soon paraded in front of the group. Some of them were not on hand, but would be sent to the winning bidder later on.

In a few cases, it was a mad roundabout between bidders online, and those in their seats. A set of blueprints from one of the 1955 sets, went for upwards of $1,200 at one point.

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One of the most surprising moments came in regards to a set of 100 pages of casting/call-sheets. These sheets had pages from the period of time when Eric Stoltz played Marty McFly, up through when Michael J Fox took over the role. Bidding for the lot started at $4,000, but after several minutes of trying to get the audience to ‘bite,’ the lot went unsold!

During the auction, I wandered out into the main courtyard of the church. Preparations were already being made for the evening guests in various places.

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Notable among the setups, were these black panthers, supporting a reproduction of the film’s iconic clockface, a nod to the three items that sat high above Hill Valley’s town square. Word afterwards, was that these panthers were rented directly from Universal, and happened to be the same ones we had seen on-screen!

After the auction ended at 1, we were give a 5-hour break, while the crew set up for the dance.

During this time, I and a few other people returned to Griffith Park, to take a closer look at the ‘starting line’ and tunnel locations we did not get to see the previous day.

WGB410Finally, as 6 pm approached, many of us made our way to the church. While the majority were dressed in dance-appropriate attire, there were some that were casually-dressed, and quite a few were in costume.

After walking the Orange Carpet, we passed through a gated archway into the main courtyard, where the panthers and clockface resided.

A number of selling tables were also set up in the courtyard area. Terry and Oliver Holler manned their booth raising funds for Fox’s foundation, and the authors of The Back to the Future Almanac (which is said to contain information on every BTTF-related product there is!) were selling their book as well (word was that a number of Australian fans were eagerly snapping up copies, as shipping and handling on the huge book, would have been equal to its $55 price-tag!). We’re Going Back also manned a table of their own, where a number of specially-made shirts for the event, could be purchased from.

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Much of the gymnasium was open for dancing, with The Flux Capacitors providing the majority of our night’s entertainment. They whipped through several songs from the 80’s, and while they didn’t get around to covering We Built This City (on Rock and Roll), they did press my buttons when they tackled Kenny Loggins’ Footloose, and brought us all together with renditions of Huey Lewis’ Power of Love, and Back in Time.

While lunch had not been provided earlier in the day, many wondered if we’d be fed at the dance. Along with bottled water, the event organizers had taken a cue from Back to the Future Part II’s marketing, supplying us with an evening supper of Pepsi products, and Pizza Hut pizza.

Along the walls at the back and to the far-right of the stage, were designated tables for guests to talk and sign autographs at.

Given the closeness of the dance to the hostel I was staying at, I took the opportunity to purchase Michael Klastorin’s newly-released book, Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History, straight from the man himself (he was also the Unit Publicist on the trilogy’s 2nd and 3rd films)! It was funny when Michael got a kick out of us sharing the same first name (seriously, there seemed to be a lot of Michael’s working on the trilogy!), and his wife later said she wished she had taken a picture, as my face seemed to light up as Michael personalized his signature to me.

A few other members of the crew showed up at the event, including editors Arthur Schmidt, and Harry Keramidas. Both of them had worked together on the entire trilogy, but I had wanted to talk to them about editing two of my favorite scenes: The Mall Chase, and The Clocktower Scene. These moments had been etched into my brain for years, and I often cite them as great examples of building tension, and inspiration whenever I try to build tense scenes, either on paper, or when editing in Premiere or After Effects.

WGB412There were also a number of cast that appeared, with the biggest draw being Lea Thompson, who took to the stage to welcome us, before spending most of her time meeting and greeting fans at her autograph table.

A number of other cast members showed up as well, including (just to name a few), Claudia Wells (Jennifer Parker from Part 1), Jeffrey Weissman(George McFly from Parts II & III), and Harry Waters, Jr (Marvin Berry, from Parts I & II).

Of the actors, Harry was a man I had to talk to. His interview in Caseen Gaines’ book We Don’t Need Roads, had been one of my favorite parts to read about, and I had to have a few words with the man whose rendition of Earth Angel, was probably the version almost all of us born in the 1980’s knew about (moreso than the original sung by The Penguins).

Later on in the evening, Harry would come to the stage several times. Along with re-enacting his role of Marvin Berry (complete with bandaged hand!) and singing Earth Angel for all of us, he gave a personal croon of  the song to several couples, who had made the song their ‘first dance’ at their wedding.

WGB413Then, he took to the stage for another special surprise. Many of us had been witness to a special marriage on the steps of the Courthouse at Universal a few days before…and tonight, another couple was taking a major step forward, into their future. Though not in the way of marriage, but a proposal…and the answer…was “Yes!”

Along with Harry and Lea, a number of special guests also entertained us on stage. Just like at 2010’s event, AJ Locascio came prepared with a guitar, playing and singing Johnny B Goode for us. AJ gained notoriety in the fandom, when he became the voice of Marty McFly in the Telltale Games’ release of Back to the Future: The Game in 2010, and it was nice to see he had taken the time to come out for the big event this time around.

We were also surprised when Mark Campbell took to the stage. Mark served as the singing voice for Michael J Fox on Johnny B Goode on film and on the soundtrack. While his voice may have changed a little over the years, there was something rather interesting about the singing voice we heard on those albums years ago, being on stage right in front of us.

WGB414And speaking of the 1980’s, one of the biggest surprises was when E Casanova Evans helped close out the night. Evans is known for being a Michael Jackson impersonator, and played the Max Headroom-like version of Jackson, in the Cafe 80’s scene in the second film.

Evans created a surreal image, as he performed 4 of Jackson’s songs, surrounded by props from the film, along with the dance’s banner hanging behind him. It was as if during those moments, the stage had become a ‘temporal junction point’ for our fandom…on the other hand, it could have just been an amazing coincidence thanks to our We’re Going Back event planners.

At 10pm, the lights came up, and the dance was officially over. While some walked out through the main exit, I couldn’t help but once again want to emulate Michael J Fox, and took my leave through the church’s exit door, near the stage.

Even after all that excitement, there were still “timely” surprises to be had afterwards.

Going around the hostel looking for an outlet to charge my phone later on, I rested my feet aching feet on a couch, and began to dig into The Ultimate Visual History. A few pages in, a new arrival at the hostel asked me where the bathroom was.

When he saw my book, what started as a little conversation about the We’re Going Back event (of which he had heard of!), soon snowballed into a 45-minute discussion about the trilogy, what was in Michael’s book, as well as the past few days (I’m still surprised noone poked their head out of a nearby door, telling us to be quiet).

As much as the big moments in my travels can be memorable, it’s often the little things like this encounter, that stand out. It was similar to encountering a couple dressed as Marty and Jennifer on ‘Future Day’ walking Hollywood Blvd, or meeting one family who were going ga-ga over all the Time Machines up in Fillmore.

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Come back soon for the chronicling of Day 5 of the We’re Going Back: 30th Anniversary CelebrationWe head over to City of Industry, CA, and the Puente Hills Mall. The day will include chats with several of the crew from the trilogy, before a grand event in the mall’s rear parking lot, with a few surprises in store!

Movie Review: The Good Dinosaur (with short: Sanjay’s Super Team)

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(Rated PG for peril, action and thematic elements)

Over the years, the media loves to make it sound like the Emeryville-based PIXAR Animation Studios staff, are super-geniuses that know how to construct the perfect story with little effort.

