a look back at what could still be the future of the theatrical experience…
Back To The Future: The Ride was a simulator ride based on the popular movie series of the same name. It opened May 2, 1991, at Universal Studios Florida, and currently operates at Universal Studios theme parks in Orlando, Hollywood, and Osaka. It is different from other simulators where the screen acts as a window; in BTTF: The Ride, ride patrons sit in a ride vehicle beneath a huge IMAX Dome screen.
The ride opens with a set-up video featuring characters from the film trilogy. Somehow, due to an error made by one of Doctor Emmett Brown’s (played by Christopher Lloyd) time-travel crews, Biff Tannen (played by Thomas F. Wilson) stows away and finds himself at Doc’s Institute of Future Technology, where he tries to locate Doc’s ‘Flying DeLorean,’ as well as cause plenty of mayhem for the Institute’s crew, as well as Doc.
Biff complicates matters even further, when just as you and your party are getting ready to take Doc’s 8-passenger DeLorean on a journey across the space-time continuum, Biff locks Doc in his lab, and steals the original DeLorean time machine, causing Doc to plot on the horrible time ramifications that Biff can have. It is then that Doc devises a plot that the park’s visitors can help him on. Doc assigns the crew of the 8-passenger DeLorean to chase Biff across time. If the 8-passenger DeLorean gets close enough to Biff, they can ‘bump’ him back to the present time by reaching 88mph. Using his remote control, Doc and the DeLorean’s party follows Biff into the future, back to the ice age, and even into the heart of an active volcano that existed in the primeval Hill Valley.
The “waiting rooms” feature prop-replicas from the movies including hoverboards, photos of Doc and Marty, notes from Edison to Doc, and the like. The actual ride features video from both Doc and Tannen who tell the passengers what is going on throughout their adventure.
Outside the ride, the De Lorean from all three films and Doc’s locomotive from the third film are on display. Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale had nothing to do with the ride, though the writer of the ride’s set-up video handed them a script and asked if “he got Doc right”. The two responded with a “yes”. The two have also said “it’s a great ride”. The ride film was directed by Douglas Trumbull, the director of another Universal Studios feature, The Last Starfighter. The ride’s score was composed by Alan Silvestri, the same composer who scored the Back to the Future Trilogy.
The ride is a motion simulator with the cars held in place under a 70-foot IMAX Dome screen. Each car is mounted on four pistons (at the corners), allowing it to rise, fall and tilt, following the motion on the screen. The cars rise eight feet (2 and a half meters) above the floor when “flying”. Other than that, the actual range of motion is about two feet. The motion and the visual input from the screen images combine to make the riders feel as if they are in a high-speed pursuit, as they chase Biff through 2015, prehistoric times, and even the beginning of Earth, before finally tracking him back to the present.