Western Animation: Back to the Future

Marty McFly: Is there a Tannen in every century?

An Animated Adaptation of the successful Back to the Future films, that ran for 2 seasons of 13 episodes each in 1991 and 1992.

The series followed on from where the films left off. Doc Brown and his family (wife Clara, originally from the 1880s, and their sons Jules and Verne) have moved back to 20th Century Hill Valley, settling down in 1991. In addition to their flying, time-traveling steam engine, Doc has built a new DeLorean, and together with his friends Marty McFly and Jennifer Parker, Doc and his family Time Travel backwards and forwards through time in search of adventure, usually meeting up with ancestors or descendants of both Marty and the films' villain, Biff Tannen.

The series contains the following tropes:

  • Aesop Amnesia: Go count the number of episodes where Jules and Verne disagree with each other and have to learn to get along again. We'll wait.
    • See Series Continuity Error below. Marty forgets a big one he learnt from the film trilogy.
  • Action Mom: Clara definitely Took a Level in Badass between the films and this series.
  • Alternate History: What if the Browns accidentally prevented the extinction of the dinosaurs?
  • Artistic License Paleontology: In the episode "Forward to the Past", the Cretaceous Period is stated to be in 3 million BC. Oh, and apparently there were lemon trees in California during that era.
  • Ascended Extra: Jules and Verne. Their only appearance in the original films is a brief, non-speaking appearance at the end of the third film.
  • Baseball Episode: Marty, Jules and Verne go back and time to save Pee Wee McFly's career as a baseballer.
  • Black Sheep: Verne does not have the same scientific interests or intelligence as his father, though he does have the blond hair (and a bit more common sense). His brother Jules likes to tell him he was adopted.
  • Broken Pedestal: Mr. Wisdom with Verne. He's nowhere near as cool in real life.
  • Burn the Witch!: One episode takes place in Salem, Massachusetts.
  • Catchphrase: In addition to "Great Scott!", Doc was given more catchphrases such as "Jumpin' jigowatts!" and "Galloping Galileo!"
    • Don't forget his "Ouchamagoucha!"
    • Also used was "For Petri's sake!"
  • Celebrity Paradox: Michael J. Fox seems to exist in the BTTF universe (see "Mythology Gag" below).
    • Back to the Future itself seems to exist in this universe; it can be seen on a theater marquee in "Hill Valley Brown-Out."
  • Character Name Alias: Marty says that his name is Jimmy Olsen during "Super Doc."
  • Christmas In July: the Brown family and Marty decided to visit late 1800's London during Christmas to beat the heat of the present time.
  • Cool Car: The new DeLorean time machine, which has even more gadgets than the film's DeLorean did.
  • Depraved Kids' Show Host: Mr. Wisdom, who seems happy-go-lucky on the surface, but has no trouble fleecing people out of their money, dropping kids through trapdoors, and stealing Doc Brown's inventions to sell as his own.
  • The Ditz: The Flanderized version of Marty McFly.
  • Enhance Button: Marty uses one in "Go Fly a Kite" to take a peek at the time circuits inside the DeLorean in Verne's video message, in order to figure out where/when Verne has run away to.
  • Evil Counterpart: Walter Wisdom for Doc Brown.
    • Evil Former Friend: In fact, the two were frat brothers and roommates in college in the late Fifties, and were close enough friends that Doc even told Walter about the concept for the flux capacitor. It wasn't until Walter stole and profited from Doc's perpetual motion hula hoop that he became evil and greedy.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: At the end of "Brothers," Doc uses Mr. Fusion to create a powerful electromagnet. A little too powerful, as he finds out...
    Doc Brown: It's attracting every metal object in the vicinity! Paper clips... this silverware... why, even the camera! (Beat) AAAH!! THE CAMERA!!!!
    (camera is pulled toward the magnet. Static, then darkness)
    Doc Brown: Hopefully, I'll have this thing fixed by my next broadcast. See you in the future!
  • Expospeak Gag: Doc speaks in these quite frequently. As does Jules, occasionally.
  • Floating Timeline:
    • The present is 1991, but despite 6 years passing since the events of the movie trilogy in 1985, Marty and Jennifer appear to be younger than they should. They at least put them in college—the first episode does make mention of Marty being in college, and makes a reference to DEAN Strickland—even if they were drawn looking like teenagers and seem to have become less mature than they were in the trilogy. Of course, Michael J. Fox still looks like he could play a teenager.
    • This is also the case in 2x02, which flashes back to Doc's college days in the late 1950's (when hula hoops were popular). Walter Wisdom, who knew Doc back then, even recognizes the flux capacitor as Doc's "old college dream." If you assume that maybe Doc went back to school for another doctorate sometime after 1955, he still seems younger than he should have been.note 
    • Biff also looks younger then he did in the movie. There, the present day version had graying hair and mild wrinklage. The animated incarnation has a brown buzzcut and no wrinkles.
  • For Want of a Nail
  • Free-Range Children: Jules and Verne. Exaggerated to the extent where they frequently steal the DeLorean and gallivant around the space-time continuum, although zig-zagged if Marty tags along on an adventure.
  • The Game Come to Life: "Bravelord and the Demon Monstrux".
  • Geographic Flexibility: Guess what? Hill Valley has its own college now even though it's supposed to be a small town and no college has ever been mentioned before.
  • Happily Married: Doc and Clara