In truth, it’s often through a lot of hard work that they end up with the final product.

In his book Creativity Inc, Ed Catmull (one of PIXAR’s co-founders) shared several of the first concepts for a few of their films. After reading over them, it’s easy to see that those concepts were nowhere close to what the final product was.

The company has faced film re-structuring several times over the years. Films that have had change-ups during the production phase have included Ratatouille, Brave, and their most recent release, The Good Dinosaur.

Dinosaur’s structural change-up occurred in the Fall of 2013, with director Bob Peterson removed, and Peter Sohn brought in as a new director on the film. This also pushed the film back from its Summer 2014 release date, to the Fall of 2015 (which explains why last year was PIXAR-less when it came to animated features).

Not a whole lot has been put forward from Disney regarding The Good Dinosaur. The marketing campaign for this Summer’s Inside Out release felt 4 times bigger, which made me question if this film would be considered a ‘throwaway’ film, when I went to see it.

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In a world where an asteroid did not obliterate the dinosaurs, the large creatures have evolved to become the dominant species on the planet.

On a small farm, a family of Apatosauruses welcome three children into their lives. Of the three, it is the smallest named Arlo, that seems the most timid. Though his siblings give him a hard time regarding this, his parents try to assure him that he can do big things.

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One day, Arlo is washed away from his homestead, down a long and winding river. Far away from the safety of home, he begins the trek back through unknown (and possibly dangerous) territory. As he does so, he is soon joined by a feral human boy, whom he nicknames Spot.

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One of the things I’m unashamed to say regarding animated features, is that I actually enjoyed Cars 2. Despite it being the equivalent of The Phantom Menace in how people talk about PIXAR films, I found the story engaging, and emotional throughout the journey.

With The Good Dinosaur, I felt like I was holding my breath for the entire film, waiting for it to just grab my hand, and take me away fully into its storytelling…but that moment never seemed to come.

There were some interesting moments here-and-there, but overall, it feels like the film is PIXAR on auto-pilot (and it actually makes me wince to type that). There are some memorable moments, and a few that do tug at the heartstrings…but I couldn’t help but feel I should have felt ‘more’ regarding certain scenes. This was also one of the first PIXAR films I can recall, where I didn’t have a laugh-out-loud moment, and the small audience I saw it with, was rather quiet through most of the picture.

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Director Peter Sohn has been a fixture at PIXAR for a long time. He’s done animation, story, voices, and more. However, his short film Partly Cloudy (which was the short that played with Up in 2009), never fully seemed to entrance me like a lot of people. Sohn’s style of direction reminds me a little of the issues I have with director Pete Doctor: they can’t quite make the structure work as a cohesive whole (though Doctor has improved greatly with Inside Out).

At the start of the film, a question popped into my head when I first heard Arlo’s parents speaking with a Southern drawl, but halfway through the film, it finally clicked: The Good Dinosaur is a prehistoric Western! The grand vistas, a (lawless) wilderness with mountain ranges and wide-open plains…and, even Sam Elliott voicing a T-Rex!

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In fact, the point in the story with the T-Rexes, is about where it feels the most interesting from a character interaction standpoint. It reminded me of the feeling in Finding Nemo, when we meet up with the sea turtles, and while it might not have been as entertaining, it felt like the first solid character interaction scene Arlo has with the supporting cast.

Unlike going the route for photo-realism with its creatures, PIXAR chose exaggerated-realism for this film.

The T-Rexes look like someone melded a rider’s bobbing motions, and a horse’s gallop. It’s a little strange to see this at first, given how we’ve come to see T-Rex motion in the last few decades, but animation is often about exaggeration, and pretty soon, it helps to build ‘the character,’ rather than ‘the animal.’

Arlo is another example of exaggeration. With his knobby knees and large feet, his body looks the most gangly of his family, and it is rather easy for him to trip himself up… which feels like it happens a little too often for my tastes.

The film also gives us some other background creatures, that are evolved in a much different way. Some of them at first look familiar…but if you look a little closer, you’ll see the slightest of changes.

If the film lacks in giving us memorable supporting players, it finds more solid ground in its ‘a dinosaur and his boy’ story. The little moments between Arlo and Spot, really showcase the solid characterization PIXAR strives for in every film they do.

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Another area that will most likely enthrall viewers, is in the amazing attention-to-detail given to the environments, and texturing on the characters!

I found myself on many occasions, just scrutinizing so much of the on-screen detail. PIXAR films have often been the kind that you put in your Blu-Ray player to showcase what your home theater system can do, and so many scenes in Dinosaur feel just right for such demonstrations.

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Short Review: Sanjay’s Super Team

Of course, what would a PIXAR film be without an animated short at the beginning? Much like their experimentation with shorts like Boundin’ and The Blue Umbrella, Sanjay’s Super Team goes in a new direction.

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While little Sanjay wishes to watch his favorite cartoon about a trio of superheroes, his father demands he perform their daily meditative rituals. Sanjay reluctantly does so…but soon, a small incident evolves into an imaginative battle in the young boy’s mind.

In a way, Sanjay’s Super Team almost feels like Peter Sohn’s short Partly Cloudy. Just as Sohn made Cloudy as a tribute to his Mom and their struggle to communicate, it appears that Patel has made Sanjay with the same idea in mind: a love-letter to his Father.

The overall story doesn’t really feel strong, but it is in its concept and execution, that Super Team proves itself a step away from the standard concept shots one finds. The stylization of Sanjay and the other characters, brings about a fantasy that takes place in an intriguing world of darkness and light, almost the way The Grid of Tron: Legacy was rendered.

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Final Grade for “The Good Dinosaur”: B- (Final Thoughts: “The Good Dinosaur” is an earnest film that, much like its lead character Arlo, struggles to prove itself. However, it’s story can’t help but feel hollow in quite a few places, and is one of the first films from PIXAR, without a memorable cast of supporting characters. Though much like Baymax and Hiro, the bond between Arlo and Spot is what the filmmakers have chosen to focus on, which provides one of the bright spots in film. The amazing detail and rendering of the natural world is definitely one of the highlights of the film, and puts it on a level-of-detail similar to that seen in “WALL-E,” or “Brave”)

Final Grade for “Sanjay’s Super Team”: B (Final Thoughts: Sanjay Patel’s ode to his family, is a fun little short, that plays unconventional styles and storylines. More Eastern than Western at times in regards to its material, it shows that PIXAR is a studio that is not afraid to think outside the box)

 

Journeys Through Life – We’re Going Back, 30th Anniversary Celebration – Day 3

In 2010, Joe Walser and a dedicated group of Back to the Future fans, came together to pull off We’re Going Back: The 25th Anniversary Fan Celebration of Back to the Future. The event took fans to many of the film’s locations, held meet-and-greets with cast and crew, and much, much more!

I almost considered going in 2010, but held off…figuring that when the big future-date in the film’s sequel hit, I’d find myself traveling to Hill Valley, in the year 2015.

I jetted out to the west coast in late October, and was soon surrounded by several hundred fans, as we wandered the Courthouse Square, rode DeLoreans on railroad tracks, flew around on hoverboards, and found ourselves at The Enchantment Under The Sea dance (to name just a few things).

Returning to the present, I decided to add my trip to the Journeys Through Life section on my blog, telling a little about my once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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Day 3 opened up to another sunny day in Los Angeles. While our last two days of the We’re Going Back event had largely been confined to just one location, today’s activities would really get some mileage out of our coach buses.

