Journeys Through Life – We’re Going Back, 30th Anniversary Celebration – Day 5
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.
It had certainly been a wild ride for the We’re Going Back event. But like all good things…it was time to draw the festivities to a close.
The final day would send us away from Los Angeles, and east towards City of Industry, CA. Along with having a name I always found a little odd, this city was well-known for the Puente Hills Mall. It was Puente Hills, that would play the part(s) of the Twin Pines Mall, as well as the Lone Pine Mall.
It was in the southern area of the mall’s parking lot, where Marty and Doc first graced audiences with the reveal of the DeLorean Time Machine, as well as the first time-travel experiment, and a nail-biting chase scene.
However, our journey would begin on the northern side of the mall, as we entered near the AMC Theatre’s Puente Hills 20 complex…but not before many of us stopped to ogle a Part 1 styled Time Machine.
Today, we’d be sitting in one of the theatres, to hear from a number of persons who had worked on the trilogy.
Our first guests of the day, were Kevin Pike, and Michael Scheffe (see left). Kevin is notable for being the effects supervisor on the first film, while Schaeffe did concept work for all of the films.
Michael provided some of the most interesting tidbits of the day, when he revealed a slideshow of his concept work done during the trilogy.
We got to see items like the original concepts for the Luxor taxi cab in Part II, as well as the first concept imagery of the Mr Fusion power generator…which in the original concept, was a Westinghouse product.
I’m sure Michael wasn’t expecting it, but upon hearing that he was instrumental in the design of KITT from Knight Rider, I gave him a little ‘thank you’ for having a hand in designing two of the vehicles that captured my imagination as a child (KITT was my favorite screen-used vehicle, until the Time Machine came along).
During the lunch break, I took a moment to wander the mall, whose carpet and furnishings still echoed a bit of its pre-21st century history.
Stopping into a See’s Candy store on the lower level, the woman working behind the counter commented on how many Back to the Future fans were in the mall today. I quickly explained about our big event, and she encouraged me to send some of our cohorts over for free samples.
A fun moment came when I quoted to another woman, Doc’s “I remember when this was all farmland as far as the eye could see” bit, regarding the mall area.
Her response? “I remember when this WAS all farmland.”
Returning to the theater, we were then introduced to the trilogy’s two editors: Arthur Schmidt, and Harry Keramidas. I had the chance to speak to them the night before during the Enchantment Under The Sea Dance, but it was nice to hear them reminisce about their time on the film.
Editing can often be a thankless job, but in truth, some films have been saved by editing (like Jaws and Star Wars). Both Arthur and Harry, I hold in high regard, because they each edited two of the first film’s most crucial scenes: The mall car chase (which was edited by Arthur), and the clock tower finale (which was edited by Harry).
Next we were introduced to David DeVos (see right), who had done work on Back to the Future: The Ride. DeVos had also been a tour guide at Universal Studios, and given his rapid-fire vocal introduction, I didn’t doubt it!
Though not part of the main production staff on The Ride, DeVos did contribute to helping extend out the queue videos, after the ride was first introduced at Universal Studios Florida.
DeVos also shared stories about the building of the main queue building, let-alone the testing of the ride vehicles…including the time one of the vehicles was put on one of the highest settings.
Sadly, the real-life work schedules of several of our expected guests, kept them from appearing. However, always willing to lend a hand for the BTTF community, Terry and Oliver Holler (see left) took to the stage, and gave a presentation regarding what led them to becoming one of the most famous couples in the fan community.
The Hollers shared stories about building their Time Machine in the early 2000’s (when they had to rely on pausing their VHS copy of the films to figure out what part went where), as well as the various places where their vehicle had taken them over the years.
Our next guest, was Michael Klastorin (see right). Klastorin had been the Unit Publicist on the 2nd and 3rd movies, and had just released Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History book (which I had picked up the night before at The Enchantment Under The Sea dance!).
Michael shared a few stories regarding his experiences working on the films, as well as researching the book. Notable among them, was his attempts to interview Eric Stoltz in regards to his early involvement in the first film…which yielded a rather interesting (if humorous) endgame.
Our final presentation, talked about the music of the films, as well as the sound mixing process. On hand for part of the presentation, was Dennis Sands, one of the trilogy’s sound mixers, and Mike Mattesino, the producers of several upcoming releases of the trilogy’s soundtrack albums.
A highlight was when we were shown just how important sound mixing can be to a film.
We were shown portions of the first film’s skateboard chase, but without Alan Silvestri’s musical score, and just the sound effects. It definitely was a strange sight to behold, and showed a number of us how important sound mixing could be to the final scene.
We were also informed about upcoming soundtrack/audio releases, including newly-extended score releases for the second and third films.
As the afternoon turned to twilight, we headed out the south portion of the mall, and onto the parking lot area, many of us had largely seen, only on film, for the last 30 years!
In the weeks leading up to the event, the We’re Going Back event planners had been busy. Several of their above-and-beyond workings had included:
- A replica of the Twin Pines Mall sign that had been specially made, and placed in the same place Marty had encountered it in the film.
- A replica of Doc Brown’s white truck, that had been placed under the same lights as in the film.
Tonight, a good portion of the parking lot where the film’s time-travel experiments took place, was roped off especially for us.
Chairs had been set up for an evening screening of Back to the Future, and the event had brought out people from all over.
