Defunctland: The History of Back to the Future: The Ride


Great Scott! My name is Kevin Perjurer and welcome to another edition in Defunctland. For background/context on the series please visit theperj.com with the link below. Before we get started with this episode. I have a couple of things to say/announce: First, no voice modulator. I’ve been trying to perfect this for the last 10 or so videos, and apparently I was just making it worse, so this voice seems unnaturally high to me. Hopefully you like it better. Also, we have a subreddit now. Please go subscribe to it so we can have post episode discussions, more suggestions, and we can find more people to visit Defunctland. I will also be placing polls here from time to time. The first of which is for what we will name the land that pretzel Dark rides and Super Star Limo are currently in. If I find that a majority of you prefer Facebook, I might make a Facebook group, but I’m trying out the subreddit first. Alright, enough of me, back to Defunctland. Today, we will be attempting to resurrect universal studios’ extinct attraction, “back to the future: the ride.” This attraction was at universal studios Florida from 1991 to 2007, Universal studios Hollywood from 1993 to 2007, and Universal studios Japan from 2001 to 2016. The ride was suggested by [the users shown on-screen]. and I’m sure a lot more people by the time this video comes out and yeah, I think you guys wanted this one. While the “back to the future” ride opened in 1991 the idea dates back all the way to 1986 where Peter Alexander and Steven Spielberg met at the Universal studios backlot the day before the king kong encounter would debut on the tram tour. Spielberg told alexander of a Conversation he had with Lucas while riding disneyland’s star tours attraction. Lucas told spielberg that he was impressed with Disney’s ride and that he thought Universal couldn’t ever match it. Spielberg took this as a challenge, and asked Alexander to adapt the back to the future trilogy that he produced into a ride. The idea of a back to the future roller coaster had been thrown around but never developed because Universals’ creative team realized that the coaster would move too fast to tell the story effectively. However the idea of a Star Tour style motion simulator would solve this issue. With the approval of Universal, Peter Alexander and his team began production on a back to the future simulator. Boss Film Studios, headed by Academy Award-winning visual effects artist Richard edlund, was hired to create the rides film he worked on the project with artist Greg macgillivray who created this concept art for the ride dome. Alexander, edlund, and their crews would periodically rent an empty Omnimax feeder in Vancouver, leftover from the 1986 World’s Fair to test the Demo films Edwin’s crew were creating. They even built a mock ride vehicle to experience the film with the motion effects. Boss Film supposedly spent a year in this production process, but they were not involved in the creation of the final ride film, and there are two theories as to why: One, which comes from Jim Hill media again, claims that the plan was to open the Universal Studios Hollywood attraction at the same time as the Universal Studios Orlando version. Both parks would use some of their budget to fund the ride film but somewhere during the construction of the universal studios Hollywood version of the ride, the foundation became off by six feet, which means that the joint construction contract between the two parks wouldn’t work out. Universal Studios Florida went about rehiring the original contractors, when Douglas Trumbull, another famous special effects supervisor, and his company Entertainment Design Workshop, put in a lower bid than Boss Films Universal then supposedly chose Trumbull over Edlund. The other theory is that Edlund’s demo films were not good. Producer and screenwriter of the Back to the Future trilogy, Bob Gale, apparently claimed that it was absolutely terrible, because instead of an original story like the one that we got in the attraction, Edlund’s film was essentially a flyover of the pre-existing story and sets from the movies. It was also said that Edlund’s film had a weird fixation on blimps, and many different styles of blimps were supposed to fly around your delorean. At some point, whether it be in Edlund’s film or an early version of Trumbull’s, Doc Brown was to have an evil twin brother that would serve as the antagonist, an idea that was changed in order to have a stronger connection to the movies with biff Regardless of why Edlund’s still never came to fruition, the move to Trumbull might have been a good idea, because the ensuing ride film was fun, exciting, and technologically impressive. The four-minute ride film was shot on 70-millimeter film, and was to be projected on an 80 foot, diameter Omnimax dome screen. Omnimax is a type of Imax theater that displays film shot with a wide fisheye lens. This is typically used in museums and science centers, but Universal would use this technology to immerse riders in the ride. Many of the creators of the film appeared in it either as an institute scientist or a security guard. The