Ever since I had researched the Back to the Future films years ago, I had often entertained the thought of visiting several of the filming locations, beyond the iconic Courthouse Square on the Universal Studios backlot…and today, several more lines on my BTTF bucket-list would be crossed off!

Our journey would first take us to the entrance of Griffith Park, which had two locations featured in the trilogy.

In the first film, 1955 Doc directs Marty to a starting line he’s painted, where the time-displaced teenager will start his ‘race’ to get back to the future.

Also along that same road, winding its way towards the Griffith Park Observatory, is a tunnel that was featured in Part II. The tunnel would figure into a fight for the Grey’s Sports Almanac, between Marty, and 1955 Biff Tannen.

WGB303Our first stop would be the tunnel, but as we were preparing to park, several of the security staff came up, informing us that we were not allowed to park, or offload.

With our access now denied, this part of the location tour was scratched. We snapped pictures going back through the tunnel, and on our way out of the park, idled for a few minutes near the tree where the starting line was. Some of us had forgotten just where the location was, until one of our WGB volunteers screeched to a halt next to us in his Time Machine, cluing us in to the location.

We then headed east towards Pasadena, and to a more familiar locale: The Gamble House, which had served as The Brown Family mansion in 1955, where Doc lived.

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While we were allowed to wander the grounds, we were not allowed inside the main house.

The house’s garage had been converted into a gift shop, and we did get the chance to take a look inside there. Given how much space Doc and Marty had to work with inside the garage in the films, it was easy to see that the filmmakers used a “Tardis-like” logic when deciding how big the inside of the structure was.

WGB306Several DeLoreans and Time Machines rolled up during the event, but a surprise blast from the past soon appeared: the yellow 1948 Packard that Doc used to own, soon materialized before our very eyes! Many of us quickly descended on it, to get an up-close look at a vehicle that many of the first film’s crew had high praise for (unlike the Time Machine, the Packard was very reliable!).

WGB’s official Marty McFly, Tyler Dunivan, also reprised his role while at the house, and was joined by another person (name unknown), dressed as Doc from 1955.

WGB307The two first re-enacted Marty chasing Doc to his garage, before posing for pictures with many of the fans.

We were then herded back onto the buses, and taken to Bushnell Avenue in South Pasadena, where a couple familiar locales from 1955 Hill Valley, were also located!

Bushnell Avenue also has a prominent place in Back to the Future lore. One story Michael J Fox tells, is that while filming part of Teen Wolf on the street, he met location scouts who were looking for places to use in the first Back to the Future film. Deep down, Fox wished he could be on a film like that, not realizing what would be in store for him soon.

WGB308Amazingly, Bushnell Ave ended up being a one-stop neighborhood for the 1955 segments of the first two films.

As we walked up the street from the buses, a familiar house came into view: the residence of 1950’s Biff Tannen, and his unseen (yet loud-mouthed) Grandma.

While we were observing the house, the next-door-neighbor shared a behind-the-scenes story when they filmed Part II. Apparently, Tom Wilson who played Biff, was not that knowledgeable with his 46 Ford’s stick-shift, and kept stalling out the car. One scene they filmed,where he pulled out of theWGB321 driveway, just as Doc was coming up the street to get Marty, was shot at least 8 times, and was quite an ordeal to reset after every take.

A few doors down, was a house with a second-floor porch, where Biff had thrown a ball he had taken from some neighbor kids. What was funny, was that the family that lived in the house, got into the spirit of the film that day. They had a number of balls in their front yard, and gave anyone the opportunity to throw one onto the upper porch. Sadly, we didn’t have any 1955 Biffs with us that day to re-enact the scene from Part II, but we did have a 1985-A Biff that did a pretty good lob!

WGB311Right next door to this house, was the residence of Lorraine and her family. Also, in the strange line-up of coincidences, this house was where Michael J Fox’s character lived in the film Teen Wolf!

Right across the street, was ‘the peeping tree,’ where Marty caught his Dad spying on his Mom.

Numerous people scaled the tree, and some of us even re-enacted the getting-hit-by-a-car moment from the film, on the street nearby.

WGB313Several doors up from Lorraine’s place, was George McFly’s house. Though glimpsed briefly in one scene, a deleted scene (which can be found on the DVD/Blu-Ray releases) showed Marty climbing out onto the latticework after chloroforming George after the “Darth Vader” scene.

The street also afforded many great photo opportunities for a number of us who had dressed up for the day.

WGB310These included everything from a paradox-inducing stupor of 3 dozen Marty’s and 7 Doc’s recreating the end of Part II, 3 dozen Marty’s lying in the middle of the street, and…all those Marty’s catching a young man up in the tree, spying!

All that time-jumping worked up an appetite, and from Pasadena, we then made the journey to Victory Blvd in Burbank, California. It was here, that the first exterior location was seen in any of the films.

In 1985, Doc Brown’s garage is all that is left of his family’s mansion, as the area around had been sold off for Commercial development. One of those developments, is a Burger King restaurant…which if one notices all the cups and wrappers in the garage, is where Doc gets most of his food from.

WGB312We were originally scheduled to eat inside the restaurant, but a grease-fire in August, cancelled those plans. Fortunately, a deal was struck where we could still eat some BK, though it’d be in the parking lot of the restaurant.

In reality, Doc Brown’s garage (the same one we saw in Pasadena at The Gamble House) didn’t exist at this location. It was actually a false-front, anchored into the ground, behind the Burger King’s parking lot. Until the last pave-over of the parking lot area, one could still find the anchor-holes that were drilled into the pavement, dating back to 1985.

WGB314After lunch, we then took an hour-long jaunt over to Whittier, California. The city’s high school had stood in for Hill Valley’s on film, both inside and outside.

Tyler Dunivan and Coral Timson (We’re Going Back’s official Marty McFly and Jennifer Parker character players), recreated a scene from the first film, before we entered through the halls, and out onto the central courtyard of the school.

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The courtyard had definitely been modernized since 1985, with newer landscaping, and much more. Even so, on could still pick out landmarks where certain scenes were filmed.

WGB317Many were also surprised when Claudia Wells (who played Jennifer Parker in the first film) appeared, along with Jeffrey Weissman (who played George McFly in the sequels). Both were soon surrounded by separate crowds, as they talked about their experiences on the films, took pictures, and signed autographs.

WGB320I took this time to wander the halls and other areas of the school. It was amazing how much mileage the filmmakers got out of the school. The layout of the hallways hadn’t changed, and the area around the school’s gymnasium in the rear, was familiar to some tense scenes from the first two films.

As the light started to fade from the sky, we loaded back onto the buses, and made the trek from Whittier, to Arleta.

It was in Arleta, that the filmmakers found the street to portray the Lyon Estates housing development…and down Roslyndale Ave, the house where Marty lived with his family, in 1985.

There was even fun to be had on the road to Arleta. Close to the neighborhood, we passed a 7-11 on the left side of the bus. “Hey, you think that’s where Marty learned how to play Wild Gunman?” asked one person on the bus. It was a joke that only the most knowledgeable of BTTF fans would get, and we all got a good laugh out of it.

By the time we arrived, a block party was in full-swing. A large screen had been set up that was displaying videos, and people from all over the neighborhood could be seen up and down the street. Several of the food trucks we had encountered in Fillmore the day before, had set up half-way down the block near some tables.

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The McFly house was lit with a number of different lights, but security were keeping many off the premises. One of the WGB volunteer’s Time Machines sat in the driveway, while a truck that looked just like Marty’s 4×4, sat in front of the garage.

