The Last Remaining ‘Back to the Future’ Ride Is Closing
Back to the Future fans have been blessed with a lot of cool stuff lately; all kinds of sneakers, toys, Blu-rays and other ways to celebrate the recently passed 30th anniversary of their beloved franchise. But it’s now 2016, uncharted waters beyond “the future” of Back to the Future. This is a world without Marty, Doc, and the DeLorean. Appropriately, Kotaku brings us more sad news about our dark future of no flying cars and those fake, crappy hoverboards: The final Back to the Future: The Ride is closing.
BTTF: The Ride was a staple of both Universal Studios Florida and Universal Studios Hollywood throughout the ’90s and into the early 2000s. Engineered as a kind of sequel to the series, tourists boarded impressive recreations of Doc Brown’s flying DeLorean for a simulated ride through the Hill Valley of 2015, the ice age, and the dawn of time. Anyone who was lucky enough to ride it will tell you: It was one of the greatest amusement park attractions ever created.
The ride film was directed by special effects wizard Douglas Trumbull (the man who designed the outer space sequences in 2001: A Space Odyssey), and he obsessed over its creation; in an interview with Vulture a few years ago, he explained just how technologically challenging it was creating BTTF:TR short:
We actually had to build special IMAX cameras and motion-control systems. At the time we were doing the show, which was about 1990, there was no IMAX optical printing. We had to actually shoot everything in-camera, as much as we conceivably could. So it was a very complex and difficult shoot, and we had to build these miniature IMAX cameras that were scaled down so small so that they could fit inside these miniature sets. So everything in the movie was scaled to fit to the cameras, rather than vice versa. And I was very proud of it. We invented a whole kinesthetic language so that the motion of the camera was corresponding to the motion of the vehicle that you’re gonna be in, so you can feel it turning or swooping or diving, accelerating or crashing or whatever. And people did not get sick because it was a very complicated little language we had to create for it.
When it opened in the early 1990s, Back to the Future: The Ride truly felt like a breakthrough. But time marched on while it remained static, and its effects (not to mention its setting) eventually grew dated. It was closed in Hollywood and Florida in 2007, and replaced by a ride based on The Simpsons using similar technology (which isn’t bad, frankly). The BTTF ride remained open at Universal Studios Japan until now. It closes there on May 31, despite the fact, per Kotaku, that the line for the ride remains as long as two hours on some days.
In that same Vulture interview, Trumbull calls the ride an “experiment” into “immersive cinema,” and bemoans the fact that it “never got reviewed” as a movie. Having just experienced and reviewed the latest stab at “immersive cinema,” 4DX, I can honestly say 2016’s version of this experiment still can’t hold a candle to what Trumbull and his team achieved. It truly felt like you were riding a movie. Every time I went back to Universal Studios, I looked forward to going on it again, even as it did start to look a little old and creaky. If I had the time and money, I’d love to ride it one more time before it’s gone forever.
Still, even if Back to the Future: The Ride remains relatively popular, it’s probably time for it to close. “The future” of the ride is 2015, which makes the part where Doc follows Biff into “the future” thoroughly confusing and weird. (Technically, the ride is now an unintentional period piece.) This attraction’s day has literally come and gone. Pretty soon, Back to the Future: The Ride will only exist in the past. The DeLorean can move in any direction through the time stream, but the rest of us can only go forward, towards our mutual obsolescence.