The flux capacitor, as most movie fans know, is an essentially magical, lit-up gizmo that makes time travel possible in Robert Zemeckis’ Back To The Future franchise, an enterprise that now encompasses three feature films, an animated series, several theme park attractions, and countless examples of hyper-detailed Doc/Marty slash fiction. While Future fanatics may never be able to duplicate the results achieved by Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox in the films, they can build their own, merely decorative flux capacitors at home using such commonplace items as a cardboard box, rope lights, washers, duct tape, and plenty of spray paint. This is the gospel according to filmmaker Dustin McLean, whose AWE me YouTube channel contains a series called DIY Prop Shop, which offers step-by-step instructions on replicating famous movie props, including a Terminator arm, a Ghostbusters ghost trap, and an Iron Man arc reactor. The latest episode, “Make Your Own Flux Capacitor,” is not McLean’s first attempt at imitating the Future franchise. A previous DIY Prop Shop installment was devoted to those ever-tempting hoverboards from the 1989 sequel.
Even though McLean’s ersatz flux capacitor will not transport anyone back to 1955 unless they inhale paint fumes and start hallucinating, it’s nevertheless a very cool-looking prop. It’s really nothing more than an ordinary cardboard box with a hole cut in the front and some rope lights strung through the back, but once plugged in, it makes a handy substitute for the beloved deus ex machina of the Back To The Future movies. What is perhaps most interesting is that little details can make an enormous difference in the finished results. McLean, for instance, has an old-fashioned label maker with which he fashions the red warning stickers (e.g. “SHIELD EYES FROM LIGHT”) affixed to the flux capacitor. A seeming triviality, but the labels go a long way to lending authenticity to McLean’s project. Other, seemingly mundane features of the prop, such as the device’s multicolored plugs, prove surprisingly vexing and require a little trial-and-error on the host’s part.