Back to the Future Fans Animated Their Favorite Scenes for the Film’s 35th Anniversary

NBCUniversal and Tongal invite 8 artists to reimagine iconic movie moments

back to the future cartoon
The eight Back to the Future videos were created by artists based everywhere from Brazil to Spain and Ireland. Tongal
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To celebrate Back to the Future’s 35th anniversary, NBCUniversal is giving the film an animated reboot—eight of them, in fact.

The company’s licensing division, Universal Brand Development, partnered with content creation platform Tongal to select eight fans from around the world to recreate their favorite scenes from the 1985 time traveling comedy—starring Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd—in their own animation styles.

Tongal tapped its community of 200,000 creators, who were asked “to pitch Universal how they would bring their favorite scene to life and also tell us why they love Back to the Future,” said Tongal CEO James DeJulio. “Universal reviewed the pitches and selected which creators to greenlight.”

Artists could use any style of animation to recreate a scene in 25 seconds.

The winning eight videos have been airing on Syfy’s social channels, and will be broadcast during Syfy’s marathon of the trilogy on Oct. 21, which is known as Back to the Future day (Oct. 21, 2015 is the day that Fox’s Marty McFly and Lloyd’s Doc Brown travel to in the 1989 sequel). The videos have also been rolling out on the Back to the Future Facebook fan page, leading to a final compilation video that will debut on Wednesday.

Adweek is exclusively debuting one of the videos, “Cardboard Cute-Out,” from San Francisco production studio Explainly (Max Naff, Alex Hagan, Derik Smith, Sam Naff, Elizabeth Abreu, Andy Toizer and Ben Jackson). Their video presents a cardboard recreation of the film’s clocktower sequence using stylized, photo-real 3D animation.

Other highlights from the eight videos include “Race for Surviving”—from Spanish 2D animation studio Calaveres Animació (Javier Asensio, María Larín, Nicole Herrera and Felipe Armand)—which uses pixel art for the scene in which Marty improvises a skateboard as Biff Tannen and his friends chase him through Hill Valley, reimagining it as a retro video game.

“A Visitor in the Night,” from Brazilian filmmaker/animator Neto Rodrigues and stop-motion animation artist Gabis Fromme, uses stop-motion with amigurumi dolls to recreate the scene where Marty wakes his dad George up in the middle of the night, dressed as what his father believes is an alien.

And “The First Time Traveller,” from Irish creative director and motion designer Elliot Ruddy, blends digital 3D and 2D animation to reimagine an early scene in the film where Doc Brown’s dog Einstein becomes the DeLorean’s first time traveler.

As for why the film continues to resonate with audiences 35 years later, “We’re always looking to the future—what does a better future look like, and how can we shape it without the picture fading out? Back to the Future completely encapsulates the promise of having an opportunity to get life right,” DeJulio said.

This is the second time Tongal has worked with Universal Brand Development on one of the company’s big anniversary celebrations, following Jurassic Park’s 25th anniversary in 2018. “Fans have such a personal connection to these franchises, so we wanted to find a unique way to bring them into each anniversary celebration,” said DeJulio.

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.