- "At any rate, stay alert. If Tannen gets his hands on some of the equipment around here at the Institute, it could mean the end of the very universe as we know it! Anyway... enjoy the rest of your visit."
- —Doc Brown
Back To The Future: The Ride was a simulator ride based on the popular movie trilogy of the same name. It is a mini-sequel to Back to the Future Part III, and was mentioned in 1990 on The Secrets of the Back to the Future Trilogy, a behind-the-scenes television show hosted by Kirk Cameron, as opening in November of that year.
The ride eventually opened on May 2, 1991, at Universal Studios Florida, later at Universal Studios Hollywood on June 12, 1993, and then at Universal Studios Japan on March 31, 2001. The Orlando and Hollywood versions closed in 2007 and were replaced by a simulation ride based on The Simpsons. The Japanese version of the ride closed on May 31, 2016.
Each ride vehicle had a built-in video screen that acted as a "live" video feed of Dr. Emmett Brown in the institute and Biff Tannen in the stolen DeLorean time machine and of the vehicle's condition. Here, ride patrons sat in a vehicle beneath a huge IMAX Dome screen (see below for details).
The ride opens with a set-up video featuring characters from the film trilogy. Somehow, due to an error made by one of Doc Brown's (Christopher Lloyd) time-travel crews, Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson) stows away and finds himself at Doc's Institute of Future Technology (I.F.T.). There he tries to locate Doc's 'flying DeLorean', as well as cause plenty of mayhem for Doc and the Institute's crew — which includes receptionist Heather (Darlene Vogel).
Just as each party of Institute "volunteers" — i.e. park guests — is getting ready to take Doc's 8-passenger DeLorean on a journey across the space-time continuum, Biff complicates matters even further. He locks Doc in his lab, and steals one of the new DeLorean time machines, causing Doc to worry about the possible ramifications of Biff's joyride through time. Unable to escape the lab himself, Doc devises a plan and recruits the volunteers to help, using the 8-passenger DeLorean to chase Biff across time. If the 8-passenger DeLorean gets close enough to Biff, it can 'bump' him back to the present time by reaching 88 m.p.h. Using his remote control, Doc sends the DeLorean's party to follow Biff into the future to 2015, back to the ice age, and even into the heart of an active volcano that existed in the primeval Hill Valley. Eventually after several minutes, Doc is successful in bumping Biff back to the present where he crashes back at the I.F.T. Biff thanks Doc and the riders for the rescue, but is soon restrained by security.
Doc appears on the main video screen and tells the volunteers: "You did it! Not only did you catch Biff and save the Universe, but you've proved my latest invention is a success! Go forth, time travelers, and remember: the future is what you make it!" An animated I.F.T. pyramid logo then appears, with the on-screen caption "PLEASE LIFT LAP BAR AND EXIT" — the text of which is also read out by a female announcer's voice. As the volunteers leave, Doc reappears on the screen and warns "Hurry up! Get out, before you meet yourself coming in!" before the song "Back in Time" by Huey Lewis and The News plays.
Cast and crew
- Dr. Emmett Brown — Christopher Lloyd
- Biff Tannen — Thomas F. Wilson
- Heather, the I.F.T. receptionist — Darlene Vogel
- Marty McFly — Michael J. Fox (archive footage)
- Einstein — Freddie
- Institute scientist #1 — David de Vos
- Voice of Audience Scanning Device — Stephanie de Vos
- Institute scientist #2 — William Guest
- Security guard — Michael Klastorin
- Institute scientist #3 — Douglas Trumbull
- Voice of tyrannosaurus — Frank Welker
- Actors playing crash test dummies in safety tips film not available.
- Narrator for safety tips film not available.
- Ride Film Director — Douglas Trumbull
- Pre-Show Director — Les Mayfield, David de Vos
- Writers — Peyton Reid, John Groves
- Music Composer — Alan Silvestri
- Executive Producer, Creator and Writer — Peter N. Alexander
- Producers — Craig Barr, Philip Hettema, Terry Winnick
- Production Executives — Jay Stein, Barry Upson
- Based on Characters created by — Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale
- Creative Consultant — Steven Spielberg
- Designers — Universal Creative and Berkshire Ridefilm
- Distributors — Universal Studios
- Note: Because Back to the Future: The Ride was a simulator ride and not a movie, no cast and crew credits were shown on-screen.
