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The opening shot of Back To The Future really tells you absolutely everything you need to know about Doc Brown. The incredible number of clocks reflect both his kookiness and fascination with time; his automatic dog food opener shows us both the love for his dog, Einstein, and his love for inventing; and both the malfunctioning toaster and missing coffee pot immediately tell us that he's kind of a disorganized dude. This was all captured in one glorious take by director Robert Zemeckis, but you wouldn't believe the amount of work and coordination that it all took to happen.
The video you see above comes from Vimeo user Jamie Benning, who has launched the first installment of a video series that is based around a recent interview he did with Back To The Future's special effects supervisor Kevin Pike. In the short first chapter, the behind-the-scenes magician explains some of the impressive efforts that were necessary to make the long opening shot of the movie work. This big challenge involved not only a full crew being hands on with all of the clocks and various pieces of equipment, but even specialized treatment of the props.
Practically every frame in the sequences has something special about it, such as the fact that it took a group of 20 people to make sure that all of the clocks worked in sync and operated properly, but my favorite bit of trivia is towards the end when Pike begins to talk about the dog food opener. The special effects crew actually constructed a fully functional machine designed to open cans, but got thrown for a bit of a loop when they failed to get approval for the kind of chow they were originally experimenting with. Because the new type of dog food didn't have the consistency that Zemeckis wanted, the cans had to be heated up while the camera on the crane was going through the scene. Says Pike,
"We literally had a torch underneath, heating up the cans, so that the dog food would pour out and flop into the bowl in the comedic fashion that Bob designed."
Robert Zemeckis may come across as kind of a perfectionist in that story, but can you blame him? The comedic plop that's in the film is just perfect.
As interesting as this video is, the best thing about it is that it's only the beginning. We will definitely be keeping our eye our for more of these cool videos about Back To The Future.