Back to the Future, to me, was just always something that Lee was obsessed with. He’d go on about Marty McFly and make references to Pizza Hut sunglasses and I’d just nod and smile because dammit, I’m a pretty decent friend.
I mean, I like BTTF just fine. But enough to play the NES game? Or carry a JVC camcorder and wear a puffy red vest everywhere? Not so much.
When we saw that a BTTF memorabilia almanac was coming out, however, we both got really excited. I felt like I might end up reading a catalog of all the things Lee owned, but instead I was treated to some enthralling history that gave me a new appreciation for the franchise.
My personal BTTF merchandise is limited to a Canadian promotional poster for the BTTF trilogy coming to DVD for the first time that my friend Tara gave me way back when DVDs were a thing, and this past holiday season’s Flying Time Machine Hallmark ornament.
You don’t need an apartment full of DeLorean replicas to appreciate this book. You don’t even need Cafe 80s matches!
The BTTF Almanac is the culmination of a 30 year long love affair with collecting and archiving BTTF merchandise and memorabilia. Spanned across over 250 pages are 600+ full-color photos of BTTF history, some of which were previously unpublished. Bob Gale, co-creator of the films, even let authors Rob Klein and Jennifer Smith into his personal archives as they delved deeper to cover all the BTTF memorabilia they could. Not to mention, Gale contributed the forward to the book.
The attention to detail in the book’s cover art alone is incredible, the Alamanc itself a nod to the Grays Sports Almanac 1950-2000 that Marty buys and Biff swipes in BTTF 2. Even the placement of the items on the cover is spot on– like the neck of Marty’s Erlewine Hondo Chiquita guitar from the first film mirroring the baseball bat on the Sports Almanac.
It’s like Klein and Smith traveled to the future and/or the past. The book serves as a time travel excursion through BTTF merchandise, covering all three films and beyond. There are lots of ways this almanac could have been organized: by apparel, posters, toys, etc., but going through all three movies in order seems to provide the most rewarding adventure for the reader.
The memorabilia filling the pages of the BTTF Almanac range from the common to rare, and obscure to wtf. Quite a bit of merchandise from outside of North American is featured, even a showing of a BTTF exhibit in Japan that included actual props from the films. The exhibit, which was never shown outside of Japan, ran from March 21-April 19, 1990. Unfortunately, many of the items on display have since been lost.
Some of the more wtf pieces of memorabilia include a couple Japanese print advertisements for the Honda Integra with Michael J. Fox and a toy train from Greece that looks and sounds exactly like Doc’s Time Train from the third film but was never packaged as an officially licensed product.
Also accounted for in the almanac: comic books, fast food toys, lots of DeLoreans, the ride, and oh yes, the animated series. You may have missed the BTTF cartoon if you were already sleeping in come 1991-1992, but VHS copies are available. No DVD release yet for the adventures of Doc and Clara’s sons Jules and Verne, but maybe one day.
One thing about fans writing about the fandoms they so love is that they can get kind of lovey dovey and neglect to mention the negative aspects. Klein and Smith, while clearly big fans of the franchise, aren’t afraid to report the facts, such as that the LJN BTTF NES game is “Total crap” (from the mouth of Gale, no less). Could it be that they’re just that professional and unbiased, or is the NES game really that bad? If you’ve ever played it and had to battle 50 Biffs, you know that answer is “Yes”.
Interestingly, the book also goes through some of the materials on the time machine, like the TRW Data Systems Inc. keypad used to input the time destination, the 3-Way Terminal Cleaner used as the time circuit switch, the coffee machine that played the key role of Mr. Fusion (which is also expanded on later in the book. Either way, it’s way more useful than my Keurig), and more.
While there is a good amount of merchandise for BTTF, considering it spans three movies, an animated series, comic book series, and a ride, it’s definitely not over-merchandised, especially when you consider the amount of stuff out there for other franchises from the 80s and 90s.
To promote the book, Klein and Smith stepped up their game and made BTTF trading cards, a continuation of the original 88 BTTF cards, with different pieces of memorabilia from the almanac. A 10 card set was produced, exclusive to those pre-ordered the book or that happened to be lucky enough to score some at the San Diego Comic Con over the summer.
Overall, the BTTF Almanac appeals to collectors, fanatics, and casual fans alike, making it essential reading material. Even if you’re not concerned about Japanese DeLorean model kits, you’ll enjoy reading about the film and some behind-the-scenes stories.
So, what of future BTTF merchandise? There will be more, of course, considering 2015 is a big year for the franchise. The authors leave the almanac open-ended, just like the films, with a promise of “To Be Continued…”
As we enter the future (or the past, if you’re reading this after 2015), I implore you to re-watch the trilogy and give this book a whirl. The behind-the-scenes tales and the amount of unique merchandise out there really will astound you.
The Back to the Future Almanac is available now at BTTFAlmanac.com.