Thursday, December 31, 2015

RR Back to the Future: The Animated Series


2016 is almost here. I had to at the very least tackle one more 2015 Special Review before TIME RUNS OUT!

Speaking of time...

Gotta get back in time? Check these previous reviews below!

Name: Back to the Future: The Complete Animated Series 
Created by Bob Gale
Original run 1991 - 1992
Genre Adventure/Comedy/Science-Fiction/Fantasy animated series

After the huge success of the film series, it was no surprise to see Universal Studios expand Back to the Future beyond the films. 

Over the years the franchise has been adapted into all sorts of mediums including video games, a theme park ride, comics and even a musical!

Back to the Future: The Animated Series was produced and directed by co-creator Bob Gale, based on Robert Zemeckis' film trilogy. It takes place after Part III in 1991.

The series was a co-production between Universal Cartoon Studios, Amblin Television and Amblimation - Steven Spielberg's now defunct animation studio before it was merged into DreamWorks in 1997. 

The show lasted for about two seasons, each consisting of 13 episodes. It aired originally aired on CBS from September 1991 to December 1992. The show would ultimately be canceled short of a third season because of low ratings, but I'm pretty sure they never plan to keep it on air for that long after the films ended (specially with no further movies planned). 



This animated series takes place some time after the BTTF film trilogy. There's a few inconsistencies within the series that detract purists, aside from the far cartoonier approach since this was an animated series, like how they had the DeLorean back. But personally I think it ended strangely working out surprisingly well after the release of the recent BTTF game by TellTale which acted an epilogue of sorts for the film and gave an origin to this "time duplicate" new DeLorean.

It's 1991. Doc Brown has now settled down in Hill Valley as well, with his wife Clara, their sons Jules and Verne and their dog Einstein. They live off in the same farm Clara used to live back in the 1880s. Clara teaches at school while Doc pursues his scientific experiments. Doc kept both the steam-powered "time train" and this new DeLorean. He made a few upgrades since we last saw them, such as giving the DeLorean voice-controlled circuits. It can even fold into a suitcase to better hide the time machine in the various time periods.

Marty McFly is still around and often visits the Brown Family house from time to time. He doesn't travel as much but he never hesitates to join in the fun. Marty and Jennifer are now students at the Hill Valley College.

Together they go on all sorts of adventures through time and space. also bale fold into suitcase better hide the timemachine. 



The show aired on CBS between September 14, 1991 to December 26, 1992 for about 2 Seasons worth for a total of 26 episodes.

The stories were standalone adventures in typical cartoon fashion.  

While the films mostly revolved around the McFly family, the cartoon instead decided to focus on the Brown family. Marty and Jennifer still popped up from time to time. And while the original Biff Tannen is not really seen much in the actual show, we get to see some of his relatives in past and future timelines (Marty even noticed how strange it was to find Biffs through wherever they went!). 

The series was not just set around Hill Valley. They got to explore all kinds of locations thanks to the new modifications Doc made to the DeLorean.

Through these two seasons we got to see our heroes visit the American Civil War, the medieval times, 3,000,000 BC, the Massachusetts during the Salem witch trials, Ancient Rome 36 AD, 1800s London, Verne running away to the Caribbean in the year 1697 to become a pirate and get an earring, the 1800s, the 1930s, you name it!

During some of the most fun episodes we even saw a pair of robbers accidentally steal and activate the DeLorean's time circuits and end up in the 1790s (with Einstein!). The last episode of the first season was one of my favorites and it was a huge play on the film series, and more specifically Back to the Future Part III. In one of their adventures in the past Jules and Verne cause their own grandmother to fall in love with Marty instead, making their mother Clara disappear. To save their own life they must help their grandfather Daniel. Meanwhile "Mad Dog" Tannen's own father Wild Bill Tannen is set after them. Season 2's last episode, the series finale, wasn't as good and original, but it saw Biff's own son Biff Jr. try to steal the dinosaur that hatched from an egg they brought back to the present.
  

The cartoon tried playing with several ideas to bring some different elements to the show.

Making this animated series a fairly interesting "edutainment". They played with a lot of fun duplicable scientific experiments within the series. Such as having Jules and Varne having to provide electricity by using some lemons in some real science experiment.

Typically the cartoon opened with a live action segment with Doc Brown - actually played by Christopher Lloyd!

Doc Brown greeted us again at the end of each episode where he would then launch a tape of a experiment relating to the episode's plot.

Each episode also ended with a post-credit joke with Biff - a play on Thomas F. Wilson's stand-up comedian career from the looks of it.



What I really like about this show is how they were able to get back several actors from the film.

