Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Hill Valley, California, is the fictional setting for the Back to the Future films. In addition to the main plot, the series of films are well-known for the many sight gags, verbal innuendos and detailed set design, from which fans attempt to reconstruct a detailed and consistent history and geography of the area. Much of the popularity of the series of films is due to the multiple times that fans watch the films and still discover subtle gags that they hadn't noticed before.
As it is implied in the movies, the town was first settled about 1850, and in 1865 became a city. By the 1880s the railroads had reached the town and the small settlement was growing. Construction of the courthouse began in 1885 and the Shonash Ravine Bridge in 1887. By 1955 the town was in its heyday, with a grass-covered town square right in front of the courthouse. A popular place to hang out was Lou's Café; other businesses included Ruth's Frock Shop, a Texaco gas station, Roy's Records, and the Essex Theater.
On Saturday, 12 November 1955, at 10:04pm PST, lightning struck the clocktower, freezing the clock at 10.04 pm where it would remain for at least the next 60 years, despite many attempts to repair it. The Hill Valley Preservation Society believed it should remain stopped as a symbol of its history and heritage.
By 1985 Courthouse Square was but a shadow of its former self. Since Twin Pines Mall opened, a lot of the businesses had relocated there or shut down, and the Square was full of adult book stores and second hand shops. On October 26th 1985, local inventor Doc Brown invented a time machine built into a De Lorean sports car, and his young friend Marty McFly was accidentally sent back to 1955. Marty interfered with his parents' first meeting but managed to get them back together, and using the lightning bolt that struck on November 12th got back to the future, only to discover that because of his interference, his father George McFly was now a confident sci-fi author rather than a geeky office worker.
It is in the future though that Hill Valley regained its heyday. By 2015, the town square is once again a grassy park with a lake, and shops had returned to the square. The courthouse has been converted into a mall, and the clock is nostagically still stopped at 10.04pm. The future for this little town in California looks bright indeed.
We also see an alternate history in Hill Valley. In 2015, Biff Tannen steals the time machine, goes back to 1955 and gives his teenage self a sports almanac with the results of every sports game from 1950 to 2000. Using this book, Biff became incredibly wealthy. In 1973 he murdered George McFly and married his widow, Marty's mother Lorraine Baines McFly. Gambling was legalised in 1979 and Biff turned the courthouse into a casino-hotel. Luckily, Marty and Doc went back to 1955 and got the almanac from young Biff, thus returning history to normal.
Hill Valley is located in Northern California, 12 miles east of Grass Valley and with railway links to San Francisco. The town is nestled in rolling foothills, and (according to details in part 3) although there is a desert within walking distance of the town, the nearby lake freezes over in the winter.
- The clock tower (or at least the face) appears in all time periods.
- In 1885, the clock tower has not been built, but the clock mechanism is started.
- In 1955, the clock tower is struck by lightning and the clock badly damaged.
- The fictional Pepsi product in 2015 is Pepsi Perfect .
- In 1985 (normal), the clock tower is in need of repair.
- In 1985 (alternate), the clock tower has been converted into a high rise casino.
- In 2015, the clock tower has been renovated into a mall with a large stained-glass entry way and underground features.
- In 2015, the Texaco gas station has a 7-Eleven convenience store on the first floor with vending machines.
- In 2015, Hill Valley is connected to its suburbs by flying cars that use the Skyway
- In 1985 (alternate), Hill Valley High School is destroyed
- In 1985 (normal), the mall has two names: it starts as Twin Pines Mall, but after Marty destroys one of the pine trees in 1955, he comes back to discover it has been renamed Lone Pine Mall.
- Marty crashes into the Town Theater upon returning to 1985 (the first time)
- The Twin Pines Mall has a JCPenney, and Robinsons (Now known as Robinsons May ).
- In 2015, police officers wear hats with various phrases such as "Have a nice day" scrolling on an LED screen across the brim.
- In 2015, trash cans move themselves around the city, automatically moving to where they are needed.
- In 2015, floating street lights and traffic signs outline the Skyway.
- In 2015, a floating sign saying "Welcome to Hill Valley" has symbols representing the Rotary, Kiwanis and Lions clubs. A very similar sign was on the courthouse square in 1955.
- The grassy commons from 1955 becomes an underground shopping mall in 2015. The street running parallel to the clock tower on the other side of the commons becomes a 'No Landing Zone' in 2015.
- Back in the real 1985, something did change, namely the name of the Clayton Ravine. There's a sign "Eastwood Ravine", when Marty and the DeLorean are rolling over the railroad track at the end of Part 3.
- In 1985, Marty lives in a deteriorating neigborhood called Lyon Estates. A sign on the site in 1955 says "Live in the Home of Tomorrow - Today!" In 2015, Marty is impressed that his future self lives in a "new" neighborhood called Hilldale, unaware that it too has deteriorated over thirty years.
- Mayor Red Thomas' 1955 campaign car gives the same message as Mayor Goldie Wilson's in 1985, including the music. The same music can be heard in 2015, in Goldie Wilson III's hoverconversion comercial.
See also: Back to the Future timeline
Hill Valley 1885 was filmed in Sonora, California; they were able to use the land rent free as long as they left the buildings. They agreed to leave everything except the Clock Tower. In 1995 a lightning bolt struck the town and it burned down. The back lot in which all the other time periods were filmed in also burnt down because of a security guard.
Originally the producers wanted to film the town square in a real town. But they soon realized there would be to much work to convert the city to 1955, and decided to save money by filming it on the backlot where they had more control.
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