Ride / Back to the Future: The Ride

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"Go forth, time travelers, and remember the future is what you make it."
Doc Brown.

Back to the Future: The Ride was a simulator ride based on the Back to the Future film trilogy by Universal Studios and produced by Steven Spielberg.

You and seven other people have an opportunity to volunteer at the Institute of Future Technology (IFT) for Dr. Emmett Brown's Time Travel experiment in his new eight-passenger DeLorean traveling only one day into the future. Doc contacts you through his hover-cam while he's in the year 2015 (presumably, a few hours before Doc and Marty showed up in Part II of the films). He knows that, somehow, Biff has gone missing from the year 1955, but has no idea of where or when he is. Shortly after Doc returns to the present, we learn that, when some of Doc's IFT assistants were working on a time travel experiment in 1955, Biff must've stowed away. Doc tries to stop him, but unfortunately, Biff managed to trap Doc in his own office.

As Doc is unable to leave his office, he decides to enlist his eight volunteers (of which you are a part of) to capture Biff and stop him by bumping into the car that Biff is in. He is able to use his remote control, though to guide you along. Biff makes his first stop on October 25 of 2015, as he leads you on a chase through Hill Valley causing you to crash into some signs. Biff then goes back by about a million years, during one of the ice ages. He tries to stop you by breaking the ice pieces and manages to succeed, momentarily. Finally, Biff goes back by a few more million years, during the time of the dinosaurs. Biff tries to sic the dinosaurs on you, but it manages to backfire on him. The same dinosaur then swallows the car that you're in, but quickly spits you back out, even as Biff is now pleading for you and Doc to rescue him. Finally, you manage to bump Biff which brings both cars back to the present.

Also shown during the lobby monitor are two short films:

  • "Doc on the March" shows the journeys of Doc throughout time. First, he witnesses a speech given by Thomas Edison and even gets a signed light bulb from him. Then he goes to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina where he witnesses the first flight of brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright. He then shows up for Albert Einstein's speech on the theory of relativity and even brings his dog, named after the scientist, along. Then he shows up at a press conference for Richard Nixon inauguration speech and looks tempted to change history. Finally, he shows up for The Beatles first appearance in the United States and takes a picture of them.
  • "Doc Brown: The Inventive Years" shows some of Doc's early inventions. First, there is a quick shot of a toaster where you put in toast on one side and then it comes out the other side. Then we see a failed invention. Then we see the flapjack maker that can make 300 pancakes an hour, but the experimental sawdust batter kept it from being a success. Then we see the canine cafeteria, where a pet owner can fill up a dog's food dish and then close it, until feeding time. Then we see the static-o-matic which causes the hair to stand up on end, to make for easier cutting. Doc reveals that he's been using it for years, and proudly shows off his hair. Finally, we see the bronze gun, which can turn various items to bronze.

The ride opened at Universal Studios Florida in 1991, with it later also opening at Universal Studios Hollywood in 1993 and Universal Studios Japan in 2001. Raved as an instant classic upon its release, the ride became a major staple for both parks for years, until it was sadly and unexpectedly decommissioned in 2007 to make way for the The Simpsons Ride. As a nice Shout-Out to their predecessor, though, Doc Brown appears in the Simpsons lobby monitor, in a short animation where Professor Frink's own time meddling accidentally causes Doc to sell the Institute to Krusty the Klown. The last operating iteration of Back to the Future: The Ride at Universal Studios Japan closed on May 31, 2016. An alternate version of Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem was announced as its replacement, which will open in 2017.

In 2009, to rectify its untimely closure, Universal made the ride videos available to own, on a 2-Disc DVD of the original Back to the Future movie. The Blu-Ray of Back to the Future Part III later included these as well. Fans who own both the Blu-Ray and a D-Box motion chair can now recreate the ride in their own homes.


Tropes shown in the simulator ride include:

