It’s Back to the Future Day (BttFD). Because 21 October 2015 is the date that Marty McFly chose to travel to in his DeLorean. But how you can celebrate BttFD at work?
21 October 2015. That’s the future that Marty McFly… flies to in 2015. I think he arrives at 04:29am California time, which would make it 11:29am in the UK. Just in time for an early lunch then.
The wonderful thing about older films set in the future, is that we have a chance to see how the director’s vision of the future back then compares with the reality now. And unlike things like Star Trek, BttF isn’t too far out in terms of years and deals with normal family life to boot. So what predictions did they make and how close did they get to reality?
Here’s a bit of trivia for you: I heard that fancy Nikes in BttF2 were ‘self-lacing’ because Michael J. Fox was actually standing on a false floor and a member of the crew was pulling the laces tight from underneath.
Nike has actually filed a patent for self-lacing shoes and probably would make trainers like this if we were willing to pay £24,000 per pair. That’s what musician Tinie Tempah paid for a (non-lacing) pair auctioned for charity.
A few companies have made barely-hovering hoverboards, but they are all experimental and extremely expensive. For now, the closest we’ll get in mainstream technology are those Seg-sweg-wobble-way things that are a YouTube accident waiting to happen. Just ask Usain Bolt.
Yes, we have flying cars. Though they’re not anywhere near as cool as the ones in the film. Instead, these are basically aeroplanes you can use on the road – as long as that road ends in a runway and a hangar. If you want to see a flying DeLorean, you’ll need to head to your local model aircraft group. (I’m glad that Doc Brown didn’t fly like this in the films; never time travel while drunk.)
In the film they take a tiny Pizza Hut pizza and put in a Black and Decker ‘hydrator’, which both cooks it and makes it bigger. We don’t have any such technology, but at least we’re are able to order takeaways on our smartphones. And I once used a retailers same-day delivery service to have a man deliver some tuna. I felt terribly guilty afterwards, so I consoled myself with a nice tuna and mayonnaise sandwich.
In BttF2 future-Marty’s daughter, also played by Michael J. Fox, takes a phone call using some fancy sci-fi goggles. This is perhaps one of the gadgets that we’re going to see soon, with products like Google Glass already being released to the market and VR videos that people can watch on their smartphones, allowing them to look around the scene in real time.
(For the latter, there’s even a fan-made one for Star Wars that puts you in the position of a droid rolling around the Death Star watching Lord Vader inspect his storm troopers. You’ll need to watch this on your phone to get the proper effect.)
Unusual TV stations
What’s the future of programming on TV? In the McFly home, it’s the ‘Scenery Channel’ (tagline: ‘Broadcasting beautiful views 24 hours a day’). Amazingly, there’s actually something called The Window Channel Network (tagline: ‘ambient.scenic.television’) that broadcasts HD scenery and associated ambient sounds to places like hospitals.
Have a Back to the Future treasure hunt
I’ve found a really interesting book that goes into product placement in the BttF trilogy and ties it to the state of the US at the time. According to the book, it says that there was a ‘sharp rise in consumer spending’ in the 80s and this tied in with more product placement in movies. A lot more.
Brands in the BttF films include Calvin Klein – remember his underpants in the first film? – BMW, Ford, Nike, the NFL, Burger King, Budweiser, Gibson Guitars and Tab (to name a few).
(Tab has an interesting history. In the 1980s Pepsi released ‘Pepsi Crystal’, which was a clear drink. It started to gain market share, so Coca-Cola released Tab Clear. But instead of competing, Coke made its own drink sound unappealing, because they knew it would be on the shelf next to Pepsi’s and customers would think the drinks were similar. Tab Clear was designed to fail and take Crystal down with it.)
So, this product placement gave me an idea. Why not have a lunchtime-long treasure hunt based on Back to the Future? It could be a mix of product placement from the films, plus things related to classic scenes. Obviously nothing too difficult, because it’s a last-minute idea, right
I’ve made up some rules, but feel free to add your own. Hunters don’t have to bring the treasure items them back to the office, but they do need to get a photo of them. Each item you photograph is worth one point, but you can still earn half-points for some items.
Calvin Klein underwear – what Marty’s mum thinks his name is because of his pants
Skateboard – Marty’s signature transport
Nike trainers – (+0.5 points for the wearer smiling in the photo)
Burger King (+0.5 points for any other burger)
Gibson guitar – Chuck Berry’s cousin hears Marty playing this (+1 for a busker)
Pizza Hut pizza – (+0.5 for generic)
Compost – remember Biff gets covered in manure?
Chocolate milk – what Marty’s dad orders before speaking to his mum to declare his desire
Budweiser (+0.5 points for a generic beer)
Van Halen album – what Marty uses to scare his young father while pretending to be an alien
Darth Vader – the alien he pretends to be
Pepsi – Marty’s go-to soft drink
The videogame Destiny – remember ‘You are my density?’ from the first film?
Mattel toy – they made the hoverboard
Jaws DVD – the 19th film in the series was playing at Hill Valley cinema (+0 .5 points for any DVD cover featuring sharks)
Cowboy hat – for the Wild West setting of the third film
Steam train – Doc Brown’s final time machine
Sporting almanac – this is what Biff uses to get rich in BttF2. I read the real prop recently sold for about £4,500.
What ideas do you have for your own Back to the Future Day? Perhaps you could have an office soundtrack of all the orchestral and classic pop tunes featured in the movies? Let us know in the comments.