Unused 'Back to the Future' Art By Drew Struzan to Grace Anniversary Album

Drew Struzan painted some of the most iconic movie posters of the 1970s and 80s, creating the art for Blade Runner, Indiana Jones, The Muppet Movie and The Goonies, but he got his start designing album covers, like the electric red demon infestation on Black Sabbath's Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.

"One paved the way for the other," Struzan told Newsweek, describing how a massive billboard featuring his art for Alice Cooper's 1975 album Welcome to My Nightmare "opened the door to work for the movie industry." Struzan didn't look back.

But now, with the announcement of a new reissue of the Back to the Future soundtrack in celebration of the movie's 35th anniversary, Struzan's artwork is making a vinyl comeback.

The new release from Mondo, a subsidiary of the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema movie theater chain known for its collectible screen-printed posters and vinyl movie soundtracks, will feature unused illustrations and poster art Struzan originally created for the 1985 release of time travel adventure.

This includes the front cover for the Back to the Future - Music From the Motion Picture vinyl reissue, which depicts Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) trapped behind a clock face, with moments from the movie captured in miniature before his startled expression.


It's a substantial variation from Struzan's final poster design for the movie, which emphasizes the time-travelling DeLorean over conceptual depictions of time itself. In the iconic poster, McFly is stepping out of the gull-wing doors of Doc Brown's modified MC DeLorean. The poster captures one of Struzan's signatures, by combining realistic people and faces with a fantastical overlap of iconography, in this case dissolving the time travelling vehicle into its own streak of flames, left behind by its 88 mile per hour passage.

"I'm not trying to create reality," Struzan said. "It's an emotional expression. I want people to feel the fantasy of the film. Moving through time in a DeLorean?! Already the premise takes you to another world. And another time."

Struzan's final poster design for 'Back to the Future.' Universal Pictures / Drew Struzan

In response to emailed questions, Struzan described the creation of the Back to the Future poster as the "quintessential dream job" with a "dream team" of creators, recalling a lengthier creative process than he's typically provided.

Most of the time, Struzan isn't able to see the movie in advance of making the poster (he first saw Back to the Future at the movie's premiere), so he works from production stills taken on the set, beginning with concept sketches.

"Ultimately, after many rounds of concept sketches, it was Steven Spielberg that provided the basic idea for the first poster," Struzan said, also citing a close collaboration with Back to the Future director Robert Zemeckis and his co-screenwriter Bob Gale. Spielberg was the movie's producer through his production company Amblin Entertainment.

"I created black and white comprehensives first, and then moved on to color comprehensives then finally doing several finished color paintings, all showing different ideas of time, place and circumstance that the team could use to solidify how they wanted to represent their film," Struzan said.

Struzan begins on illustration board, then uses an airbrush for color fills and colored pencils for detailed work. The lengthy development process for the Back to the Future poster resulted in the rich catalog of alternates, with Struzan illustrating or painting more than pieces for Back to the Future that were never intended to be seen by the public.

"There's a lot to this process that wouldn't necessarily make sense to a non-artist," he said. "But that's basically the technique I developed."

In a strange recursion between his work and its subject, one of the best places to look for more insight into Struzan's work appears in a movie. After working with Struzan to create posters for several of his previous movies, including The Shawshank Redemption, director Frank Darabont based the main character in his 2007 horror movie The Mist on Struzan, right down to the layout of the artist's home studio.

Renowned for their posters, Mondo's relationship with Struzan precedes the new vinyl soundtrack. The company has previously released screen printed versions of Struzan's iconic poster for John Carpenter's The Thing and even released a version of the movie-poster-within-a-movie Struzan created for Thomas Jane to paint in the opening scene of The Mist, based on Stephen King's The Dark Tower series.

"We had this long standing relationship and about a year ago we were approached and asked if we wanted to do something for Back to the Future's 35th anniversary," Mondo Music Creative Director Mo Shafeek said in a phone interview with Newsweek, describing the reissue's origins.

The back cover for the 'Back to the Future' vinyl reissue, featuring additional previously unreleased art by Struzan. Mondo / Drew Struzan

Recalling Struzan's unused artwork for the movie, some of which had emerged a few years earlier in celebration of the Back to the Future's 30th anniversary, Shafeek reached out about using the original creations for the vinyl soundtrack reissue.

"They look really good, so wouldn't it be so cool if we got Drew's original art concepts?" Shafeek said. "Within an hour, he was like, 'Yeah, that sounds like a great idea, let's do it.'"

Remastered and pressed on 180 gram vinyl in three colors—red, blue and DeLorean silver—the soundtrack reissue includes songs by Huey Lewis and the News, Etta James, Lindsey Buckingham and Eric Clapton, plus songs by the fictional Marvin Berry and the Starlighters, who performed at the 1955 Under the Sea dance in the movie.

Shafeek describes the results as "like an alternate reality version of what the soundtrack could be."

Back to the Future - Music From the Motion Picture will be available from Mondo for $25, beginning July 1. A portion of proceeds from the sale will go to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.

Mondo Records also pressed a limited edition of approximately 300 copies that will be released directly by Struzan, featuring an alternate cover.

The previously unused artwork featured on the limited Drew Struzan exclusive variant of the vinyl reissue. Drew Struzan

In storage for decades, many of Struzan's original paintings and illustrations are now on display at Galactic Gallery in Dallas, Texas, and on his website.

"The movies have given me an opportunity to express all the things I feel about art: truth, kindness, and love," Struzan said.