The following credits for Back to the Future: The Ride were posted on a plaque situated near the ride's exit at Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Studios Florida (lettering as originally featured):
- Universal Studios Hollywood/Florida wishes to acknowledge the following individuals and companies in the development of BACK TO THE FUTURE THE RIDE
- Film Production — BERKSHIRE RIDEFILM
- Director — DOUGLAS TRUMBULL
- IMAX Projection and Audio Technology — IMAX CORPORATION
- Optical Effects — IMAGICA CORPORATION
- Musical Score — ALAN SILVESTRI
The "waiting rooms" featured prop-replicas from the BTTF movies including hoverboards, notes from Edison to Doc, and much more. The actual ride featured video from both Doc and Biff who told the passengers what was going on throughout their adventure.
Outside the ride at the Orlando location, the DeLorean from all three films and Doc's Time Train from the third film were on display.
Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale had no input to 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, who also appeared as the captive I.F.T. scientist who tells Doc that the team were conducting an experiment in 1955, during which Biff must have stowed away. The ride's score was composed by Alan Silvestri who scored the Back to the Future trilogy.
The ride was a motion simulator with the cars located under two 70-foot (21.3–m) IMAX Dome screen. Each of the 12 cars was mounted on three pistons, allowing it to rise, fall and tilt, following the motion on the screen. The cars were arranged on three tiers and were staggered to prevent them from seeing the other vehicles in the theater. The front section of the cars rose eight feet (2.4m) out of the "garage" when "flying". The actual range of motion from the simulator base was about two feet (0.6m) in any direction. The motion and the visual input from the screen images combined to make the riders feel as if they were in a high-speed pursuit, as they chased Biff through 2015, prehistoric times, and even the beginning of Earth, before finally tracking him back to the present.
The experience of operating in one dome or the other was identical, and the ride enjoyed a very reliable in-service record as a result. If one screen or "dome" was shut down by a mechanical problem, the other would likely remain in service, increasing wait times for "volunteers," but meaning that the ride as a whole would rarely be shut down entirely.
Before closure, the Orlando ride operated only one dome pending final decision. The second dome was scheduled to close once an announcement was made about the new attraction to replace it, which later became the Simpsons Ride.
Behind the scenes
- In the line video, a reference is made to a "Zemeckis-Gale diagram." Also, on the ride itself, the "Sub-Ether Time Tracking Scanner" reports its radar-like findings in "Gale-Zemeckis Coordinates." These were in-jokes: Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis were the writers, and Zemeckis was the director, of all three movies.
- During the ride, as the vehicle is about to crash into the clocktower, if one looks to the right in the alley next to the building, a Styrofoam cup can be seen that appears to be one story tall. This is reportedly due to someone leaving a cup in the miniature set during filming. It should perhaps be noted that Dr. Emmett Brown built his demonstration model of Courthouse Square with items such a bottles and cups to represent buildings and other structures.
- The queue video features clips from the Back to the Future trilogy and new specially filmed footage featuring Doc. It features diagrams for other inventions by Doc Brown, newsreel footage of Doc with Albert Einstein and other historical figures, similar to scenes in Forrest Gump, another film directed by Robert Zemeckis, and Doc explaining your trip into the future from 2015 via a "live" video feed.
- For a brief period of time, the Pepsi sign in 2015 Hill Valley was digitally replaced with a Toyota sign in which commonly appeared in the Japanese version of the ride, rarely in the United States. 
- Two tyrannosaurus rex appear in the primeval segment, one of which swallows the rider's vehicle. In reality, the size of these creatures is greatly exaggerated. A DeLorean is over twice the length and width of the largest skull of this dinosaur ever found.
- Heather, the I.F.T. receptionist in the pre-ride video, is Darlene Vogel, who also appeared in Back to the Future Part II as Leslie "Spike" O'Malley, a member of Griff's gang in 2015.
