An Interview with Joe Walser – World authority on the DeLorean Time Machine

Written by | Featured, Interview

As many of you will know, 2020 is a very special year for the Back to the Future franchise with the original film releasing back in 1985 thus celebrating its 35th Anniversary alongside introducing us to Pop Culture titans Marty McFly & Doc Brown. However, it also introduced something else to many young viewers and something which has stuck with them ever since, perhaps even becoming the main character of the franchise. The ‘thing’ in questions, why the DeLorean Time Machine of-course!

To mark the occasion, we’ve teamed with Eaglemoss Collections to offer you the chance to take home their 1:8th DeLorean Time Machine Model and we’ve had the opportunity to sit down with Joe Walser who’s something of an expect in this arena. Joe linked up with Universal Studios to lead the team that restored the screen-used DeLorean which now resides in the Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles and also consulted on the Eaglemoss model.

In this part of the Interview, we’ll be talking to Joe about the cultural impact of the DeLorean, his many various projects alongside it and exploring just why it has remained so relevant to fans 35 years later.

Hi Joe! It’s a fantastic opportunity for us and our readers to gain a deeper insight into the legacy of the DeLorean so a huge thank you for your time. To kick things off simply, why the DeLorean? What makes this car the perfect fit for BTTF for one and so iconic all these years later?

I am thrilled to be here and happy to share some of what I have learned about the DeLorean Time Machine over the past 14 years!  The original script for Back to the Future called for the time machine to be built from a refrigerator, strapped into the back of a pickup truck to make it mobile.  The Bob’s took the concept further and suggested that the time machine be built into a car, solving the mobility issue. 

The DeLorean was in the news at the time and Robert Zemeckis made the connection which would lead to the creation of the most iconic movie vehicle in motion picture history!  The futuristic looking DeLorean DMC-12 checked all the boxes and as Doc Brown said, “The way I see it, If you’re going to build a time machine out of a car, why not do it with some style?”

How did you originally come into contact with the DeLorean and how has your level of involvement continued to grow?  

The first time I laid eyes on a DeLorean was in a movie theater in 1985 when I watched Back to the Future for the first time.  I was the same age Marty McFly was in the movie, so it was easy for me to relate with him.  I was just as stressed as he was when Doc Brown disintegrated his dog, Einstein, and I was just as relieved one minute later when Einstein returned, unharmed.  That said, Doc Brown was really the character that I associated with the most.  I’m very project based and always with an eye on future projects.

In 1996, I moved to Los Angeles in 1996 to pursue a career in the motion picture industry.  I worked on a string of Disney movies, one of which was “My Favorite Martian” starring Christopher Lloyd, which reminded me just how much I loved Back to the Future.  It would not be until 2013, on a trip to Universal Studios with a friend, that I found myself staring at the DeLorean Time Machine they had on display, contemplating building one.  It was something I’d always wanted to do, but at that moment, I knew I was going to do it. 

I found a perfect DeLorean on Ebay of all places, that was located near me in Pasadena, so I drove over to see the vehicle, which I bought on the spot.  The owner apologized for the glove box that wouldn’t close, but since the time machine glove box doesn’t ever close, I took it as a sign that this DeLorean really wanted to become a time machine!

Here’s an example of the production DMC DeLorean model

My involvement in the Back to the Future community has been a perfect storm from the beginning.  Not only had my motion picture art department career helped develop a perfect set of skills for this project, I also lived just blocks from all of the places the original production team scavenged for time machine parts.  My goal was singular; to build the most accurate replica of Doc Brown’s time machine that was humanly possible, down to the direction of the welds and the rotation of the screws!  No detail was too small and no line in the sand too far.  In the early days, I caught a lot of flak about my extreme attention to accuracy but cutting corners has never been in my repertoire.

It’s fair to say that you have become the world authority on this iconic vehicle which must have presented you with a lot of fantastic opportunities on various projects but which has been your favourite so far? 