deloreans would of course be hydraulically powered and programmed to move with the film, an effect that Universal expected to cause motion sickness among many visitors, which actually didn’t happen. Riders instead became incredibly thirsty after the ride, which Universal solved by adding water fountains near the exits. In the end, Universal had constructed the largest ride simulator ever created. Universal MCA began promoting “back to the future: the ride” in 1989 through the Back to the Future Trilogy’s anniversary publications, but the ride film wouldn’t be completed until 1990. By now, I think we all should know the disaster that was the opening of Universal Studios Florida, and MCA wanted to avoid this with Back to the Future. So the attractions’ January 1991 opening would be pushed back to May to avoid another embarrassing opening. The attraction did begin technical rehearsals in the early months of 1991, and 600,000 people had already tested the ride before its official opening date of may 2nd, 1991, and this was another star-studded premiere for Universal Studios, Florida, but this time it wouldn’t be embarrassing, because the Ride worked perfectly. The original actors and crew of back to the future were thoroughly impressed by the ride, and so were the visitors. Universal Studios Florida had been struggling to match Disney MGM studios at this time, and Back to the Future caused a surge in summer attendance. MCA claimed that they had topped Disney for the season in attendance, even though a lot of their visitors had free passes due to the technical failings of the past year. Regardless, the Back to the Future attraction, that took nearly 5 years from concept to completion and 40 million dollars to make, had salvaged Universal Studios, Florida “Movies have taken us from the arena of the supernatural to the limitless ocean of outer space. Even earthbound exploration makes a quantum leap in time. In the 1990 release, back to the future.” [crowd voices] [man on screen]: “hello, anybody home, huh?! What’re you lookin’ at, BUTTHEAD?” [crowd laughs] “Wait a second… the sucker’s Doc Brown conned into his time travel experiment!” [Doc]: “Now that you’re here, time travel volunteers, I can give you your pre-flight briefing. There’s a lot you’ll need to know if you’re to successfully… crossss the space-time continuum! You’ll have to hurry though. The biff’s still on the loose; anything could happen!” “BIFF!” “HASTA LA BYE-BYE!” “My time travel volunteers! You and you! You’re my only hope!…”
[Announcer]: “Aboard Doc Brown’s wonder car, and enter a new dimension for the most awesome ride of our lives.”
The Back to the Future ride was the most staffed ride at Universal Studios, requiring 35 employees to guide guests to the cars, buckle them up, and ensure the ride went smoothly. However, the ride was very simple to start, and took just the push of a button. Guets wait outside the Institute of Future Technology, watching video of the Back to the Future Trilogy, as well as the new footage of Doc Brown with other scientists and his other inventions. Once inside the institute, it is explained to them that they would be volunteers in one of Doc Brown’s Time-travel experiments. They were also informed that biff, who had escaped from 1955 in Doc Brown’s delorean, is somewhere in the space-time continuum Doc shows images of his new 8-passenger convertible time machine, a way to explain the rides cars. Biff appears unbeknownst to Doc, asking the guests where the time machine is. Then, Heather, a receptionist at the institute and the same actress that played Spike in Back to the Future part 2, tells guests to stand by for an announcement from Doc, who has been locked in his office by biff. Biff steals the delorean and sets off into the space-time continuum. Doc explains that he needs the guests to travel to 88 miles per hour and bump Biff’s delorean, which would open a time vortex that would send them back to the institute. Guests are given some safety instructions before being guided into their deloreans. Once the doors close, the delorean hover, speeds up to 88 miles per hour, and leaves the institute. The Omnimax dome created an incredibly convincing illusion, and the Delorean had exceptionally jerky movements to sell it as well. The experience seemed as though the individual guest cars were alone, but disbelief would be broken if guests simply turned their heads to the left or right. They would see three other cars There were actually 24 cars, 12 in each of the rides’ two domes. There were three tiers of deloreans, four per step, so each had the best possible view of the Omnimax screen. Also the two separate domes ensured that the ride would never completely shut down. Doc and Biff frequently appear on the delorean screen as the two cars fly through time, visiting 2015 Hill Valley, and oh look, it’s a styrofoam cup left on the model table. They then crash into the clock tower and visit the ice age, then the cretaceous period, where they encounter dinosaur and a lava fall. Biff loses control of his delorean and begs Doc to help him. The guests are able to successfully bump biff sending both back to the institute where biff is taken by security. Doc