I spoke to Bobby Hundreds, from The Hundreds, about his recent collaboration with Back to the Future – Back to the Hundreds II. The collection drops July 23 at Midnight Eastern.
You released a Back to the Future collection in 2015 that was pretty extensive in terms of the amount of pieces that were created. Did you know in 2015 that you wanted to revisit the property at some point?
Totally. Look, straight up, at the time, the team we worked with at Universal didn’t quite get the vision. It was difficult to get them onboard for a lot of the more collaborative artwork and so I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the first Back to the Future collection. Here’s one example – for that project, we weren’t allowed to use Chris Lloyd or Michael J. Fox’s likenesses. That’s why they are nowhere in that initial collaboration.
So, in my head and heart, I knew that eventually we’d get to a place where we could have more creative liberty in working with Back to the Future. And I’m happy to say we’ve reached that goal with Back to The Hundreds II. And it’s all thanks to the current team in place at Universal. We love you!
What were some of the goals you had for the 2020 Hundreds x Back to the Future collaboration?
I wanted to do much of what we were barred from the first time around. I needed the primary characters (Doc and Marty) on a T-shirt graphic. I wanted our logo lockup to be a true mashup. Compared to our first collaboration, you’ll see the orange gradient now expands across the entire lockup (“Back to The Hundreds II”). These are subtle nuances that most consumers will never recognize or appreciate, but it goes towards telling a more complete story between the properties.
Unfortunately, there was a lot of marketing energy around this project that ended up on the editing floor because of the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 lockdown. We were planning a major event at the Hill Valley square in the Universal Studios backlot to celebrate the collection’s release. This was to be tied in with our food festival, Family Style. The plan was to re-open storefronts like Café 80s and other restaurants to eat at, with a DeLorean car show and a performance on the courthouse steps. I’m bummed that it didn’t happen, but it just motivates me to shoot for another collaboration in 5 years time. To be concluded…?
When it comes to this 2020 collection – which piece or item is your favorite and why?
It’s a tie between Doc’s button-up and Marty’s denim jacket. We did a version of Marty’s jacket the first time around, but it was modified to work for 2015. For the 2020 collaboration, I wanted to re-create the jacket literally, down to the lining. There’s a lot of lore around that denim piece if you dig into it online, not just amongst BTTF fans, but denim and fashion heads. The original reference is a rarity and so this is another shot at owning history. Also, as far as styling goes, the jacket actually fits appropriately in 2020. Much better than it would’ve worked in 2015.
I think the 2015 Back to the Future collection is the greatest collaboration ever between an apparel company and a pop culture franchise. Do you feel you improved on 2015 with the 2020 Back to the Future collection? If yes, how did you accomplish that?
Oh, absolutely. Well, look, we’re just a better brand and company five years later. Also, our team has advanced and have honed their skills just that much more. So, as far as design and presentation goes, we’re on another level now. You’ll be able to see in the quality and construction of the cut/sew pieces.
Also, as I spoke on earlier, the team at Universal this time around was such a pleasure to work with. They were supportive and cooperative throughout the process and let us get away with so much. We owe it all to them.
I know Back to the Future writer and co-creator Bob Gale helped you a lot with the 2015 collection when it came to dealing with the business side of things. Did he help you with this 2020 collection also? If yes, how so?
Yes! Bob Gale is always in the background. Everything has to go through him and his nod of approval.
Back to the Future is such a massive property and there are so many people involved with it, what kind of challenges come with collaborating with such a huge pop culture property?
It’s such a beloved franchise that everyone has their opinion on how the collaboration should be realized. I think they forget that creatively, it’s not just whatever we wanna do. For example, one graphic concept was a new Struzan poster depicting the three other characters who have been in the time machine: Jennifer, old Biff, and Einstein the dog. But, Bob Gale has thoughts on that, Universal has thoughts, Elizabeth Shue is not interested in handing over her likeness for that idea…a collaboration means exactly that: many different parties coming together to work on something in joint, even if that means compromises.
There are so many Back to the Future apparel items out there – you can find T-Shirts and Hats at almost every department store in America. How did you approach doing something that stands out from all the mainstream product that is available for fans of the franchise?
I’m sure we cross over on some pieces, but I actually don’t pay attention to what anyone else is doing. I’ve always been like that. I know what I’d like to see get made and I commit to that gut feeling. Even if someone else has made it before, the fact that it’s co-signed by The Hundreds changes the art and design entirely, in my opinion. It’s now a bridge between worlds, and a nexus between living stories.
Do you remember the first time you watched Back to the Future?
Since the first film premiered when I was five years old…I’d guess that the first time I watched it was on VHS a couple years after that. The last time I watched it? Literally last night. I’d say it’s playing somewhere in my periphery at least 1-2 days a week. Still.
How has the franchise influenced you as an artist? Is it inspiring for you and your work? Outside of the BTTF collections you have put together, how has it inspired your career as an artist?
There are countless references to Time throughout The Hundreds, and that is a recurring theme that is directly inspired by my favorite movie of all time, Back to the Future. Also, watching that movie in the 1980s – it confirmed the legitimacy of subcultural interests like skateboarding and rock music, that continue to shape the person I am today.
You used to own a DeLorean. Why did you give it up?
In short, the car required more maintenance than I was willing to put in. It was a life-long dream to own a DMC-12, but the nearest DMC shop was over an hour from me, and the car was continually having mechanical issues. I had to regretfully give it up after a while. I definitely admire the car more now that I don’t have it. Like the girl who got away.
What’s your fondest Back to the Future related memory? Outside of working on the apparel collections.
When I was a kid, I was on the Universal Backlot tour when the tram went by the futuristic Hill Valley set and we could see as they were filming some scenes. It was another couple years before the movie premiered in 1989 and I was so excited, considering I got a behind-the-scenes look of that Texaco station and the pond in front of the courthouse. I remember opening weekend vividly as well. I dragged my entire family to the theater on a Saturday and never stopped dreaming about hoverboards and flying DeLoreans from that day forward.
I know you have a lot of Back to the Future items in your office – what is your favorite piece of BTTF memorabilia that you personally own?
I own the original art for the alternative Back to the Future poster concept by Drew Struzan (the one with Marty’s hand wearing a wristwatch). Before that, I would’ve said my 1981 DeLorean with 500 miles on it or my Mattel Hoverboard replica. But, many other BTTF fans have those pieces of memorabilia (one of the reasons why I never bought Air Mags). I feel like I’m a unique fan and so I need something that no other BTTF collector has. Artwork is 1 of 1, so I win!
Outside of apparel collections for The Hundreds, have you ever thought about working with Back to the Future in a different artistic arena?
Yup, and here’s the special surprise. This is just the first installment of our Back to the Future collaboration for 2020. There is more coming – including skateboard replicas…
Is there anything else you want to mention?
Look out for the next drop after this. There are also some other hidden references to Back to the Future within The Hundreds this year. For example, we have a The Hundreds archive television show called GREATEST HITS (tv.thehundreds.com). If you’re a BTTF junkie, you’ll recognize that the logo is a parody of Blast from the Past. Also, in a month, we are throwing a food festival at a drive-in movie theater. We are calling it Drive-Thru Theater and the drive-in is an homage to Back to the Future III. Thus, we will be playing Back to the Future I and II back-to-back that evening and offer some new pieces to our Back to The Hundreds II collaboration.
You can keep up with Bobby Hundreds on Twitter here.