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.
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.
Our 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.
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.
Several 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.
The 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.
Amazingly, 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 the 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!
Right 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.
Several 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.
These 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.
We 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.
After 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.
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.
Many 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.
I 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.
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!
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.
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.