It’s possible that “Peabody’s Improbable History” from the “Rocky and Bullwinkle Show” did more to influence the Baby Boom generation on time travel in pop culture than anyone else. Prior to the 1950s, there wasn’t a single radio show, TV show or movie that utilized the plot of time travel other than perhaps in comic books. Time travel just wasn’t something people thought about prior to the late 1950s, perhaps because people had been living so comfortably in the years prior to World War II and after during the 1950s economic boom. When the Mr. Peabody and Sherman characters arrived, it was fully intended as a belly laugh while merely teaching kids little history lessons.
Time travel as a more cinematic sentimental device didn’t really start until the movie adaptation of H.G. Wells’ “The Time Machine” released in 1960. Despite showing some emotional reverence for the Victorian era in 1900, most time travel in pop culture afterward stayed within the context of exploring historical events than an individual person finding personal catharsis traveling to a certain time.
“The Twilight Zone” certainly put that very aspect into the minds of the future generation. You can especially say that with Rod Serling’s “Walking Distance” episode from 1959 where a man goes back to visit his hometown and encounters his parents.
When “Back to the Future” came out in 1985, you could see all these influences, including a little sly nod to Mr. Peabody and Sherman. And with the “Back” trilogy setting a standard for more complicated time travel stories, we’ve since received many more of them. In fact, over the next year or two, we’re going to have a renaissance in movies utilizing time travel on more emotional levels.
That shouldn’t be surprising more emotional time travel stories have finally blossomed in the time we live. Nostalgia is at its greatest peak right now due to the idea we’re living in extremely troubled times and that everything before was generally better, or at least in certain aspects like entertainment and personal principles. Plus, with departed loved ones from family or personal relationships sometimes indicative of an era, those feelings are enhanced even more when the right time travel movie comes along.
Now with a “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” movie adaptation out in 2014 and various romantic time travel tales upon us, why couldn’t “Back to the Future” join the reboot fray? With Michael J. Fox back in the saddle with his popular NBC sitcom, who’s to say he can’t come back as an adult Marty McFly? Had he done a live-action show under the “Back to the Future” title on TV, it would have been a bigger hit than the semi-popular animated Saturday morning show that aired in the early 1990s.
The movie series, though, managed to take time travel movies into very complicated territory where some of the classic time paradoxes were eventually attempted. But plenty more of them still haven’t been explored and it’s where “Back to the Future” could pick up, particularly with traveling to the past once again. As with the Saturday morning show, another movie doesn’t have to take place right in Hill Valley, California and instead explore the past (or future) of other places.
If you’ve seen the trailer for upcoming “Mr. Peabody & Sherman”, then you can see the entertainment potential for traveling to the past and creating more mind-bending time travel paradoxes. While the aforementioned film won’t live up to time theory in this film, “Back to the Future” always took care in making sure every scenario was theoretically possible. It’s why “Back to the Future” is sorely needed again to give some sense of believability to time travel while also making it resonate on a nostalgic level.
That might warrant a quick pass-through of the events of the first movie where Marty and Doc Brown have to strategically hide again to not be seen by their younger counterparts.
Let’s see someone try to bring the franchise back before most time travel movies become copycats of “The Time Traveler’s Wife.” Creating time travel movies with real logic will put those who wish to be back in a different time in a much better psychological mood.