Right behind them, the familiar silhouette of the overhead powerlines that we had seen in the films, could be seen against the starry sky. Word was, the filmmakers chose the location based on those powerlines, as it seemed to tie into the film’s theme of ‘power,’ be it electricity, or nuclear energy.

In recent years, there had been an article, mentioning that the house’s owner did not like fans visiting her property (and after what happened up in Astoria, Oregon, with the owner of The Goonies’ house, many of us didn’t want something similar to happen here).

In a neighboring yard, I asked a woman running a small snack stand if the owner of the house was away…only to find out that SHE was the owner! Naturally, I thanked her for allowing us crazy fanatics to come see her property, and she told me she was surprised how many nice people she had met that night (there was confirmation later on from her, that the article we had taken as truth, was largely fabricated regarding her views on fans).

Further on down the street, I was reminded that I had forgotten the location of the entrance to the Lyon Estates development. That reminder came in the familiar placement…of the iconic entry signs!

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These were some pretty amazing reproductions. When approaching them from the McFly house, they appeared to have graffiti, similar to how they were in 1985…but upon seeing them from the other side, it was apparent that one side of the gates was clean, allowing whomever owned them, to display them however they saw fit (quite clever!).

I and quite a few other people ended up getting our pictures taken in front of them, though a part of me really wished we could have encountered the street during the daylight hours.

As 10pm rolled around, we re-boarded Bus 37, and our driver Steve Polite (that’s what he told us his name was), brought us back into the heart of Hollywood, where we put another long day of Back to the Future fandom and frivolity, to rest.

All in all, the day had taken us to a vast majority of the film’s locations, but there were a few we didn’t get the chance to visit. Oh well…maybe one day, I’ll finish the journey. At least we got to see the more prominent filming locations on our third day’s journey.

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Come back soon for the chronicling of Day 4 of the We’re Going Back: 30th Anniversary Celebration. We slow down from our previous day’s whirlwind of activity, and go to the Hollywood United Methodist Church. Events include a screening of the DeLorean Time Machine restoration documentary Outatime, a Screen-Used.com auction, and The Enchantment Under The Sea dance.

Journeys Through Life – We’re Going Back, 30th Anniversary Celebration – Day 2

In 2010, Joe Walser and a dedicated group of Back to the Future fans, came together to pull off We’re Going Back: The 25th Anniversary Fan Celebration of Back to the Future. The event took fans to many of the film’s locations, held meet-and-greets with cast and crew, and much, much more!

I almost considered going in 2010, but held off…figuring that when the big future-date in the film’s sequel hit, I’d find myself traveling to Hill Valley, in the year 2015.

I jetted out to the west coast in late October, and was soon surrounded by several hundred fans, as we wandered the Courthouse Square, rode DeLoreans on railroad tracks, flew around on hoverboards, and found ourselves at The Enchantment Under The Sea dance (to name just a few things).

Returning to the present, I decided to add my trip to the Journeys Through Life section on my blog, telling a little about my once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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For our bus trip on the second day of the We’re Going Back event, we would find ourselves traveling far away from the Los Angeles area.

Heading north, and then taking a left onto California State Route 126, we soon found ourselves in some desert terrain, punctuated by small areas of farmland. Where were we heading to? The Old West? The Hilldale Housing Development?

Nope. We were heading to Fillmore, California. Today, the sleepy little town of 15,000, had opened its doors to us Future fans, and would become Hill Valley, California!

For the day’s event, Fillmore had closed off part of the street around its Town Hall, where panther statues and a clock were placed, similar to the ones in Hill Valley in the film. A Welcome to Hill Valley sign had also been set up, and posters calling for the re-election of Mayor Goldie Wilson were everywhere. Even the official Back to the Future band known as The Flux Capacitors, played throughout the day on the Town Hall’s steps.

Several shops also displayed BTTF-related signage. A corner store hung a Cafe 80’s sign out front, the local antique store became Blast From The Past, and even the local movie theater got into the act (as seen on the left).

Upon arriving, many of us made a beeline for the theater, which was premiering the Kickstarter-funded documentary, Back in Time. The film gained national attention when it quickly reached its goal, showing that there was definitely a fanbase that wanted to see it.

Though there is plenty of material the filmmakers had to work with (they even got sit-down time with Steven Spielberg!), I couldn’t help but feel the film’s final product was a little muddled. Its structure seemed to be at odds with itself, as it tried to find a balance about the making of the Back to the Future films,  as well as those who were inspired by the films, and where that fandom led them.

Upon exiting the screening, we were each given special newspapers, inspired by those that had been seen during the course of the film’s trilogy. Those of us who attended the second screening, mainly received newspapers related to Doc Brown’s mansion being destroyed in 1962 (if you watch the beginning of the first film, you can see the same headline, framed on Doc’s bedroom wall).

Returning to the central area around the Town Hall, all manner of fans could be seen.

It was fun to see the amount of people that had dressed in costume for the event, including several that were very uncommon. There was a 1955 Biff Tannen with his henchman 3-D in tow, Griff Tannen and his hoverboard gang, “cowboy” Marty with Clara Clayton, and even Red the Bum from the first two films (“crazy drunk driver”)!

There were also some familiar faces when it came to stars of the film. For the first time since Back to the Future Part II, Griff Tannen’s gang members (played by Ricky Dean Logan, Jason Scott Lee, and Darlene Vogel), reunited for pictures and autographs.

There were also appearances by Matt Clark (who played Chester the bartender in Back to the Future Part III), and Al White (who played the father of the family living in the McFly’s home, in 1985-A Hill Valley, in Part II).

In the behind-the-scenes realm, I was surprised when a man in a salt-and-pepper beard complimented me on my 2015 Doc Brown costume. It turned out, this was ‘Dangerous’ Bob Widin, who had been the property master on all three of the films!

Bob was like those Uncles with a million stories to tell, and pretty soon, he was telling about how they tried to make Doc Browns’ 2015 metal glasses see-through (but failed), as well as how they constructed the 2015 barcode license plate for the Time Machine!

There were also a number of tented stands had been set up with all manner of items for sale. One was selling limited-edition reproductions of Marty McFly’s skateboard from the first film (re-issued exclusively for the We’re Going Back event!).

One stand was run by BTTF.com‘s founder, Stephen Clark. Stephen has been a one-man force-of-nature at his site, and has sometimes been called upon to write up product material related to the films. It was nice to finally meet the man behind the site.

I also managed to meet author Caseen Gaines again, who I had met some months earlier in Chicago, when he was promoting his book, We Don’t Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy. Caseen had read my book review, and I felt honored that he liked what I had to say.

Also on hand, were Terry and Oliver Holler. I had heard of them for years, and had gotten the chance to meet them in April of this year. Just like then, I appeared before them as 2015 Doc Brown!

The two were continuing to raise funds for Michael J Fox’s Parkinsons Foundation, and had found a once-in-a-lifetime way of doing it.

Their DeLorean Time Machine had been converted to ride on railroad tracks, and for a $50 donation, you could ride the rails too! First, you’d get a picture of you leaping from the Time Machine as a Diesel Engine (the same one that destroyed the DeLorean in Part III!) was about to pulverize you. Then, you’d back up in front of an older steam engine, and re-enact the scene where Marty sticks the Hoverboard out of the side of the DeLorean!

