Hope for the Future: A Look Back at Back to the Future Collectibles With Tate Blackmore
Second only to the urban legend that Hoverboards are real, the rumor about an upcoming line of Back to the Future action figures, complete with the time-traveling DeLorean, is the most persistent tall-tale that continues to circulate through Back to the Future fan pages. It does seem odd that while both KISS and Ozzy Osbourne have action figure counterparts, one of the most popular film trilogies in the past twenty years has yet to be immortalized in a line of action figures. After all, even Bill & Ted got their own line. (Though, admitting that you owned any of these, especially Abraham Lincoln with his Frankie Goes to Hollywood keyboard and multi-colored mohawk might get you thrown in a dumpster.)
Like Star Wars before it, Back to the Future seemed destined to enter the action figure world. Just the DeLorean itself, with all of its different incarnations throughout the trilogy would make for one hot toy. The first time the Hill Valley town square appeared on the screen, the words, "Playset: figures sold separately," practically flashed at the bottom of the screen. In fact, with all of the character variations throughout the different time periods, a Back to the Future line could enjoy Star Wars or Simpsons type longevity. After the first initial wave of Marty, Doc, Biff, George, Lorraine, and the DeLorean, there could be an exciting second wave of Doc with his mind reader device flashing on his head, Darth Vader from Vulcan (Marty in radiation suit), Mr. Strickland, Skinhead, Match, 3-D, and Uncle Joey in his playpen.
But alas, at the current time there are no plans for such a line. Even with the recent release of the film trilogy on DVD, rumors lighting up on message boards are just that: rumors. So for those still holding onto hope and casual fans of the film series, here is a look back at the small, and somewhat disparaging array of Back to the Future collectibles still floating around today.
A Happy Meal's not so happy if your choking on the wheels of your toy
During the week of April 10th, 1992, McDonalds featured 4 Back to the Future Happy Meal toys, promoting the BTTF animated series that ran on CBS from 1991-1993. By far the coolest, and most recognizable to the BTTF universe was Doc Brown hanging out of the window of the DeLorean that shot sparks when revved up and let go. Ironically, it was the wheels that were considered dangerous if swallowed. The baggie explained to parents that the toy was exchangeable for one of the other (and much less cooler) toys.
The three other toys, Marty squatting awkwardly on a pink Hoverboard, Einstein the dog in a psychedelic version of the time traveling train, and Doc's son Verne in his "Junkmobile." None of these are exactly considered rare, and can pretty much be found lumped loose and packaged in fifty cent or dollar bins with other Happy Meal toys, wherever collectibles are sold. However, with the animated series back on Saturday mornings as part of the Fox Network's Fox Box, a new legion of fans may spring up.
Marti and Doc Emmet's Plutonium Powered DeLorean!
Perhaps one of the coolest BTTF collectibles on the market today is the 1:36 scale diecast DeLorean with Doc Brown "white metal figure," from classic toy makers Corgi. This fine collectible features the DeLorean from the original film and comes with a highly-detailed Doc Brown in his white radiation suit, gazing wide-eyed as his watch, and a thin lightening rod to channel the necessary 1.21 gigawatts of electricity. Though, Doc Brown is slightly larger than the time vehicle, it's perhaps the only attempt in the BTTF world of collectibles at an actual action figure. Though, the true treasure here is the DeLorean. From the "Outta Time" license plate to the big exhaust fins on the back, this is more detailed than any plastic model kit. Even the Flux Capacitor, the vision of which Doc Brown had after slipping off of his toilet, is visible through the window of the gull- wing doors, which yes, flip up just like in the film.
With the signature fire trails blazing across the front of the box, this is one collectible to keep mint in the package, despite the urge to race it across your kitchen floor like it was the Twin Pines Mall parking lot. However, when displayed it's probably best to keep the back of the package against the wall of the shelf. The film's synopsis on the back contains not only numerous grammatical errors, but calls Marty, Marti, and Doc, Doc Emmets. Oh well, nobody's perfect, right?
This collectible can be found rather easily online at CorgiClassics.com or at the official Back to the Future Web site, BTTF.com.
Other diecast DeLoreans, the 1:43 scale from Vitesse and the Sunstar 1:18 scale, both do the hovering time machine from Part II justice. The gull-wing doors woosh up on both, but the Sunstar version is the only one with the fold-up wheels for flying. Both are actually pretty rare and quite expensive.
