(Universal Pictures) A quarter-century ago, the world fell in love with a time-travel adventure about a teenager, his dysfunctional family, and his closest friend -- a nutty yet brilliant professor. Back to the Future was a huge hit in the summer of 1985 and followed with two successful sequels -- one dystopian futuristic, the other...well, a western with a touch of steampunk before the term was being bandied about.
Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) became part of childhoods and also memorable characters for movie-goers of all ages. And let's not forget that car. ("You built a time machine out of a DeLorean?!") Many famous folks are fans. Just this past July, Family Guy and American Dad creator Seth McFarlane bought one of the Back to the Future DeLoreans, so there ya go.
While all three films have been collected on DVD before, they've now been released by Universal Home Entertainment on Blu-ray as the Back to the Future 25th Anniversary Trilogy, looking, in so many ways, better than ever and as fresh as when they each first hit the big screen. There are numerous deleted scenes that include a six-part look at the trilogy with new interviews featuring Fox, Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Director Robert Zemeckis, Producers Bob Gale and Neil Canton, plus Executive Producer Steven Spielberg, "making-of" featurettes, and "The Physics of Back To The Future" with author and physicist Dr. Michio Kaku. The package is also loaded with plenty of outtakes, looks at production design, storyboards, designing the mythical town of "Hill Valley," music videos, and commentaries/Q&As from Zemeckis, Gale and Canton.
In addition to co-producing the trilogy, Bob Gale co-wrote Back to the Future with writing partner and director Robert Zemeckis, and also wrote the screenplays for both sequels. He couldn't be more thrilled about the Blu-ray format release.
Bob Gale: If you remember, Universal had invested heavily in HD and had, I think, done a transfer of Back to the Future, which, of course, turned out to be a waste of money. We were waiting to find out if high-definition was really going to take off and thought that we could, in fact, do this in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the series's start. So a year ago, we started rattling cages: "It's the 25th; let's get on it." Someone said, "We're not going to be able to get it out July 3rd (the film release anniversary), so let's bring it out on the anniversary of the year Marty McFly went back to to the future, October 26, 1985.
Darryl Morden: The three films now cross several generations. Kids who watched them in the '80s are now adults, and their children have seen it on home video. Parents who took those kids in the '80s are now grandparents. What do you see as the appeal? A number of factors at work?
BG: It's part of the pop consciousness now, and such a goofball thing too. Part of the strength of the appeal of the movies is everybody can identify with the characters; everybody knows these characters. Marty can't figure out his parents, his father's a nerd set upon a bully, and the intimidating bully isn't really as strong as he seems; there's the lovesick girl [his mom in the past], and Doc Brown, who's somebody of ground and wisdom and little bit of insanity too. We're telling a human story about somebody's family. I think what keeps the movies interesting from generation to generation all over the world is that moment we finally comprehend our parents were children too. We see it in old photographs, the clothes last year that don't fit, that evolution of finaally finding out how sex works, and we go, "No way my parents could have done that." We realize "my parents could have done that, my parents were children, they must have had a first date..." And the movie totally captures that and just connects.
DM: We've seen DVD/Blu-ray releases where special effects were given upgrades, scenes were added... What were the feelings about that kind of approach?
BG: What we did with the DVD and Blu-ray is we went back to the elements. Seeing a release print made from negatives, some of the earlier elements, like in Part Two, some wires you can see, so we took those wires out. That would have been part of the process of making movies. But we did not enhance anything. We improved some color corrections. We took the two-track Dolby sound and mixed it in surround, and it now sounds better than it did in 1985. But other than that, we didn't change anything.
DM: There are plenty of great behind-the-scenes bonus feature material, including the scientific possibilities or impossibilities of the science in the films from Dr. Kaku...
BG: Universal said, "If we're going to do this, do it right," and I've got to give these guys credit. Truth is, we didn't have much money to do new supplemental stuff; we didn't have the budget. So Universal spent the money to do it all in Hi-Def. These people are fans of the movies. Kaku is a fan. I've read his books. This guy's got a TV show on Discovery Science Channel.
DM: If you talk to people about the series, each person has a favorite; some love the original film, others the second one, which, like many trilogies, is somewhat "dark." And then there's the whole western twist with the final movie. When people meet you, what kinds of questions do they ask?
BG: Each film has its own personality -- how great is that? But they also ask, "Is there ever going to be a part four?" No. Then it depends on who they are. A little kid might ask how did we get hoverboard to fly and how does he get one. Everybody has a favorite movie, a favorite part of one of the movies, and we do get asked a lot of questions, but it's always "Is there going to be a Part 4?" But without Michael J. Fox? Who wants to see it without him? We told the story we wanted to tell, and at the end of Part 3, we say this is the end. History has shown us that some of these franchises that go back too many times, the results aren't that satisfying. What "Back to the Future 4" would be in everybody's minds would be so much better than what we could put on the screen or so different that, we'd rather do new, original stuff.
DM: I've seen some boards talk about how an animated series would work again [there was one in the early '90s]. Also, isn't there a new game on the way?
BG: Yes. Telltale Games has a Back to the Future game coming out sometime this winter. Christopher Lloyd is doing the voice; Michael J. Fox recorded some of his lines to be used. These guys are really fans of the movies, working hard to capture the spirit of them in this game. This is going to be pretty good. I haven't seen the actual game, but in terms of what they've been doing conceptually, trying to pull off a game, it's not Part 4, but it's sort of like trying to take a melody and give it to a jazz ensemble and they riff on it. That's what's happening here.
The Back to the Future 25th Anniversary Trilogy is available now on Blu-ray as well as DVD, and from that flux capacitor and gigawatts to Mr. Fusion, it's a multi-part adventure well worth visiting again.