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Ride / Back to the Future: The Ride

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Hold on to's gonna be a bumpy ride through history...
"Don't forget, when you see Biff in the DeLorean, accelerate to 88mph and bump him. Accelerating now to 55mph...65, 75, 85, 88 MILES PER HOUR!!!"

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 you and the other seven volunteers to capture Biff by bumping into the car that Biff is in order to return to the present. 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 and bring both cars back to the IFT in 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 of the parks for years, until it was sadly and unexpectedly decommissioned at Hollywood and Florida in 2007 to make way for the The Simpsons Ride. As a 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. After 25 years of operation, the last iteration of Back to the Future: The Ride closed on May 31, 2016 at Universal Studios Japan. An alternate version of Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem was announced as its replacement, which opened 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 2010 and 2020 Blu-Ray releases of Back to the Future Part III later included these as well.

Tropes shown in the simulator ride include:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The ride 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 why the ride closed in 2007. Although the ride continued to operate in Japan until 2016, this issue was addressed over there, as during the attraction's final years, the "current date" time on the DeLorean was permanently set to May 2, 1991 note , whereas before it would always change in correspondence to what the actual current date was.
  • Alternate Continuity: The ride is set in a continuity some time after the events of Back to the Future Part III where Doc Brown has more faith in time travel and reveals his inventions to the world, eventually founding 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 T-rex's head.
    • Prehistoric Hill Valley shouldn't have dinosaurs at all. Hill Valley is a town in California, which was underwater during the Mesozoic era.
  • Big Bad: Biff Tannen who stowed away in a DeLorean from 1955.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: A strange, somewhat subtle example at the end where riders crash into the Back to the Future logo oddly placed on a wall of the Institute.
  • The Chase: Time Travel volunteers aided Doc Brown in pursuing Biff in the stolen DeLorean Time Vehicle from screwing with the spacetime continuum.
  • 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.
    • Doc says Biff graduated from Hill Valley High School’s Class of 1955. However, since the main events of the first movie took place in late 1955 in the middle of the school year, Biff would’ve graduated seven months later in 1956. This could be explained by Doc simply having 1955 on the brain, or by the fact that Biff had to repeat a grade in school and was originally supposed to graduate in 1955.
    • 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.
    • The skyway onramp on the right side of the clock tower seen in Part II is replaced by a building (with the infamous styrofoam cup behind it) in the 2015 scene.
    • 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.
  • Dinosaurs Are Dragons: The Tyrannosaurus rex is a giant behemoth that lives near an active volcano with exposed lava rivers, giving the impression of a prehistoric dragon.
  • Dope Slap: One of the dummies in the ride safety film gets this twice, once for using photography, and again for smoking, drinking, and eating.
  • 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 served as an unofficial "mini-sequel" to the film trilogy that you, the guest, were 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.
  • Finger Wag: In the ride safety film, one of the dummies gives this to his friend for using flash photography, in addition to slapping him.
  • 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.
  • Fully Absorbed Finale: This gets one in the pre-show for The Simpsons Ride, the Institute gets sold off after Professor Frink causes it in his attempts to prevent it.
  • 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.
  • Halloween Episode: During Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Japan, an alternate version of the ride was featured. In it, everything proceeded normally... until the DeLorean crashes into the Clock Tower, where the ride footage would then suddenly cut out and be replaced with a sequence that sends riders through the house from Ju-on (a.k.a. The Grudge).
  • 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:
  • 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".
  • The Oner: Since the journey through time is in, the events of the ride act as one continuous shot. Crashing through signs in Hill Valley and other transitional effects make it look like the ride takes place in a single shot.
  • Portal to the Past:
    • Doc's sub-ether hover-cam allows him to directly communicate with people from another time period.
    • Doc in the present can also talk to the riders and Biff as the DeLorean travels from time to time.
  • Prehistoria: We get to see the primeval Hill Valley in the ride's finale, which includes a Tyrannosaurus rex that threatens both vehicles.
  • Prehistoric Monster: The Tyrannosaurus has more in common with Godzilla than an actual T. rex. It's completely enormous, able to eat a DeLorean car in one bit, and it's incredibly ugly looking, with teeth that look like it's coming out of its skin. It also lives very close to the active volcanic areas as if it's like a dragon, and extremely hostile to anything that moves.
  • Product Placement: The ride was briefly sponsored by Toyota in 2003-2004. A Toyota sports car dressed up in the same time machine trappings as the DeLorean sat in front of the ride, and the Pepsi sign in 2015 Hill Valley was digitally replaced with a neon Toyota one.
  • 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!
  • Skewed Priorities: During the pre-show, one security guard seems to think it’s more important to correct Biff’s mistake than to continue pursuing him.
  • Sexy Secretary: Heather; the cute, blonde IFT receptionist/hostess played by Darlene Vogel who also played Spike, a member of Griff's 2015 gang in Back To The Future Part II.
  • Shout-Out: In one of the videos, Doc alludes to "Gale/Zemeckis coordinates"; a nod to Back to the Future creators Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale.
  • 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 traveling more than one day into the future can be hard on your system, even though he and Marty would travel decades or even centuries back and forth through time throughout the film trilogy and they seemed fine.
  • Terminator Twosome: Doc sends his volunteers back (and forward) in time to prevent Biff from messing up the timeline.
  • Terrifying Tyrannosaur: Two giant Tyrannosaurus appears in the Primeval Hill Valley and attack the DeLorean. One damages Biff's DeLorean, causing it to fall into a lava river, unable to fly out. The other Tyrannosaurus attempts to eat the riders' DeLorean, only to spit it back out.
  • 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 be a motive of Doc and his associates at the IFT apart from doing it For Science! — but are just more cautious about it.
  • Title: The Adaptation: Back to the Future (the title): The Ride (the adaptation)
  • Villainous Breakdown: 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: For most of the '90s, this, Kongfrontation and Nickelodeon Studios dominated the park's marketing. (Kinda justified, they really didn't have much else at the time, and wouldn't really start growing until the Islands of Adventure opened up late in the decade.)

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

Alternative Title(s): Back To The Future