All the best stuff is made in Japan!
From this point on, any semblance of action figures, even the ones that can't fit inside the cars, fades away. Made exclusively in Japan, the Hot Wheels Back to the Future DeLorean Time Machine is not as detailed as the slightly larger Corgi collectible, but is still cool enough to make you wonder why Hot Wheels never marketed this in the states, since they make classic cruisers from American Graffiti and all of the cars we never ever saw the Archie gang drive in the comics. There is also a Part II version with Mr. Fusion towering on the back of the car. No, the wheels do not flip up. That would ruin the intricate paper clip axle system all Hot Wheels have.
Also available only in Japan is the Taiyo Remote-Controlled DeLorean, originally offered at Universal Studios Japan as part of the Tyio Radi-Can collection. This collectible features the sleek and stylish look of the time vehicle from the first film before it crash-landed in old man Peabody's barn like some bastard spaceship. However, if you're craving the later variations, there is also a remote controlled DeLorean from Part III with those impeccable white-walled tires.
Say it with me, quickly, "Micro Machines, Micro Machines, Micro Machines!"
In 1989, with the release of Back to the Future Part II, Micro Machines released a three pack of future cars from 2015. The cars included were the DeLorean, the future police car Jennifer was hauled away in, and the clunky future taxi Biff rode in while pursuing Marty and Doc. All three were of the same size as other cars in the Micro Machines line.
Lesser-known Action Products released a similar two-pack of the DeLorean and thePolice car, and a Texaco Micro Action Hoverport set. The cars, while the same size as their Micro Machines counterparts, are a little beefier; as if intended for the dumb ten-year-old kids that still put junk in their mouths. The Hoverport Playset is especially cool, modeled after the 2015 Texaco station featured in the film. It also carries the honor of being the only BTTF environment ever produced in toy form.
Please excuse the crudity of this model. I didn't have time to build it to scale or to paint it!
Finally, there are a number of model kits, mostly from Aoshima Bunka Kyozai Co. Ltd., still collecting dust on many hobby shops in the Midwest. Among the most common is the DeLorean from Part III with the big '50s tires and the Doc Brown custom time circuits strapped to the hood. Though, there is also a slick kit of the Part IIDeLorean that this writer once passed up on for a Captain Kirk model when he was young and dumb and has never seen again. Damn you William Shatner! Damn, damn, where is that model?
To Be Continued...
If this little stroll through almost-action figure history has conjured up anything from the Back to the Future films for you, it should be this: "The future hasn't been written yet." Don't despair; if the characters from A Christmas Story can get produced as action figures, then anything can happen in the future. Just check out what's in store!
We just got in the Back to the Future Kubricks (check out our coverage and photos). Even those that aren't Kubrick fans will want to add these to their collection. More poseable (and playable) than solid diecast figures, the collection will feature, among others, Marty in his life preserver with a "board on wheels," Doc with the DeLorean remote, the faithful Einstein, and Jennifer in full 80s garb. All are highly detailed (for Kubricks anyway) and are faithful to the costumes the characters wore in the films. Not quite action figures [Ed note: We can discuss this over a beer], but they're sure to be a must-have for most. But remember, Kenner released a set of not-quite-action figure lines of diecast Action Masters and Bendies before rolling out the new Star Wars line in late 1995. And that's one line that never seems to run out of steam. Just ask the poor schmuck looking for the second version of Luke in Stormtrooper gear with wet hair and cuts and dirt marks on his face!
On the vehicle side, Welly USA is about to unleash pretty hot looking 1:24 scale diecast DeLoreans. Packaged against colorful backdrops from their respective films, the three DeLoreans (from Parts I, II, and III) are by far the coolest and most detailed of the diecast bunch. The highly anticipated Part III DeLorean was originally slated as having interchangeable railcar wheels. However, that idea has been scraped because of packaging concerns. Rest assured, a Welly spokesperson said that the rail track wheel version could be offered as a fourth variation at a much later release date. Tentative release date for the initial three is set for wither May or June of this year. Check out BTTF.com on how to get your hands on these bad boys.
That's all for now. See you in the future.
Your friend in time, Tate Blackmore
Thanks to BTTF.com for their assistance with this article.
All characters and likenesses are copyright Universal Studios. All images are coyprighted BTTF.com (unless otherwise noted) and used with permission. This article is coypright 2003 MillionairePlayboy.com.