Friday, October 9, 2015

From 1985 to 2015: Back to the Future 30th Birthday Party

Let's time travel back to January, when I celebrated my 30th birthday. If you do the math, that would mean I was born in 1985. What else happened in 2015 and 1985? Doc Brown built a time machine in 1985, and used it to bring Marty to 2015, of course.

(PS: the real Back to the Future Day (the day they arrive in 2015) is coming up on October 21.)

I've actually had the idea of a Back to the Future 30th birthday party since sometime in college when I realized the 1985/2015 connection, so I was really excited about it and put waaay more time into planning and making decor than it really warranted. But I really like the final results (maybe we'll make a Back to the Future themed nursery when the time comes, so as to get more use out of them?), and had a blast making the props and having the party.


Abe and I dressed, sort of - abstract interpretations of, maybe? - as Doc Brown and Marty, in their 2015 apparel.

Doc Brown: Loudly patterned (pink checkered was as loud as Abe has in his wardrobe) button up shirt, translucent tie, metallic sunglasses.

Marty: Iridescent cap, maroon tee shirt, inside out jeans (and of course, keep your hoverboard handy!)

I also encouraged guests to come in time-traveler costumes, if they wanted, so we also had some fun futuristic and cool retro outfits. To continue the theme, they got to take home a clock (I picked up several interesting styles of clocks at Goodwill) as a party favor.


For drinks, of utmost importance, of course, was having Pepsi.

We also had Bud Light, vodka, and chocolate milk

The food spanned the stretch of time: meatloaf (err... nut loaf) and mashed potatoes (from a box, of course!)), as well as half pepperoni (aka pineapple) / half green pepper pizza. Plus grapes and peanut brittle

But the star of the food table: a Welcome Home Uncle Joey jailbird cake!

This is actually the second time I've made such a cake - several years ago some friends did a marathon viewing party of the trilogy, and I made the cake to bring to that party.For the black I bought a little gel piping frosting thing, but the rest is just colored and piped out with a ziploc bag with the corner cut off. It's pretty simple, and super fun to make.

Decor & Props

There were a few items I put together as part of our costumes: 

Translucent tie: This is cut out of plain white vellum scrapbooking paper (as large a sheet as I could find, but only 12 x 12). I used a regular tie as a general stencil, and taped the pieces together with clear packing tape to make the total length. At the top, I taped on a large safety pin, which is pinned to the front of one's shirt in order to wear.

Metallic sunglasses: I first made a pattern, with some trial and error, on plain paper, from tracing a pair of real sunglasses. I then cut the pieces from metallic thick scrapbookkeeping, in 3 pieces - front (with small tabs on the side for connecting) and each side. In these components, I was able to fit four pairs in one 12 x 12 sheet. The sides are then taped on with clear packing tape, with the side pieces overlapping onto tabs on the front.

Iridescent hat: This started as a cheap, plain canvas hat from JoAnn's (meant to be painted or otherwise decorated for crafts). It happened to be light blue, as that's what was in stock, but the goal is to completely cover it so as long as it's fairly light in color it doesn't matter.

I bought a set of paints that was several small tubs covering the rainbow, so I could pull all the colors onto the hat. I just painted small sections in each color, trying to coordinate them to border colors next to them on the spectrum, and brush them to blend together. I aimed to make the size, shape, and distribution of each color fairly random. Once that layer dried, I painted a translucent silver glittery paint over the entire thing. 

I think this and the hoverboard are tie for my favorite project out of all of this. It's hard to tell from the photo, but in person, it's all shimmery, and though it's not actually iridescent, it does give a good impression that it could be! 

The rest of our outfits were easy to pull together from our own clothes, since we kept them simple. I could have added some kind of white sneakers to make mine a bit more complete, but never did think up a good way to do the jacket.

Signs: Around the house were various signs to set the scene.

  • Cafe 80s: Between a couple packets of smaller sheets of colored tagboard, I was able to sketch and cut out the various components, and simply glue together.
  • Hill Valley welcome sign in the sky - on our front door. I didn't do all of the badges/smaller signs, but just the main part. 
  • I printed out several "Save the Clock Tower" flyers, and posted them up on random walls and doors. 
  • Scenery window: I bought a cheap scenic poster of a garden at Michaels, that was just about the width of the dining room window. I nestled it into the frame, with the blinds covering the top edge, as if it were the scene out the window - or a screen replicating a scene! 
For both books, I was able to find images online to print out. I don't want to link to them (if I could even find them now), as I'm not exactly assured of the legality of them, but if you do a google image search, you can find multiple variations on this. 