Of course, there weren’t just trains around. There were several regular DeLoreans, and quite a few Time Machines. A Toyota 4×4 that looked just like Marty’s from the film was parked nearby, and even the special 2015 Toyota Tacoma some of us had seen on Hollywood Blvd the night before, had made it out

One of the biggest vehicular surprises, was the appearance of Part II’s 2015 Hill Valley Police Car! For years, the only pictures many of us had seen of it, was of it sitting in a field, looking like it would fall apart at any moment. Apparently, the owner of the vehicle fixed it up, and brought it, along with another custom car that was seen in 2015 Hill Valley as well. Word was, the Police Car would be auctioned off in the future, at a later date.

Speaking of auctions, the company Screenused.com, was planning one themed around the films, that Saturday (October 24th). In the old Fillmore Bank Building, several of the props from the auction were on display, and some could even be brought out for a closer look. I will admit, one of the funniest moments, was seeing this couple dressed as Seamus and Maggie McFly (with baby William!), discussing the Pizza Hut hydrated pizza wrapper with a Screenused representative.

While many of us were enjoying the festivities, there was some concern over a special newsstand release by USA Today
that we wondered about.

Those of us who attended the Part II screening the day before had gotten an exclusive “Gang Jailed” edition (limited to only 1,000 copies printed!). The October 22nd, 2015 issue of USA Today with the “Youth Jailed” headline, was officially streeting the day we were up in Fillmore, to newsstands across the country!

However, I and many were unable to find a copy before the buses rolled out that morning (Not even a Starbucks on Hollywood Blvd at 7:30 am had them!), and none of the smaller stores in Fillmore carried USA Today. Online, there was word of some bojo’s, who were buying whole reams of the newspapers at various locations, leaving none for anyone else! After being shut out of the Pepsi Perfect loop the previous day, many of us wondered if we’d be left out of this nationwide promotion as well

Fortunately, luck came in the form of our fearless leader of the We’re Going Back event: Joe Walser. That afternoon, Joe and his family could be found at the tailgate of a Budget Rent-a-Truck along Fillmore’s main street, handing out USA Today papers to each person! Class act all the way, that Joe!

Of course, for those of us who purchased the day’s event package, there was one event we were mainly looking forward to: hoverboarding!

Hoverboarding had been held previously in 2010, and here, it was increased three-fold for the larger group in attendance.

Three Champion cranes had been set up in the town’s park area. By giving up one of your wristband tabs, you’d be strapped into a harness, and once lifted in the air, the crane would swing you in one direction, before sending you back the other way.

This was the same method used in making the boards fly when they filmed Part II, though not quite as cumbersome (the harnesses weren’t as elaborate as in the film).

My worst fear was that I’d be completely off-balance, as skateboards and rollerskates have never agreed with me. However, after a few seconds on the board, I was surprised how easy it was to balance on it!

As dusk fell on Fillmore, we made our way to several food trucks for dinner, and then to the town square, to watch Back to the Future Part III.

Unlike the other films in the series, this was only the second time I had seen Part III on a big-screen. It was definitely an experience, to take in what everyone’s reactions were, and I heard probably more whooping and applause than I can recall when I saw it on a Summer day in 1990 with my Dad…and yes, it was still painful to see the Time Machine pulverized by the Diesel (death) train.

As the screening wrapped up, many of us did the polite thing, and helped to fold-and-stack the numerous chairs that were provided for the event. Then, it was a short walk back to the buses, and the return trip to Los Angeles.

On the ride back, I and several of my new “Friends in Time,” talked about the day’s experience, as well as the films themselves. The talking on the buses in the late-night glow of the moon and stars, put me in mind of my high school days. Several of our high school marching band competitions had a similar after-event feel, and it was a moment in which I found a happy medium between nostalgia, and fandom.

By the time we got back to our drop-off location, we were all ready to get to sleep, and prepare for the next day’s adventure.

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Come back soon for the chronicling of Day 3 of the We’re Going Back: 30th Anniversary Celebration. We’ll travel back in time to visit Doc Brown’s former mansion, the street where Biff, Lorraine, AND George lived, as well as travel back to 1985 to check out a familiar Burger King, Hill Valley High School…and finally, Marty McFly’s home.

An Animated Dissection: My Top 5 Least-Favorite Star vs The Forces of Evil, Season 1 Segments

Now that the first season of Star vs The Forces of Evil has come to a close, I figured now would be a good time to do what most serious series viewers do: go back over the corpse, and start dissecting it, piece-by-piece!

I haven’t seen many other Top 5 or Top 10 lists pop up regarding Star, so I thought I’d be one of the first out there to do one.

Keep in mind that these decisions are largely based on my own tastes and views, and as such, I’m sure others will have their own preferences. But for now, here are my Top 5 least-favorite segments for Star vs The Forces of Evil’s first season.

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5 - Match Maker

5 – Match Maker

Given that this segment was the first following the very first episode, I had high hopes for Match Maker, notably once it started off at Echo Creek Academy.

Star is eager to play Match Maker around school, and her first target is their teacher, Ms Skullneck. However, her attempts to help, end up turning Skullneck into a troll. Star, Marco, and Skullneck then end up back at the Diaz’s household, attempting to fix the problem, but not before Ludo and his monsters show up.

The segment could have been a great ‘meet-the-student-body’ kind of experience, but once they turned Skullneck into a troll, and Ludo entered the picture, the whole thing (to me) just derailed in a big way.

In a rather ironic way, one of the themes talked of during Match Maker, is “distractions,” and that’s largely what the tone of the segment is: it seems to be stuck having ADD as it jumps from rail-to-rail, story-wise.

It’s a pity, because I feel this could have been so much better. Overall, it feels like a glorified cameo-fest at tunes, notably when we get our first segment appearance of Star’s ex-boyfriend, Tom, as well as a brief appearance by her Mom.

In looking over the episodes that came afterwards, I feel that the segment titled Interdimensional Field Trip, fulfilled the hopes I had for Match Maker.

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4 - Mewnipendence Day

4 – Mewnipendence Day

Other culture’s backstories are often something I and many look forward to in some series…though in this case, Mewnipendence Day tells about how revisionist history has tainted Star Butterfly’s views on her homeworld, and how she comes to grips with realizing there may be something more to what she’s been told.

On the other side of the story, we are also shown Toffee continuing to take over Ludo’s gang of monsters, and excising the thorn in his side…in this case, Ludo’s most loyal minion: Buff Frog.

Though Ludo has never been the smartest of monsters, it did feel like this  segment really made his competency levels plummet. Sure, he wasn’t in top form in his last appearance episode 8’s Fortune Cookies segment, but it really felt like he lost more than a few brain cells since his last appearance.

While there are a few decent moments in this one (I was intrigued by Toffee’s actions), most of the storypoints revolving around Star and her Mewnipendence Day battle-reenactment, just never seemed to hit on the emotional levels I was expecting.

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3 - Freeze Day

3 – Freeze Day

Some stories in a series can just be a bit, ‘bleah,’ and Freeze Day feels like one of those.

The concept of Star and Marco stuck in a time-frozen world, sounds like it could be something cool to work with, but they quickly get that idea out of the way in a few minutes. Instead, we are treated to a story regarding Father Time, who has gotten off the Wheel of Progress thanks to Star’s actions, and doesn’t seem ready to get back to his ‘daily grind.’

While there are a few fun moments, it almost feels like the story is trying to cross a river, and build a bridge over it at the same time. As well, Father Time’s easily distracted nature may remind some of another segment we saw this season (and it’s also on this list).