Several different DeLoreans parked behind our seats, as we waited for the appropriate time, and a number of costumed folks could be found in all shapes and sizes, wandering around the area!
Throughout the week, while we had been celebrating the films on the west coast, the majority of the film’s major players had been on the east coast, taking part in numerous show appearances. That evening, before we were scheduled to start our film viewing, a Skype call was made to Christopher Lloyd in Washington D.C.
Though the connection was not perfect, we were able to get a few words in with him, regarding his feelings on the films, as well as some of his favorite moments.
Even our official Marty impersonator, Tyler Dunivan, jumped in for a few words, stunning Chris.
“Is that Marty!?” he exclaimed, causing the audience to roll with laughter and applause.
Chris did mention how he liked working on the third film the most, and when he mentioned “he had a girlfriend” in that film, the event organizers had a fun moment.
Erica D Breig had shown up for the day in her amazing Clara Clayton outfit once again, and was brought forward into the call.
“Emmett!” she exclaimed. “When have you been, I’ve been so worried about you!”
On the projected screen, you could see Chris’ eyes scanning his computer monitor, before they went wide, and with a shocked expression he shouted: “…CLARA!”
Of course, we were coming up on our official start time to screen the first film. To get the screening started on the right foot, Chris was able to give us a great big: “GREAT SCOTT!!”
While I wanted to sit down and watch the film like everyone else, I got ‘itchy feet’ during the first 10-20 minutes, and wandered around, watching the crowd. Eventually, I took my seat, and enjoyed the rest of the film with a few of my new friends.
My first viewing of the film was on VHS in 1986. It wasn’t until its 25th anniversary re-release in theaters, did I finally see it on the big screen. Since then, I’ve seen it 4 more times with an audience, including tonight.
One thing I’ve noticed in watching the film with a live audience in the past year, is how much the audience really got into some scenes.
It was fun to see everyone whoop it up when the DeLorean made its first time-travel journey, or how they applauded for George telling Biff to “leave her alone,” let alone the build-up and release of the clock tower’s big lightning strike scene!
A fun moment was that during the Libyans’ chase scene, a live recreation happened around us! A VW van speedily chased a DeLorean Time Machine around the perimeter of the viewing area, as a few die-hard fans rushed from one side of the parking lot to the other, trying to get a good shot of the recreation.
As the film drew to a close, much like those preview audiences in the early days of the film’s development, there was applause and leaping to our feet, as the DeLorean flew into the future…which was now (to us) the past.
Following the film, many of us quickly gathered near the screen…for it was time, to find out who had won some of the awesome prizes from the We’re Going Back raffle!
Raffle tickets had been sold online and during the event, and now it was time to see if the gamble had paid off. This would be one of two different raffles, with an additional one taking place after the event.
As many of us watched, all manner of Back to the Future related products were awarded, several of them signed by various members of the crew. My hope to win a signed copy of The Art of Drew Struzan was quickly dashed, as none of my numbers were called.
The mac-daddy of all the raffle items, was a custom Boosted board, whose board design was based off of the 2015 Hoverboard Marty rode. This $2,000 valued prize quickly found its winner that night, and its new owner quickly hoisted it over his head, as Joe Walser, and Tyler Dunivan, looked on.
As the auction came to a end, it was time for some true emotions…it was time for many of us, to say our goodbyes.
It was hard to believe that 5 days ago, we had all queued up in front of California Pizza Kitchen on Hollywood Blvd (or near the Hollywood United Methodist Church), and gotten our wristbands and vouchers for the event.
I could almost hear Alan Silvestri’s music cue titled “Marty’s Letter” in my head, as I saw all manner of persons hugging, crying, and even promising that we’d do this all again…in 2020.
My new friends and I, almost like Marty finding himself late for school, found ourselves chasing down our tour bus, as we left the Mall, and returned to our drop-off point in front of the Loews Hollywood Hotel. Even here, goodbyes and promises to ‘keep in touch’ were made, before many of us dispersed off into the night.
Later on that evening, at the Orange Drive Hostel off of Hollywood Blvd, my mind was a whirlwind of thought over the last 5 days. As I turned to look at my phone, I soon saw that it was coming on to 1:20 am, on October 26th 2015…30 years from the time when Einstein had been sent one minute into the future, becoming “the world’s first time-traveler.”
While I drifted off to sleep, a couple dozen fans (who most likely had their own vehicles!), were still at Puente Hills Mall, and celebrated the event with a group picture.
Quite a change from 30 years ago. Bob Gale recounted on the DVD commentary for the first film, that at the exact time in 1985, word was 2 dozen people had shown up at the mall, thinking something was going to happen.
Nothing did…but here it was, 30 years later. The film’s fandom had grown and evolved in ways that in the Summer of 1985, its creators could never have fathomed. That fandom has stretched around the world, and had produced a fan-made event that celebrated one of the most satisfying film trilogies of all time.
Sure, fandoms like Star Wars may be considered bigger (and more lucrative), but the last five days had shown, that the fandom of The Back to the Future trilogy, was a grouping that seemed like “A Match Made in Space (and Time).”
Originally, this was where I planned to end my remembrances of those 5 days in October of 2015…but in the end, I found my mind criss-crossing across other thoughts, that could not be contained in these 5 parts.
Come back soon for the conclusion of the We’re Going Back: 30th Anniversary Celebration. There’s a few more things to talk about, before we let go of the past…