By Barry Janoff
October 21, 2015: Observing that "movie magic sometimes turns into technological reality," Toyota is going pedal to the metal with a Back to the Future campaign to support the U.S. release of its Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle.
The car, which already has hit showrooms in Japan, will first be available in California this month before Toyota ramps it up for national release. According to Toyota, most of the hydrogen refueling stations needed to run the vehicle are located in California, but plans are to make them available across the country.
A multi-media "Fueled by the Future" campaign ties the Mirai — which, according to Toyota, is powered by hydrogen fuel with the "potential to be sourced from almost anything, including solar, wind and trash" — to the DeLorean automobile designed by Doc Brown in Back to the Future that was powered by Mr. Fusion, a converter that turned trash into fuel.
Toyota did qualify the dynamics, however, stating, "While drivers can't exactly throw soda cans and banana peels into the Mirai fuel tank and expect to cruise the roads of California, organic waste can decompose and produce bio gas at land fills. This gas can be purified into and converted into hydrogen for fuel.'
Toyota said that the only emission from the Mirai's tailpipe is water.
According to Toyota, more than 2,000 people to date have requested to buy a Mirai in California. MSRP is about $58,000, but Toyota said that federal and California state incentives "will drop the price down to $45,000."
The campaign features Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd recreating their roles as Marty McFly and Doc Brown, respectively, from the Back to the Future trilogy.
Back to the Future was released in 1985.
Back to the Future II, released in 1989, has become the focal point of the Toyota effort based on the scene where Brown's DeLorean time machine is set for Oct. 21, 2015.
Back to the Future III was released in 1990.
"This moment celebrated the intersection between the U.S. arrival of the Mirai and the 30th anniversary of an iconic film," Bill Fay, Toyota division group vp and GM, said during an event in California on Tuesday night attended by Fox, Lloyd and more than 300 new Toyota Mirai owners, Mirai dealers and special guests.
"We were thrilled to mark the occasion with a video featuring the film's original stars Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd, reminding our first Mirai owners that they will be driving a future we could only dream of 30 years ago," said Fay.
Among others, Pepsi, Pizza Hut and Nike have had activations saluting Oct. 21, 2015 as Back to the Future day.
Back to the Future films also are being run in theaters nationwide, and a new Blu-Ray and DVD box set has been released by Universal.
The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research has a donation drive tied to the movies and the anniversary of their release, "A Future Without Parkinson's."
Back to the Future was executive produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by Robert Zemeckis.
Toyota teased its Mirai release last week with a 30-second spot, "Diner," in which Fox and Lloyd discussed events and products that were featured in the movie did or did not come true. A second spot, "Clocks," anticipates Oct. 21 with a room filled with ticking clocks and a voiceover that tells people to get ready for a special event.
A new five-minute spot stars Fox and Lloyd — both in clips from the film and in real life — and Mischa Pollack, a scientist with a masters in aero-mechanical engineering, who takes viewers on a tour of locations actually used in Back to the Future as he collects trash to turn into fusion for the Mirai.
During the spot, Pollack explains to Fox and Lloyd how landfill trash decomposes and produces "an enormous amount of bio-gas" and that a "special facility receives the purified gas combined with natural gas from the grid, where it all gets processed into hydrogen" that is then transported to fuel stations for pumping.
The trio ultimately get to drive a Mirai that comes complete with an "OutATime" license plate from the original movies.
The spot, which includes a Back to the Future soundtrack and graphics, concludes with the text, "The End . . . Or Actually . . . The Beginning." (See the full spot here.)
"A piece of the future is now a reality with the Toyota Mirai," Lloyd said at the release party. "Compared to some other technologies predicted in the film, like rehydrated pizza or self-tying shoes, this technology has the real potential to change the world."
According to Pollack, who said he was inspired to become a scientist by the Back to the Future movies, "Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would have the opportunity to work with two of my heroes on such a once-in-a-timeline project. It was a great privilege that Toyota let me part of this tremendous campaign and I wish them the best of luck in moving this technology forward."
The campaign also incorporated the 2016 Toyota Tacoma, a modern version of what was Marty McFly's dream truck in the original films.
Lead agency for Toyota's "Fueled by Everything" campaign is Droga5. Toyota said that Back to the Future elements also "drew on the expertise of Saatchi & Saatchi Los Angeles."
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