Even with what I’ve mentioned above, Freeze Day is not totally un-redeemable. The story points regarding Marco’s taking another step forward in trying to communicate to Jackie Lynn Thomas, did make it stand out in my mind…but a lot of what goes on before then, just feels like a madcap romp to kill 7 minutes of time.

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2 - The Banagic Incident

2 – The Banagic Incident

I think that if many people have a segment that just rubs them the wrong way in Season 1, it’s this one.

When Star sees an ad for The Banagic Wand (“Earth’s Coolest Magical Treat”), she soon goes on a quest through Echo Creek to obtain one…though to her, the entire journey is like some riddle-filled labyrinth, as she tries to find “a better store near her.”

We are dealing with a show that mentions the words ‘weird’ and ‘wild’ in its theme song, but to some, there’s only so much they can take. In this case, Star’s over-obsessing about the Banagic Wand, may have led some to wonder just what was going on in the story department for this episode.

Marco does figure into the plot a bit, but in truth, it feels like he wasn’t really needed. You could have just had him leave for his Karate lessons in the beginning, and come back through the door at the end of the piece, leaving it to mainly be just a Star-focused episode.

I couldn’t help but wonder if the segment, was a devious attempt by the writers and storyboard artists to see just how far they could push their audience, before they finally snapped and ran around the room screaming, “What is going on!?”

Of course, on many fan discussion areas, those 4 words were uttered over the segment’s rather enigmatic final moments, which ended up making many take the episode a little too seriously (in my opinion).

If anything, the concept did make me wonder: what would happen if Star Butterfly went to a theme park like Disneyland?

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1 - Pixtopia

1 – Pixtopia

Those who have read my reviews of SvTFoE, have probably seen Pixtopia‘s name pop up quite a few times. Personally, I can’t help but feel it’s the weakest of all the stories in Season 1.

When Marco, Ferguson, and Alfonzo use up all of Star’s ‘minutes’ on her Magic Mirror to make prank calls, they have to go to the world of Pixtopia to pay the bill. This leads to almost all of them being sent to work in the Shard Mines, except Ferguson, who soon catches the eye of the dimension’s Pixie Queen.

Given that production on Pixtopia was done during Toon City’s takeover of the animation duties from Mercury Filmworks, I can’t help but feel the segment may have suffered from the studio attempting to grasp how to process/animate the characters and scenarios. As such, a lot of the punchy/funny tone that we’d come to know and love in the first 5 episodes, feels like it’s missing in a lot of areas.

Along with the stylized movements feeling toned down, so much of what should be funny about this episode, just feels like they’re “shooting blanks.” The story bit about Star calling Marco and her “mess-up twins” for using up her mirror’s minutes, just feels like a joke that crashes-and-burns before it even gets off the ground. Even the joke about the Pixie Queen saying Ferguson “looks delicious,” doesn’t work either.

The Pixtopia dimension also feels like it’s passed over too quickly, all for the sake of squeezing the story into 11 minutes. One can easily see that the concept might have been better suited to a longer episode, which would have made Pixtopia, more entertaining.

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And there you have it, my Top 5 least-favorite segments from Season 1.

To balance out the negativity, stay tuned as in the next few weeks, the next SvtFoE post will be my Top 5 favorite segments from the first Season. As we also make our way into 2016, and get ready for Season 2, I’ll post a few  more posts regarding certain characters, questions, and more!

Journeys Through Life – We’re Going Back, 30th Anniversary Celebration – Day 1

In 2010, Joe Walser and a dedicated group of Back to the Future fans, came together to pull off We’re Going Back: The 25th Anniversary Fan Celebration of Back to the Future. The event took fans to many of the film’s locations, held meet-and-greets with cast and crew, and much, much more!

I almost considered going in 2010, but held off…figuring that when the big future-date in the film’s sequel hit, I’d find myself traveling to Hill Valley, in the year 2015.

I jetted out to the west coast in late October, and was soon surrounded by several hundred fans, as we wandered the Courthouse Square, rode DeLoreans on railroad tracks, flew around on hoverboards, and found ourselves at The Enchantment Under The Sea dance (to name just a few things).

Returning to the present, I decided to add my trip to the Journeys Through Life section on my blog, telling a little about my once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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As we boarded the buses to take us to the big site of the first day’s events, many of us were giddy that this day had finally come!

This wouldn’t just be any ordinary day, but one that had been seared into our brains, when Doc Brown announced in the first minutes of Back to the Future Part II:

“We’re descending toward Hill Valley, California, at 4:29 p.m., on Wednesday, October 21st, 2015!”

That fabled Wednesday was now upon us. Social Media had declared today “Future Day,” and Pepsi had planned to drop 6,500 limited edition Pepsi Perfect bottles online (FYI: none of us got them). And just where were we being bussed to? Universal Studios Hollywood, the studio that had given Back to the Future life, and where a number of exciting activities awaited.

As we arrived at the studio’s main gates several hours before the park fully-opened, several sets of tour trams greeted us. Some of the guides even tailored their spiels to us, and one guide even brought along his hoverboard!

The tour would stick to the general routes, but there was one special stop many of us were looking forward to.

I had ridden the tour several times, since my first visit there in 1990 (has it really been that long?). Of course, soon a familiar scene played over the monitors on the tram cars, and with a left turn, we found ourselves in a familiar place: Courthouse Square!

I had often seen this iconic backdrop from afar, or while sitting in a tour tram, but today, many like myself, could set foot on it!

Not much remains of the original set, except for the Courthouse building, which survived 2-3 fires that swept the backlot following the filming of the trilogy. Currently, the building’s pillars are hidden by a false front, as it is being used for episodes of the ABC series, Agent Carter.

Still, that didn’t stop many of us from wanting to get our pictures taken on the Courthouse steps, or wandering around, re-imagining where certain things were filmed. I found myself trying to re-trace Marty’s footsteps into 1955 Hill Valley (filming what his POV might have looked like), and also recreating Doc Brown’s triumphant jump-and-run, after the Time Machine sends Marty back to 1985.

What was most touching, was when a special ceremony was performed on the steps of the Courthouse building. One couple was able to find another fan to perform a wedding ceremony, and the event was witnessed by all of us!

As the tour continued, many of us were surprised to see the main ‘A’ car of the trilogy, sitting off to the side. The car had mainly been used for the ‘glory shots’ of the vehicle throughout the films, but had fallen into disrepair over 25 years since the last sequel. In 2012, Joe Walser (who spearheaded the We’re Going Back fan events in 2010 and 2015), and a special crew, were allowed to restore the car, at the courtesy of Universal Studios. Over the course of a year, they made it look just as good as it did when we first saw it on film!

After its restoration, the car had sat in a special building on the lower lot of the studio, along with other props from the studios’ history. However, with the tearing down of the building earlier this year, the ‘A’ car was put into storage, but through Joe Walser and his contacts, was wheeled out for us to at least see it out in the open (though word was they were putting it back into storage after our tour, and figure out a proper way to display it again for tourists in the future).

After the tour, we returned to the main lot, wherein we walked a private red carpet to receive front-of-the-line passes, and get a picture with Doc Brown.

Though the media and many geek outlets had proclaimed it Future Day, you would almost think Universal was ashamed of their popular pop-culture series.

The thought that there might be commemorative merchandise was only a dream, as only a few stores carried miniature DeLorean Time Machines, and a few shirts related to the film. One store did have Diamond Select’s prop replicas of the Flux Capacitor and Mr Fusion, along with Hot Toys’ Marty McFly figure…though these were priced at about 150% higher than what you would find them online for.