- Michael J. Fox was invited to reprise his role as Marty McFly, who was to have been Doc's personal assistant and test volunteer at the I.F.T. However, Fox turned down the offer, though Marty still appeared courtesy of archive footage from the Back to the Future trilogy.
- The ride was featured in the Universal Studios: Theme Park Adventure (Nintendo Gamecube) video game as a mini-game.
- There is a video showing what happened to the Institute of Future Technology in the queue for The Simpsons Ride, which replaced Back to the Future: The Ride. In the clip in question, Professor Frink shows up at Krustyland, wondering what's happened to the I.F.T., stating he came to pay a visit to Doc but the lab has been replaced with a clown theme park, so he must go "back to the future! I mean, the past." He gets into a DeLorean and goes back in time. Two years ago, Doc is about to sign a deal with a lawyer that will allow him to keep the Institute open for years to come when the DeLorean materializes and runs over the lawyer. Doc yells at Frink for ruining everything, as he must now sell the Institute to "that mercenary clown!" Cue Krusty planting his own sign over the IFT logo and emitting a clownish cackle as Frink laments the fact that he actually caused the event he was trying to change to happen. Doc hold the door open as Krusty climbs into his limo and tells him, "You can tear tickets at the front gate, after you get a haircut." Doc says, "Fine by me. It takes me three hours every morning just to get it like this!" Christopher Lloyd returned to do Doc Brown's voice for these scenes.
- At the end of the ride segment that takes place in 2015, the clock tower shows 3:44 a.m. (the same time shown on the 'present time' part of the time circuits), which means that sometime in between October 21 and October 25, the clock tower was repaired. On the other hand, the fact that the clock is running — when it is supposed to have been stopped at 10:04 p.m. since 1955 — could simply be an error or a case of artistic license.
- The Hollywood ride was supposed to open in 1991 like the Orlando one, but was delayed until 1993.
- The ride starts in a small room, where Doc explains how you're going to get Biff. Then, your journey begins as you go up to the top of the Institute, where the big Imax screen does the rest. While your first destination is in progress, you suddenly find Biff and chase him around 2015. There are some mistakes to the film, like when the truck almost hits the 8-passenger DeLorean. If you look on your far left of the screen, you can see a small track that the truck was on (Note: please check Back to the Future: The Ride, screen and monitor in HD on YouTube. You will see the track that the truck is on. Do not look on the Back to the Future: The Ride DVD. They don't show the mistake).
- Anyway, there was another major mistake on the film. If you remember, when you almost hit the house (but instead you hit a tree)? Well, right when you hit the tree, you are somehow teleported to the right side of the town, and if you think this is not a mistake, well (if you remember) when you hit the tree, you were turning left. Well, somehow you are teleported to the right side of the town as you proceed to hit the clock tower. Don't forget the giant paper cup next to the Hill Valley clock tower.
- In the pre-ride footage, when Doc mentioned the alternate 1985, he said "Biff was able to give himself forbidden knowledge of every major sporting event for the next 50 years." Biff was given Grays Sports Almanac in 1955. The almanac had sports results up to 2000, so he had the results of sporting events for the next forty-five years.
- In the pre-ride footage Doc states that Biff graduated Hill Valley High School in 1955. The trip to 1955 took place in November. Assuming he was a senior at this time, he would not have graduated until the following year, 1956.
- In the pre-ride footage following the safety segment, when Doc states "... sucking both vehicles and time-travelers back to their original point of departure...", there is a boom mic visible in the top of the frame for a brief moment.
- Back to the Future: The Ride on Wikipedia
- Universal Creative on Wikipedia
- Simulator ride on Wikipedia
- Back to the Future: The Ride - theStudioTour.com (see 'External links' below)
- From this ride video, filmed Dec. 14, 2003. The Toyota sign can be seen at the 1:42 mark.
- Back to the Future: The Ride -Trivia - IMDb
- BTTF.com – A website devoted to the movie trilogy as well as the ride
- Back to the Future: The Ride Tribute Page
- OhmyNews Back to the Future Orlando Attraction Closure Story by Brian Orndorf
- Back to the Future: The Ride - theStudioTour.com
- Back to the Future: The Ride on IMDb