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.
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.
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!