Even with the lack of merchandise, many of the staff in the parks that day, put their own little spin on the day’s events:

  • Our tour guide bypassed the closing ‘musical montage’ bit on the tram, and piped in a clip of Marty playing Johnny B Goode, as we returned to the park.
  • The announcer in the new Despicable Me: Minions Mayhem queue called us a bunch of “buttheads.”
  • Down on the lower-lot, Several Marty McFly’s and a Jennifer Parker met Optimus Prime, who asked them, “if you traveled back to 1985, would you ever dream that you’d be talking with me?”

One surprising acknowledgement of Future Day, came from a most unlikely source. High above the park, The Goodyear Blimp circled overhead, its display relaying BTTF-related quotes, and hashtags to use for the day on Social Media.

It was notable that there were also fans of the films in the parks, that weren’t part of our group. They were in BTTF costumes or shirts, showing that the fandom was still alive outside of us uber-fans. This couple from Japan dressed as Marty and Doc, complete with an actual clear-tie!

Some fans also returned to the site of The Institute of Future Technology, where Back to the Future: The Ride, had operated for over 14 years. In 2007, it was replaced with The Simpsons Ride, and even the fabled Time Traveler’s Depot (where I had procured some of my first Back to the Future items from in the 1990’s), had now become The Kwik-E-Mart.

As 3:30 approached, many of us exited the park, and headed towards the Citywalk portion of Universal. At 3:30, we were scheduled to watch Back to the Future Part II, in the AMC Universal CityWalk 19.

After being seated, many of us assumed the film would start right away, but that wasn’t the case. Joe Walser and his cohorts, had a few surprises in store for us.

The first was related to the fabled USA Today newspaper, that Doc Brown shows Marty. The next day, a special edition of that future paper (it was dated October 22nd), would street to newsstands. However, we were going to get something cooler. While those that hit newsstands would show the arrest of Martin McFly Jr, a representative from USA Today told us, that those of us attending the showing, would get a special print, showing the arrest of Griff Tannen, and his hoverboard gang!

We were then shown a number of BTTF-related commercials that had been created over the last few weeks, including Universal’s Jaws 19 parody. It was probably the only place in the world where this parody trailer, was displayed on the big-screen, let alone for an audience that went crazy when the title appeared.

We were also shown a special short, titled Back to the 2015 Future. The short film featured Marty McFly (played by look-alike Tyler Dunivan) coming to our time, and being surprised at the changes. He also finds a different son than Marty Jr, and begins to think that maybe, his dreams of becoming ‘a rich rock star,’ may not be so important after all. The short also featured cameos by the likes of Claudia Wells (Jennifer Parker from the first film), and utilized locations such as The Gamble House, and Courthouse Square.

Some of us soon realized what was happening: with all these little extras, the starting time for Part II was not going to be at 3:30! Instead, the film rolled around 4:24 pm, which meant, that precisely when Doc announced it was 4:29 pm on October 21st 2015 on the screen, it was the same as it was for all of us! The moment elicited cheers from the darkened theater as we arrived, in the future! The future had become the present, and in a few moments…it was the past.

This was the third time I had seen Part II with an audience, and it was fun talking to some younger fans who were too young to see it in 1989, let alone families who had made pilgrimages as a group to experience it all.

The original plans following the screening, were to visit the ‘A’ car DeLorean at Los Angeles’ Natural History Museum, and screen the documentary Outatime, which chronicled the vehicle’s restoration.

Unfortunately, these added plans did not work out. Once the film ended, we each received our exclusive USA Today papers, and made our way back to the buses.

However, for those of us staying near Hollywood Blvd (where one of the hotels for the event was), we checked out another great Future Day surprise (not planned by the WGB organizers), courtesy of Toyota.

Earlier that day, Toyota had placed a special 2015 model Tacoma truck in faux packaging, near the Dolby Theatre. The truck was styled to resemble a modern-day version of the black 4×4 Marty pined for in the trilogy, and it generated alot of picture taking.

A representative overseeing the event, said that two other versions of this truck were also in New York, and Texas for the day’s event. We could also get the chance to get an exclusive die-cast version of the same truck, by answering some questions about Back to the Future. Plus, it was fun for the rep too, who was a big fan of the films, and happily proclaimed how exciting it was that he could talk about one of his favorite films.

Just like at Universal, the Future Day events also hit those walking along Hollywood Blvd. One couple dressed up as Marty and Jennifer, and came down to see the truck.

It wasn’t exactly the Future Day many of us hoped for, but still, there was more than enough to make it a day that we wouldn’t soon forget.

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Come back soon for the chronicling of Day 2 of the We’re Going Back: 30th Anniversary Celebration. We’ll travel up to Fillmore, California, where Hill Valley, California, comes alive. DeLorean-totaling trains will be seen, along with special vehicles, hoverboarding, cool costumes, and much, much more!

Movie Musings: Remembering ‘Chicken Little,’ 10 Years Later

In 1985, The Walt Disney Studios were poised to usher in a new era of filmmaking. The studio was pushing the next generation of Disney animators into more grown-up territory,, with the PG-rated feature film, The Black Cauldron, based on the second of five books in the Chronicles of Prydain series, by Lloyd Alexander.

However, instead of attracting an older crowd that was into the likes of Star Wars and Indiana Jones, the film crashed and burned upon release. To add insult to injury, the studios’ first PG-rated animated feature, was beaten at the 1985 box-office, by a G-rated animated feature: The Care Bears Movie!

Fortunately, the studio’s fortunes soon turned around after Cauldron. The Great Mouse Detective was released in 1986 to favorable reviews, and has been considered by some, to be the start of the studio’s animation Renaissance, that went on for almost 15 years.

Of course, the good times couldn’t last for long.

As animated features became more lucrative and successful than even during Walt Disney’s time, much of the studio’s upper management began to throw in their own ideas. Pretty soon, it wasn’t so much the people working in Feature Animation that were calling the shots, but men-in-suits…men-in-suits who had never animated a character, or tried to storyboard an emotional scene. All they had on their side, were fancy degrees, and facts and figures on how to run a business.

Pricey animated films like Atlantis: The Lost Empire and Treasure Planet fizzled at the box-office, and attention began to turn to other studios that were raking in the cash.

Box-office grosses from the likes of Dreamworks’ Shrek and Blue Sky Studios’ Ice Age films, were in the eyes of “the suits” in Burbank, California…and that meant some changes were in store for the studio.

And so, it was soon declared by the higher-ups, that hand-drawn (aka “2-D”) animation…was dead! According to them, the public was tired of 2-D, and 3-D was the future…and the company had to ‘modernize.’

And so, studios the company owned in Paris, France, and Orlando, Florida, were shut down. After completion on films like Brother Bear and Home on the Range, a large number of hand-drawn animators were shown the door…with a select few kept on board, that could then turn their skills to the computer-generated frontier.

To those of us in-the-know, the hand-drawn legacy went out with a whimper, when the animated feature Home on the Range came out in the Spring of 2004…with a measly $13 million opening weekend, and quickly sank from sight.

Of course, the executives at The Mouse House were already on board their own ship, charting a course to big-time profits. We’ll just slap the Disney name on a 3D animated feature, and the cash will flow in, must have been the first thing on their minds.

But where to begin? Animating humans in the computer would not be easy, so why not go with animals? And, how about a familiar story that everyone knows…or at least, they think they know.