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: The Browns regularly drive the DeLorean around town and use it as the family car, without the rest of Hill Valley knowing that it's a time machine. This causes problems in "Einstein's Adventure" when two bank robbers steal the car to use as a getaway vehicle, and accidentally activate the time circuits.
  • Historical In-Joke: Many.
  • Homemade Inventions: A lot of Doc's inventions are these.
  • Idea Bulb: Parodided in the episode "Forward to the Past"; Doc is standing in front of a lamp when he has an idea.
  • Identical Grandson: Numerous examples. Mostly with Tannens, but occasionally with McFlys and Browns as well.
  • I Just Want to Have Friends: Jules in "The Money Tree".
  • Impossibly Compact Folding: Doc Brown builds a car that can fold itself into a briefcase, just like George Jetson's example above. However, it's still a car, and requires a crane to lift.
  • Kid from the Future: Jules and Verne have met the past versions of their parents in multiple episodes.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Marty: "Is there a Tannen in every century?"
    • In one episode, Verne imitates a speech his mother gives, complete with it being delivered by Clara's voice actor as is sometimes done with cartoons. Once he's finished, another character remarks on the uncanny accuracy of the impression, and Verne says he sometimes uses it to call himself in sick to school.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Marty sarcastically says in one episode that he's Michael J. Fox, who played him in the films. Verne admits that he can see the resemblance. This also subtly lampshades the fact that he is not Michael J. Fox in this series.
    • The circus owners from "Verne's New Friend" are named Robert and Bob ("The Bob Brothers") after Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Jules and Verne. This actually proved to be a plot point in the episode "A Verne By Any Other Name" — after being bullied about his name, Verne went back in time to convince the real Jules Verne to change his name; failing at that, he travelled back to his own birth to convince his parents to name him something else.
  • Pac Man Fever: Every sound effect from Bravelord and Monstrux — which is Verne's favorite video game In-Universe — is taken directly from Super Mario Bros. 1.
  • Pre-emptive Declaration: In the Christmas Episode, Doc gives a woman some cash, explaining, "This should cover the damage I'm about to cause." He then takes out the bad guys with some rolling barrels.
  • The Professor: Doc, naturally.
  • Recycled: The Series
  • Series Continuity Error:
    • The Hill Valley clocktower is shown running in 1967 (in "My Pop's An Alien"). This contradicts the films, which made a plot point of the fact that the clock never ran again after 1955.
    • In the same episode, 1967 Doc does not recognise Marty, even though they met for nearly two weeks back in 1955.
    • In "Roman Holiday", while visiting Rome, Marty accepts a race against Biff's Roman ancestor Bifficus after he calls Marty a chicken. This contradicts the huge lesson about common sense which Marty had learned after his showdown with Mad Dog Tannen in the third BTTF film.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Doc and Jules.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: Just one example: Verne interrupts Benjamin Franklin's electricity experiment, causing Doc and Marty to have to simulate a storm in order to get Franklin to do it.
  • Shout-Out: The writers loved referencing The Andy Griffith Show. So much, in fact, that Hill Valley's sheriff is even named Andy Taylor, and he has a deputy named Barney.
  • Sibling Rivalry: This is the basis for many episodes.
  • The Stinger: The Tannen for that particular episode makes a joke after each show's credits—possibly a Shout-Out to Tannen voice actor Thomas F. Wilson's career as a stand-up comedian.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Chris from "Verne's New Friend," who pretended to be a boy so she could hang out with the girl-hating Verne. Verne doesn't react well when he learns the truth, but he lightens up by the end of the episode.
  • Time and Relative Dimensions in Space: Unlike the films, the DeLorean and time train can now travel through space as well as time, meaning they are no longer confined to Hill Valley.
  • Time Travel: Obviously.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: Every episode was told as a story by Doc. Considering it's Doc, it explains a lot.
  • Yet Another Christmas Carol: With a few subversions and a little Oliver Twist snuck in too. Doc and family, plus Marty, travel back to 19th century England during Christmastime to escape some nasty summer heat. One of the B plots of the episode features Ebiffneezer Tannen, who forecloses on the owners of a toy shop the main characters met in the beginning and sends them to debtors' prison. Clara, who was in the shop at the time and refused Ebiffneezer's advances, is sent too. Marty, attempting to break Clara out, is told Ebiffneezer is a real "Scrooge," which inspires him to pull the Ghost act on the Tannen. Ebiffneezer is a hard sell, though even after seeing stuff that "would make the Terminator cry," he refuses to change. It's only through Marty dropping and accidentally activating a projection movie system that he was watching on his hoverboard at the beginning of the episode that Ebiffneezer is inspired to change the Tannen is terrified by the Godzilla movie and swears to be good. The episode may be unique in having the lesson also not STICK Ebiffneezer reverts near-immediately to his nasty self once he sees Marty at the end and realizes he's not a ghost. There's an amusing bit of lampshading when Marty first appears as the ghost Ebiffneezer asks him if he's "Past, Present, or Future," and Marty, being a time traveler, admits to being all three.

Alternative Title(s):

Back To The Future The Animated Series