There have been so many epic projects I’ve been fortunate to be involved in, it’s difficult to choose just one favorite.  One of the grandest was the 30th Anniversary of Back to the Future fan events that I co-created in 2015.  We definitely raised the bar on immersive fan events, and not just for Back to the Future.  Some of my other favorite projects that I’ve been involved in:

  • On March 2, 2021, the Hayne’s manual for the DeLorean Time Machine that I wrote with Back to the Future co-creator Bob Gale and my team will be released.
  • Led the team that restored the actual DeLorean Time Machine used in all three Back to the Future movies.
  • Produced the most accurate DeLorean Time Machine replica ever built, which was featured on: The Oscars, commercial for Nike Mags featuring Christopher Lloyd, G.E. commercial featuring Michael J. Fox, Doc Brown Saves the Universe 2015 Bluray featurette, Walmart, and dozens of others
  • Co-created the first immersive Back to the Future fan event for the 25th Anniversary of Back to the Future in 2010.
  • Created the second ever officially licensed Back to the Future trading card set in 2010 with captions by Michael Klastorin, who created the original Back to the Future II trading card set by Topps in 1989.
  • Co-produced three generations of the officially licensed Marty McFly Valterra/Madrid skateboards:  2010, 2015 & the 2019 “Plutonium Edition” along with about a dozen other Back to the Future skateboard designs including the hoverboards.
  • Co-created the second immersive Back to the Future fan event for the 30th Anniversary of Back to the Future in 2015.
  • Created 1:1 scale “Lyon Estates” gates which we donated to Universal Studios in the name of all fans of Back to the Future.
  • Commissioned the alternate USA Today “Gang Jailed” newspaper as a USA Today giveaway at our 30th Anniversary event.
  • Led the team that designed the Mr. Fusion prop for Diamond Select.
  • And so many more projects, products and events!
Trevor gets hands on with the DeLorean Time Machine from Eaglemoss which YOU COULD WIN – Simply click the image to jump through to our Giveaway.

Let’s head into the franchise for a moment now and as a fan of BTTF, there are a lot of storylines that simply put, just work. The relationship with Marty and Doc or Marty and his parents. Do you have a personal favorite? 

Doc and Marty’s relationship was perfect.  A wide-eyed adventurous teenager with far less fear than he probably should have, befriended by a brilliant, eccentric scientist with a loose relationship with safety.  See?  Perfect.

What is it about the relationship with Doc and Marty that works so well? 

Marty and Doc’s now iconic relationship working so well is thanks to Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis’ perfect script and to the perfect chemistry that Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd created together.  The characters, the story and the DeLorean were a perfect storm, lightning in a bottle.

Personally, I could watch BTTF on loop and never grow tired of it. After all these years, why does it resonate so well with people and why is the DeLorean such a big part of that?

Everyone has something they would like to go back and fix or do differently if they could.  The fact that we can’t, allows us the opportunity to wonder how it might have been, without actually endangering our own existences.  There are actually a few different categories of Back to the Future fans that have their own unique niche, although it’s clear that we all appreciate the same things about Back to the Future.  Cosplayers, prop makers, DeLorean Time Machine replica builders, all coming together to appreciate the future, or the past.

I don’t wear red-orange vests, for example, but I do create events at which everyone around me does!  The experience and the journey is what Back to the Future fans want, and they know the red swoosh Nike’s are only half the battle.  It’s the DeLorean time machine that gets you WHEN you want to go.  It’s classy and exciting, but seriously sketchy and dangerous.  “Safe now, everything’s lead lined.”  I’m not sure that a non-licensed mobile nuclear reactor mounted to the back of a DeLorean using Plutonium stolen from Libyan nationalists is what I would consider safe, although all things are relative. 

When you see the DeLorean expanding out into movies such as Ready Player One, how does that feel? 

It’s always exciting when universes expand.  It’s also amazing to know that my team and I have had considerable impact on that expanding universe.  The creators of Ready Player One, for example, spent some time with the actual DeLorean time machine at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles while creating their 3D model. 