thanks to guests and reminds them that the future is what they make it. The guests leave the institute as the song “Back in Time” is played Outside the Institute, there were replicas from the film such as the hoverboards, as well as one of the modified Deloreans, and the locomotive from the third movie. As I said, the ride was a huge success, and a fan favorite. After problems with the construction of the Hollywood version were revised, the California attraction opened in 1993. Eight years later, a japanese version of the ride opened at Universal Studios Japan. So why did it close? Well theoretically the lifespan of the ride was always limited, as they did travel to the future of 2015. So if the ride would have survived long after that, it would have seemed outdated. This wasn’t a strong reason though, as it would still fit within the movies. The actual reason is that Universal wanted to move on to newer franchises, as they did with Jaws, and Confrontation, and many of their other previous attractions. Universal Studios Florida decided to shut down one of the two domes of the ride in 2007, claiming to be looking into future opportunities for it. The ride officially closed in Florida on March 30th, 2007. The Hollywood version received more of a proper send-off, with Christopher Lloyd and Bob Gale present as a special event to count down to the ride’s closure, and give away a delorean car. The Hollywood version officially closed on September 3rd 2007. However the Japan version of the ride wouldn’t close until May 31st, 2016. The Back to the Future rides in the United States would be replaced with the Simpsons ride, a ride that followed a similar queue, plot, and ride experience, this time only themed after the Simpsons. A few notable differences are the move away from Omnimax to overlapping projections, as well as the less jerky, more smooth motion of the ride’s cars. Also, the new ride would be completely animated, while Back to the Future’s ride film used stop-motion animation and models to pull off its effects. The Simpsons rides would officially open in May of 2007. The Japan version of the ride would be replaced with another simulator attraction, Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem. which could already be found in the United States parks. The Japanese version of the ride opened in April 2017. While Back to the Future: The Ride can no longer be found at any Universal Studios park, it does live on in a few ways. One is an incredibly depressing cameo of Doc Brown in the pre-ride video sequence of the Simpsons ride, where he appears attempting to borrow money in a desperate attempt to save the Institute of Future Technology. Another way is the DVD produced of the ride’s film. Sometime around 1993, an employee of the ride recorded the entire attraction, including pre-ride and on-ride footage, and began selling bootlegs of it, some of which can still be found online today. Two years after the back to the future rides closed in the United States, Universal decided it might be a profitable idea to release all of the ride footage on a special version of the back to the future film. The released film is unfortunately pretty terrible, because it is cut down or cropped quite a bit from the Imax version, has lost frames, and has flickers, and includes a horrible inaccurate virtual dashboard of the Delorean. That said, there are people on the internet attempting to recreate the original Imax reel, and they are also doing some other interesting things that I’m going to talk about in a moment. So that is the history of Back to the Future: The Ride. I want to take another minute for me and answer a very popular question, which is: is Defunctland a real thing? My answer to this is currently no. But I want it to be, and I think I found a good way to do this that wouldn’t require buying a large portion of land and probably violating every copyright rule in the United States, which is a virtual reality park. Now I cannot do this myself; I don’t have the animation skills to recreate these rides. But just as a concept on what this might look like, check out a link in the description below. A kind youtuber has already recreated the Back to the Future ride in virtual reality. Now there are a few things that are inaccurate with this version, and no queue is included, and I might reach out to him and see if he’d be willing to fix these things, but this is a good test concept for Defunctland VR. Who knows? If series becomes popular enough, perhaps we can even create a VR walking path through Defunctland so you can see Alien Encounter sitting next to Confrontation and Encounter land, and so on. Let me know what you think of this crazy idea and if you have any other ideas on how to improve the park, because this is going to be our park. I mean you guys are suggesting these attractions So please comment below. To learn more about where the remains of Back to the Future are today, how I’m going to get them back, and where I’m going to place them in Defunctland, visit theperj.com with the link below. Otherwise thank you for watching and don’t forget to comment, share and subscribe.

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