Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History

The holy grail for most movie geeks is J. W. Rinzler’s The Making of Star Wars and Indiana Jones books, which offer in-depth looks at the making of some of the greatest films of all time. But it’s rare for films to get this kind of treatment, which is why it’s so great to see that Michael Klastorin‘s Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History does just that.

If you are a Back to the Future fan, this book will blow you away. I’m a hardcore obsessive who thought I knew and saw everything having to do with the film, but almost every other page of this book had a quote or an image that I had never seen before. To help promote the book’s release this week, I thought I’d take a look at the 11 coolest things I found in this book. Hit the jump to go 88mph and see some never-before-seen photos from behind the scenes of Back to the Future. And by the way, you can order the book now on Amazon.

Einstein’s Stunt Driver

I’ve seen Back to the Future over a thousand times in my lifetime — it’s my favorite movie of all time. But for whatever reason, I never knew how they accomplished the scene where Doc Brown remotely controls the time machine with Einstein in the driver’s seat. When I was younger, I just assumed they created a remote control rig for the sequences where you could see the dog. As I got older, I just assumed a driver was hidden either in the passenger’s seat or below in some cavity, as has been accomplished in other films (if you’ve ever seen the car stunt show at Disney Hollywood Studios, they demonstrate a similar rig).

Well, it seems I was wrong on both accounts. The book reveals a couple photos, one seen above, of stuntman Dick Butler donning a full-sized dog costume to take the wheel during the sequence. The scene was actually also Michael J. Fox‘s first day on set, and the book reveals that the remote control prop needed to be replaced with a stand-by duplicate, as Christopher Lloyd snapped off a switch when he was putting a little too much energy in his performance.

bob gale yearbook photo

The Yearbook Photo That Started It All

Okay, so most people probably won’t be impressed by this one. But having heard the story of Back to the Future‘s origin many times over the year, I was shocked to see this document. This is the yearbook page that inspired the movie.  Director Robert Zemeckis and writer Bob Gale had been toying around with the idea of a time-travel movie since 1975. They liked the idea of going back in time and changing something that would drastically change the future that they returned to. The idea started more like Tomorrowland than it did Back to the Future:

We got to talking about the General Motors Futurama exhibit at the 1964 World’s Fair and the Norman Bel Geddes future that was depicted at the 1939 World’s Fair. Why didn’t we ever get the future we were promised? So we thought it would be cool to make a movie where that actually became the future. And I got a title in my head: “Professor Brown Visits The Future.” No story, just a title. We didn’t come up with the hook until much later.

The hook infamously came in the summer of 1980, when Bob Gale was looking through his parents’ high school yearbook and stopped to wonder if he and his father would have been friends if they had met in high school. Gale and Zemeckis spent a few weeks constructing a basic outline, and this idea was the genesis for Back to the Future. So to see the yearbook photo that inspired everything is kind of incredible.

Author Klastorin, who was actually a unit publicist on the Back to the Future sequels, told me how he got such incredible material:

Everyone was incredibly generous in sharing what they’ve kept over the years, starting with Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale. Happily, so many people had kept so much of their original drawings, sketches, blueprints, storyboards, memos and so on, that I was overwhelmed with the amazing amount of incredible materials I had at my disposal. The actual yearbook we took the picture from came from Stephen Clark, who has been part of the Back to the Future family ever since he started a fan club for the films in 1990. I talk about Stephen in the ‘Into The Future’ chapter on page 220.

The Original Designs for the Flux Capacitor

Above you can see three of four original designs sketched by Back to the Future screenwriter Bob Gale for Doc Brown’s famous time-travel device. The Flux Capacitor has become one of the most iconic props in movie history, and it started here on a few sheets of yellow lined paper. Klastorin told me that Gale pretty much kept everything, which is why we have some of this great developmental material still today.

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