Grays Sports Almanac: The image I printed didn't really have a spine (as it is a fairly slim book), so I bought a half-page sized journal to cover. I printed the front and back each on a page, leaving borders to fold inside the cover (except for the front left side, so it would line up and cover the flap from the back, leaving a reasonably clean seam). Glued on the pages, folding the flaps inside (with diagonally cut-off corners, so they'd fold in easier). Covered the whole thing with contact paper so it would be sturdy and I can actually use this currently-blank journal for something in the future!

A Match Made in Space: I had to do a bit more playing around with the sizing on this one, so that the image I found would fit the proportions of both the front/back of the cover and the spine of a (fairly thick) book I had, then printed this all in one piece on large (I think 11 x 17) paper. Left flaps on the sides of the image, but cut the top and bottom on the edge of the image, so as to line up with the edges of the book. Wrapped around (not gluing! this is on an actual paperback book), and folded the sides inside the cover, taping in place.

Fax machine: This is still on our dining room wall (without a fax coming out of it). A disappointingly small percentage of guests comment or apparently notice it.

I cut a small square-ish box in half to create the longer rectangle and taped it together (the back only has a couple of the flaps from the box in place, which provide a surface for the command adhesive velcro, which is what's attaching it ot the wall). I covered the whole thing with white scrapbook paper (which is thick enough to cover any writing on the box). 

I then carefully cut a slit through the box and paper, and lined the slit with black electrical tape, to create a smooth surface through the slit. The red and green buttons are little jewel stickers (found in the scrapbooking section - a lot of supplies came from there!), that I painted over and then stuck on, with the black button in between another piece of electrical tape. I drew on the AT&T logo.

The "You're fired" fax was another image I was able to find online and print out. It slides through the slit to appear as if it's incoming fax. (There were multiple copies, as in the movie, with some strewn on the floor beneath the fax.)

Hoverboard: And last, but not least, my masterpiece, a life-size hoverboard.

The base is foam board (the stuff that's about a 1/4" foam sandwiched between two pieces of tagboard. I cut out a skateboard shape, plus 3 circles. Most of the design is painted on, with judicious use of painters tape, put on and off in between layers, to get straight lines. 

Added on top is the two Mattel logos, just printed from an image I found online and glued on. The hoverboard boosters on the bottom are two circles of foam, painted grey, and glued in place. Black electrical tape circles them to secure in place, and cover the foam sides. The boosters are connected with scrapbook paper to resemble the metal components. Some of these paper components are attached both on the base board on the layered foam circles, to create a nice 3-dimensionality. 

The foot pad is another foam circle, painted (with taped lines) (and painted on the side, to sort of reduce visibility of the foam in this case), and a loop created from pink duct tape. The final touch was a boarder of pink duct tape (sliced in half length-wise, to create the right proportion). 

Other Ideas

Things I didn't get around or didn't have space for, but I think would also be great additions to a Back to the Future event:
  • Flux capacitor made with rope/tube Christmas lights in a Y shape in a box. 
  • Mr. Fusion trash can near the food table to put scraps or garbage in.
  • Print photos in the movie, such as the Chapel O Love wedding photo, and display in frames as if it's part of your normal decor.
  • Have a self-walking dog hanging out in front of your door - put a collar and leash on a stuffed dog, and rig up the leash with wires to suspend from your porch or door frame.
  • A Hilldale (the neighborhood/development) sign. (I thought about putting this at the exit from the main living area, to sort of indicate the "home" area the way a neighborhood is part of the overall city.)
  • DeLorean toy cars.
  • Re-elect Goldie Wilson election signs
  • 1985 and 2015 brand logos, such as Pepsi.
  • A large, fancy clock (perhaps a grandfather style clock?) to resemble the clock tower clock, stopped at 10:04.
  • An alternative to the translucent tie is the double tie.
  • A toy train set.
  • Have some Jules Vern books displayed.

(A disclaimer: all movie pics in this post are screenshots I took myself while playing a purchased DVD, so hopefully that's legal to share such images!)


  1. That party looks amazing! I love your inside-out jeans.

    Our local Cineplex is showing the first two BTTF movies on the 21st and then showing all three on the 25th. I can't wait because I was too young to actually see them in the theatres the first time.

    1. Thanks! Oh, that's fun that they're doing that. I think I'll look into seeing if there's anything like that around me, it'd be fun to go to!


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