The news is 88 mph of awesome: The neon-lit Nikes that Marty McFly rocked in “Back to the Future Part II” are no longer part of a fictional 2015 but will soon be available for anyone willing to plunk down a hefty chunk of change.
After a daylong buildup of viral videos and a Los Angeles announcement event lighting up the Web like a lightning-struck clock tower, Michael J. Fox himself appeared on “Late Show With David Letterman” on Thursday to show off the limited-edition Air McFlys (formally known as the Nike Air Mag).
The proceeds from the 1,500 pairs of shoes, which will be auctioned off on eBay, will go to the actor’s Parkinson’s disease research foundation. “It’s kind of cool because it brings together three populations of people with major joneses,” Fox told Letterman. “The sneaker-heads who love sneakers, the ’Back to the Future’ guys who, believe me, are out of their minds, in a good way, thank God for them. And people in the Parkinson’s community.”
Shortly before Fox’s TV appearance and after a day of hanging out with Universal and Nike execs for the rollout, “Back to the Future” writer Bob Gale called up MTV News to talk about the development. Gale has geeked out with us before about “BTTF” memorabilia, including the Mr. Fusion he turned into a desk lamp, so we figured he’d be the perfect guy to lend insight into the new shoe’s development and how it connects back to their first appearance in 1989. He did just that, as well as assuage our concerns that the Air Mags don’t come with auto laces as Marty’s did in the film. Be patient, Gale counseled us … all in good time.
MTV: How did this whole thing come together?
Bob Gale: Nike has been thinking about this for quite some time. They came out with those other shoes a couple years ago that were sort of like these, and at that time, [producers] Bob Zemeckis, Frank Marshall and I were approached by Nike saying what they wanted to do was see if they could develop the actual shoe from “Back to the Future Part II.” They expected to do various versions building up to 2015. They would make sure it was all to benefit the Michael J. Fox Foundation. They had me at hello. When we made the movie back in 1989, we had the shoe designed by Nike. Tinker [Hatfield], the designer over there, went back into his old notebooks saying, “What did I do back then? What did I draw?”
MTV: So Nike went back to the original concept art for inspiration?
Gale: Well, they basically used the movies. There are drawings, which they unveiled during the Universal event. Some of those drawings are Tinker’s original drawings. The one thing they wanted to make sure they got absolutely right was to create a shoe that would absolutely, 100 percent look like the shoe from the movie. Of course, back in 1989, there was no technology to make them light up or be power laced. There are behind-the-scenes pictures showing Michael J. Fox with all these wires coming out of his jacket and shoes to make those effects works. We had a guy off camera who pulled wires and tightened the shoes. Nike figured they better figure out how to do that for real rather than have some guy follow you around all day when you want to lace ’em.
MTV: What was the announcement event like today? What was going through your head as you watched everyone go nuts for these sneakers?
Gale: What’s cool about these movies is they inspire people in different ways. John Mayer said he saw the “Johnny B. Goode” scene, and that made him want to be a rock star. I meet so many screenwriters who say, “The movie that made me want to be a screenwriter was ’Back to the Future.’ ” There are people out there trying to figure out how to make a working hoverboard. The fact that art inspires people is the greatest compliment you can have. This crazy idea about sneakers that light up and lace themselves is one step closer to being a reality.
MTV: Why now? Why not five years ago or 2015?
Gale: Nike wanted to do this in tiers. This is the beginning.
MTV: So if this year’s shoes don’t have the auto laces, future years’ might?
Gale: Yes! It’s not 2015 yet. It’s only 2011!
MTV: I can’t wait that long! I can’t be patient.
Gale: No one ever can.
MTV: What’s your sense of what this all means to Michael J. Fox?
Gale: It’s nothing but positive. He’s thrilled out it. He’s going to be on “Letterman” and you’ll hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.
MTV: What’s your recollection of creating and using the shoes in the film?
Gale: We were associated with Nike on the first movie because Marty McFly is wearing Nikes on that. We said, “OK, he’s wearing Nike shoes in 1985, what will the shoes of the future do?” One of the things we wanted to do was keep all the elements we had established in the first movie and bring them forward to the future. We had the Texaco station in 1985 and then 2015. We show the movie theater, from a Ronald Reagan movie to a porno movie to “Jaws 19” in 3-D. The Nikes were a continuing element to distinguish between the past, present and future. We thought it was cool at the time. The fact that people still think it’s cool is really cool.
MTV: Who has the original power-lacing Nikes?
Gale: I think Nike has the original pair. They’re all rotted. They weren’t built to be anything other than movie props. And for the other pairs that didn’t need to self-lace that he used as part of his wardrobe, they must have made a dozen pairs of them. Where those are, I have no idea. Whether they got ditched, stolen, sold, I have no idea.
MTV: Now that the Nikes are a reality, is that a load off? No one will be coming up to you on the street and asking why they’re not available?
Gale: No! They’ll stop asking me that, but then they’ll want to know when we’re getting the hoverboards.
Check out everything we’ve got on “Back to the Future Part II.”
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