You can get a flavour of the DeLorean in action in Ready Player One!

The show Stranger Things was inspired by our Valterra/Madrid skateboards and had Madrid create a custom board for one of their characters, Max.  The six degrees of it all is palpable.  The first time I met Christopher Lloyd, I was working with him on Disney’s “My Favorite Martian”.  Since then, I’ve led the team that restored ‘Doc’s’ actual DeLorean, filmed countless Back to the Future related projects with him and just a few days ago I just participated in an upcoming project for the Discovery channel featuring, Christopher Lloyd!

As far as iconic vehicles the DeLorean is right up there with the Millenium Falcon. People may not recognize Bandit’s Firebird, but everyone recognizes the DeLorean from BTTF. Why do you think it stands out amongst a loaded field of icons from the 80s & 90s? 

I could not agree more.  Except that it is the Millennium Falcon that’s right up there with the DeLorean time machine!  There are so many epic movie vehicles, it’s hard to choose.  But, there’s a huge difference between ‘like’ and ‘iconic.’  I like Bandit’s Firebird (kind of a lot) but I also like the Batmobile, the Nautilus, the Alien drop ship, AT-AT’s, the Snowspeeder, Thunder Road and all the rest, but only one car can be the most iconic; the DeLorean Time Machine, every time.

The DeLorean is currently being displayed at the Petersen Automotive Museum, correct? How excited were you to take that call letting you know it would be displayed there? 

Once my team and I had completed the museum quality restoration of the actual DeLorean Time Machine used in all three Back to the Future movies, the vehicle was put inside a plexiglass box in the “Universal Experience” museum in the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park.  It was amazing, but short-lived as the building that housed the museum was torn down to make way for new construction.  It was at that point that we continued earlier talks about the vehicle going to a different museum.  The Petersen Automotive Museum was the perfect choice.  Doc’s DeLorean would not be leaving “Hill Valley” and would be taken good care of and displayed among its peers! 

The DeLorean at the Petersen Automotive Museum

Ultimately, the DeLorean time machine drew so much attention that the Petersen decided to create an entire exhibit around the DeLorean, called “Hollywood Dream Machines” featuring other iconic sci-fi movie vehicles, including Luke’s actual landspeeder, light cycles from “Tron”, several Spinners from the “Blade Runner” movies, and so much more.  Yes, I was excited when the DeLorean went to the Petersen. 

You can read the full press release from the Petersen here.

Please tell me you’ve told someone to “get your damn hands off of her” when reaching for the DeLorean. 

I’ve told countless people to get their ‘damn hands’ off countless things for sure, and always with a George McFly flair.  “Hey you” with my pointing finger… um, pointing.  I’m a big fan of the highbrow, art or sayings that you either get or you don’t, but can’t be explained to you.  It’s like a code for identifying other big fans.

Let’s delve into some childhood fantasy now and just how fast have you gotten a DeLorean to drive? 

I did actually get my DeLorean up to 88 MPH.  It was terrifying.  The car shook and it felt like all the stainless steel panels were going to shake off all at once onto the highway.  So, I slowed down and never tried that again.  Arrive alive, especially when traveling into the future!

Say you have a working DeLorean like in BTTF, what year are you hopping back to and why? 

That’s easy.  Dinosaurs.  I’d love to actually see a living, breathing dinosaur and come back and be super judgie about Jurassic Park.  Seriously, though, dinosaurs.

The DeLorean or K.I.T.T.? Who wins that race? 

The DeLorean.  K.I.T.T. will unnecessarily turbo boost through the air, while the DeLorean will go back and change stuff over and over until it wins.  No brainer.  Dinosaurs. 

A huge thank you for joining us for this Back to the Future Interview with Joe Walser and you can catch the second part where we talk more closely about the Eaglemoss DeLorean (Which we’re giving away!).

Until then, a big thank you to Joe and be sure to keep it locked to Exclu for all the latest news and previews from across the toy community.

Last modified: October 29, 2020

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