Like I mentioned above, Christopher Lloyd reprised his role as Doc Brown in the live action segments. Although he was continuously voiced by "Homer Simpson" Dan Castellaneta in the cartoon. Castellaneta did a fairly convincing job although it's noticeably different from Doc from the films. Tom Wilson, Mary Steenburgen and James Tolkan all also reprised their roles from the film series, which is pretty impressive if you think about it. The show featured David Kaufman as a pretty decent replacement for Marty (although he sounded a lot more typical for the 1990s), Josh Keaton, Troy Davidson and Danny Mann as well.

In addition to this animated cast, the show also featured Bill Nye as Doc Brown's lab assistant in the live action segments at the end of each episode. He performed the various experiments kids could replicate at home, also working as technical advisor for the series. Believe it or not, his very own show Bill Nye the Science Guy was actually a sort of spinoff of Back to the Future: The Animated Series (using a similar tone, these segments would led Nye to get his own show greenlighted).



When it's all said and done, Back to the Future: The Animated Series is a pretty decent series on its own.

It was a fairly standard cartoon adaptation, but it turned out a lot better than it had any right to be. Have you seen other similar adaptations from the 90s?

On the plus side, it even saw Mary Steenburgen and Tom Wilson reprising their roles from the films!

It was not great, but it was a fun decent family show.

A fun cartoon. Which even contained some history lessons, and some clever science. Sure it was also kind of silly, but it was always fun. The show even manage to get some pretty good historical accuracy, all things considered.

For BTTF fans it brought a few new elements to the series such as officializing Doc's and Marty middle names, respectively "Lathrop" and "Seamus"! The new DeLorean was a fun idea, but you had to take things with a grain of salt due to the cartoon nature of things.

I liked how it focused more on the Browns. It worked, I mean even the recent video game would try to that as well. We already knew so much about Marty, but we basically know nothing about Doc.


My only real issue with the show is that they made Einstein too much anthropomorphic, he was just a regular dog in the films! It kinda took me off the cartoon some times... (Not all cartoon dogs must act like Scooby-Doo!).


For years the show was no longer available aside from a few rare VHS tape releases. But Universal would finally released the cartoon on DVD for the first time this October 20, 2015 to celebrate the franchise's 30th Anniversary. It was both released on its own separate DVD set (which you can see pictured above!) and as part of the Back to the Future: The Complete Adventures collection on Bluray. We finally have the complete series, both seasons, properly collected for home video after all this time!

The cartoon was well received and a fairly enjoyable cartoon, but more time passed more it loses its steam after the films, so to speak. Back to the Future: The Animated Series actually won a few "Daytime Emmy Awards" during its time, mostly for the sound on the show.

The music on the cartoon was actually pretty good. Remixed and rearranged compositions from the film composed by Michael Tavera. Using a fun cover of "Back in Time" by Huey Lewis for the opening credits and recognizable themes from Alan Silvestri for the instrumental, giving the cartoon a pretty authentic BTTF atmosphere.



Overall, Back to the Future: The Animated Series was actually a pretty good decent cartoon adaptations.

It's a classic 90s movie adaptation. But it managed to capture the essence of what Back to the Future is about. It was surprisingly good enough. Although it's a fairly typical cartoon product from the 1990s.

The show was popular enough it spawned a whole comic book series revolving around this animated series. This comic was published by Harvey Comics, and it was written by Dwayne McDuffie with art by Nelson Dewey. Speaking of spinoff products, they even produced a few toys specially designed after the cartoon, such as a McDonald's Happy Meal toys.

Despite it only lasting 2 Seasons, the cartoon would even influence the art direction of the Telltale Games episodic BTTF adventure. The cartoon might not be really considered "canon" unlike the video game continuation, but the game contains several direct allusions and references to the show. Such as bringing back Beauregard B. Tannen, Marty's middle name Seamus and even a nod to the "Tannenosaurus". Personally I still say the cartoon can easily follow after the game, which explains where this new DeLorean would come from.

I give it:
2 / 3 Felixes!

2 comments:

  1. I remember watching this cartoon long ago (Maybe before the movies. Might've been my introduction to the franchie. Not entirely sure) Was a swell time to watch, from what I recall. Should watch it again.

    Haven't read the new comics yet, have you? So far, the first four issues of the originally planned miniseries are the odd stories over the years like how Doc met Marty the "first" time, his start in building time machines, and what detour Old Biff took when going back in time. All fun stories. Be interesting to see what they have planned in terms of an ongoing series. (And if they incorporate anything from the game and cartoon, too)

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    1. I'm keeping an eye out for the trade actually ;)

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