  • Alternate Continuity: The ride is set in a continuity where Doc Brown has more faith in time travel and reveals his inventions to the world, eventually becoming a huge company known as the "Institute of Future Technology".
  • Amusing Injuries: These happen to the "crash dummies" in the pre-ride safety check.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Some of Doc's future technology and inventions.
  • Artistic License Paleontology: The size of the Tyrannosaurus is greatly exaggerated. In reality, the DeLorean would be twice the length and width of a Tyrannosaurus' head.
  • Big Bad: Biff, who else?
  • Climactic Volcano Backdrop: The climax of the ride is set around a volcano in the prehistoric Hill Valley.
  • Continuity Nod: Countless artifacts and references to Doc Brown's previous adventures are found all throughout the attraction.
  • Continuity Snarl: The original DeLorean Time Machine makes an appearance sitting in Doc's garage and seems to be in mint condition notwithstanding being destroyed by a freight train at the end of Part III. Although it might be possible Doc had simply rebuilt one.
    • The Clock Tower seems to be working, even though it was still broken as of October 21st, 2015 in Part II. The ride, however, takes guests 4 days later to October 25th, 2015. Whether or not it may have been "repaired in four days" is up to you.
    • In the final scene of the ride, the Institute of Future Technology did not match the exteriors of any version of the ride.
  • Convection Schmonvection: Both DeLoreans are literally flying right above lava, with no consequences arising from this.
  • Demoted to Extra: Marty's appearance in the ride is limited to just some very brief (archive footage) clips in the queue line video. Justified as Michael J. Fox wasn't all that interested in reprising his role.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Some of the graphical widgets seen in the Animated Series make their debut here.
  • Expanded Universe: Doc now has his own major research and development facility, plus we get to see more of Hill Valley in different eras. The ride serves as an unofficial "mini-sequel" to the film trilogy that you, the guest, could now be a major part of.
  • Field Trip to the Past: In "Doc on the March", Doc was visiting various historical moments throughout time — and gets to meet the historical people.
  • Follow That Car: On a temporal scale. The ride's premise puts guests in pursuit of Biff joyriding in Doc's DeLorean and having to do some minor Car Fu in order to return to the present.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: For the theme park environment, Doc's "Damn. Damn damn!" is changed to "Darn. Darn darn!" in the queue video when Biff cuts the power.
  • Hair-Trigger Avalanche: In the Ice Age Hill Valley, Biff starts an avalanche by hitting the ice only very lightly, along with honking the horn on the DeLorean.
  • Insecurity Camera: Biff Tannen spray paints over one camera lens and punches out another one during the set-up queue video.
  • Lava Adds Awesome: The finale has the time machines being surrounded by lava, even going down a "lava-fall".
  • Mad Scientist Laboratory: The Institute of Future Technology (IFT).
  • Miniature Effects: Most of the ride was done by filming miniature sets. The only scene to not be a miniature was the final one, where both DeLoreans crash back into the Institute and Biff is taken away.
  • My Car Hates Me: After just narrowly dodging an avalanche, the eight-passenger DeLorean breaks down and starts to fall down a cliffside, regaining power only just before hitting the river below.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • More fun with the Clock Tower: your car crashes into it this time.
    • Biff gets a familiar phrase wrong: "Have a nice trip, see you next winter!"
      IFT Security Guard: It's fall, you idiot, see you next FALL!
    • The DeLorean once again breaks down at the most inopportune time.
    • Crosses over with Lampshade Hanging when Doc notes that everything seems to involve 1955.
    • Doc alludes to "Gale/Zemeckis coordinates."
  • Never the Selves Shall Meet: Doc warns the audience to not communicate with their other selves since "they came back just before their other selves boarded the car".
  • Portal to the Past: Doc's sub-ether hover-cam allows him to directly communicate with people from another time period.
  • Raygun Gothic/Zeerust: The architecture of 2015 Hill Valley.
  • Retraux: "Doc on the March" was done in the style of an old newsreel, with Doc inserted into various footage Forrest Gump style. See him get an autograph from Thomas Edison! Watch him get a photo of The Beatles! Witness him resisting the urge to bump off Richard Nixon!
  • Sexy Secretary: Heather; the cute, blonde IFT receptionist/hostess played by actress Darlene Vogel who also played Spike, the Dark Chick in Griff's 2015 gang in BTTF Part II.
  • Snowy Screen of Death: When Biff punches out the lens of one of the security cameras, this is the result.
  • Swallowed Whole: The DeLorean by the Tyrannosaurus, but it spits it out soon after.
  • Tagline:
    • "It's a blast from the past, present, and future!"
    • "It's the greatest ride of all time!"
  • Temporal Sickness: Doc suggests that travelling more than one day into the future can be hard on your system. Even though he and Marty travelled through almost 200 years worth of time throughout the film trilogy and they seemed fine.
  • Terminator Twosome: Doc send his volunteers back (and forward) in time to prevent Biff from messing up the timeline.
  • Time Travel: Just like the films, what the ride's story revolves around.
  • Time Travel for Fun and Profit: Biff attempts to use time travel for this, as his older self did in Part II of the film series. Admittedly, this may also the motive of Doc and his time travel associates at the IFT — but are just more cautious about it.
  • Title: The Adaptation
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Almost literally; a 20-25 minute wait in line until you travel to the year 2015 and so on. The ride itself temporarily transported guests to a wondrous, zeerusty Hill Valley in the year 2015 as seen in Back to the Future Part II. As time would pass, this would've eventually placed the attraction in an awkward and highly inaccurate Next Sunday A.D. situation, which was partially the reason for the ride's untimely closure in 2007. Though this didn't stop Japan's version from operating up until 2016.
  • Tyrannosaurus rex/Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: We get to see the primeval Hill Valley in the ride's finale, which includes a Tyrannosaurus that threatens both vehicles.
  • Villainous Breakdown/Villains Want Mercy: Throughout the ride, Biff's his usual over-zealous Jerkass self, but once his DeLorean runs out of power while heading toward a volcanic lava-fall, he frantically panics and begs for Doc's help.
  • Wolverine Publicity: In the '90s, this and Kongfrontation dominated all of the park's marketing.


Alternative Title(s): Back To The Future

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