And so, the fable of Chicken Little was modernized, and would become the studios’ first step into playing the 21st century game that Dreamworks, and Blue Sky Studios, and PIXAR were already involved in.

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As the story begins, Chicken Little throws his hometown of Pokey Oaks into a panic, when he claims a piece of the sky “shaped like a stop-sign,” hit him on the head. His father, Buck Cluck, assumes it to be an acorn, and Chicken Little is ridiculed and ostracized by the town following the events.

His best friends Runt of the Litter, Abbey “Ugly Duckling” Mallard, and Fish Out of Water, still believe in him, but Chicken Little finds himself trying to prove himself to the rest of the town, as well as win back the lost respect of his father…until, the sky falls, again!

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Once upon a time, Disney was the leader of animated features. 95% of the Hollywood studios, when making an animated film, would never make a move outside-the-box, but just look at what Disney had done, and try to copy them. Prince and Princess stories? we can do that. A sidekick that cracks pop-culture shtick? check. A musical? double-check!

But when it came to Chicken Little, it was clearly obvious that the leader, had now become a (desperate) follower, thanks to management and executive oversight.

Watching the film, one can’t help but get a huge Shrek vibe from the entire thing: a story you think you know…but with a twist!

The biggest problem with the film I feel, is that it’s missing a heart. The entire thing is strung together on pop-culture references, and oftentimes, is a pretty mean-spirited production.

Every other character just seems to serve a small purpose, and it feels that meaningful character development, has been replaced by making everyone loud and obnoxious.

It’s true that we can find sympathy in a downtrodden character (like Dumbo), but the slings and arrows just never seem to let up for Chicken Little. It’s not just a select few, but the entire town that pretty much blames him after a year’s time, even to the point that a movie was made over the incident. In a way, Pokey Oaks almost feels like an entire town of bullies.

Chicken Little’s misfit friends serve to try and give him a cushion against what’s happening, but it never really feels like they ever move beyond being one-note. Runt freaks out so many times, I think you could make a drinking game out of it. Abbey keeps trying to be the logical friend most of the time, but it feels that once her purpose is done 3/4 of the way through the film, she just becomes as two-dimensional as Trinity in the Matrix sequels. There’s also Fish Out of Water, who just seems to be the weird kid that tags along, but oftentimes, seems to be off in his own little world.

Also hard to find much sympathy towards, is Buck Cluck, Chicken Little’s father. Disney goes back to the well with the widowed-parent cliche, but even so, Buck becomes a father-figure that makes you more upset that he is willing throw his son under the bus regarding the town’s ire. It also doesn’t help his character that in the aftermath of the sky-falling incident, he also seems to shun his own son, and be unwilling to listen to half of what he says most of the time.

The film tries to be snappy and quick, which is one of director Mark Dindal’s trademarks. The director of Cats Don’t Dance and The Emperor’s New Groove, Dindal was able to make entertaining and even likable characters out of such irascible characters like Darla Dimples, and Emperor Kuzco. However, in Chicken Little, there’s little charm to be found.

The film also utilizes a number of popular songs, to the point where during an alien invasion (yes, and you thought Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was the first film to be ruined by aliens), R.E.M.’s song End of the World as We Know It plays…as if some executive thought, “hey, this song played in Independence Day, that’s pop-cultural! This will get lots of laughs!”

Even the amount of pop-culture references made me cease laughing pretty quickly. Whether it be Runt of the Litter singing to showtunes constantly, or the animals watching Raiders of the Lost Ark in their local theater (yes, animated characters watching a live-action Harrison Ford film. That image above is not Photoshopped). I like to think pop-culture overload began around 1992, when everyone became entranced with Robin Williams’ Genie in Aladdin. After that, it seemed every film had them built into the story in some way. When used sparingly it can work fine, but when it never lets up, it grates on you (If any of you saw the dub of the Magic Roundabout animated feature into the Americanized Doogal, you witnessed something that out-pop-cultured even Chicken Little!).

The advertising campaign also toyed with its audience, tending to rely on mis-direction. The advertising was erratic, loud, and oftentimes, just seemed to rely on ‘cool-and-hip’ animation. They even touted such background characters as Morcupine Porcupine, who in the film, only garnered less than a minute of screentime.

The posters made for the advertising campaign, also showed little creativity, with bad puns galore. Most notable, is this image of Chicken Little sitting in an egg-chair, and wearing shades much like Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in the Men in Black II poster. At least in the MIB films, we saw the egg-chairs referenced in the poster, but in this case, noone in the film sits in a cracked egg, or wears a suit like this.

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In the end, Chicken Little’s final US box-office grosses tallied up to $135 million, just a little shy of its $150 million production budget.

Even so, the studio was still planning to go forward with other, hip-and-edgy films. The next feature film A Day in The Life of Wilbur Robinson, was re-branded with the more hip title of Meet the Robinsons, and Chris Sanders (creator of Lilo & Stitch), was working on a production dubbed American Dog. There was even word that the company’s CEO Michael Eisner, wanted to take the earlier hand-drawn features made by the studio, and redo them, in CGI!

That all changed, once Disney kicked Eisner out, and Bob Iger became the company’s new CEO. Iger’s first order of business was to end the stalemate between Disney and PIXAR, and orchestrated a $7.4 billion acquisition deal, keeping the Emeryville studio on board.

PIXAR’s top brass John Lasseter, and Ed Catmull, soon came to take prominent positions within Feature Animation (a place Lasseter had worked for and been released from in the early 80’s), and began to clean house.

A number of projects were re-worked or scrapped (Robinsons was overhauled, and American Dog became Bolt, at which point Sanders left Disney for Dreamworks). The direct-to-video productions were scrapped, which also meant the end of sequels like Dumbo 2, and even a Chicken Little 2.

To this day, I still feel Chicken Little was the equivalent to The Black Cauldron: something that upper-management said would be good for the company, but had too many hands in the pot, to even make it boil to a proper conclusion. It just reeks of desperation, trying to be all things for all audiences, but its attempts to get your attention, just feel lackluster.

I can’t fully fault some of the animation done on the show, though. They tried their darnedest to get some squash-and-stretch into what would normally be rigid computer models…though there are a few times one can tell they may get a little carried away, trying to figure out how everything works. in one scene, Abbey Mallard’s face and mannerisms almost seem to move a little too much, to the point I thought I might get motion sickness.

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Of course, from this film, began the climb back to prominence. John Lasseter and Ed Catmull had some say in the upcoming Meet the Robinsons, and the story changes I feel, helped steer that film back into the realms of emotional storytelling, that I and many others had longed for.

From there, they continued climbing the ladder, their efforts continuing to improve from film-to-film. And though Lasseter did renege on the ‘2-D is dead’ campaign, the studio only put out two hand-drawn features: The Princess and the Frog, and 2011’s Winnie the Pooh. Sadly, while both had some good storytelling, they were at the mercy of bad titling (according to the analysis on Frog’s lower box-office take), or being put up against bigger films (seriously, what executive said “let’s release Winnie the Pooh on the same weekend as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2?”).

In the last 5 years, the studio has had a number of big successes, with Tangled, Frozen, and Big Hero 6. Next year, they’ll return to a world of anthropomorphic animals, with Zootopia, a buddy-cop movie in a world where animals of all shapes and sizes exist. I’m actually excited to see what they come up with character and concept-wise for the film, and hope it will continue to be a crowd-pleaser for audiences.