Universal Studios Florida
Back to the Future: The Ride (EXTINCT!)
(May 2, 1991 - March 30, 2007)
History and photos of the now extinct Back to the Future: The Ride time travelling simulator ride in the Expo Center / World Expo section in Universal Studios Florida.
Located in what was originally called the Expo Center, Back to the Future: The Ride was a thrilling simulator ride based on the Back to the Future trilogy.
Back to the Future: The Ride opened to much fanfare on May 2, 1991. The attraction brought back Christopher Lloyd in his role as Dr. Emmett Brown, and Thomas F. Wilson as the 1955 version of Biff Tannen, one of Hollywood's favorite bullies.
The exterior of Back to the Future: The Ride was an impressive sight. The building itself was a massive structure as it held twin 70-foot tall IMAX Dome screens along with 24 ride vehicles. It was a futuristic sight that can simply be described as awesome!
The Back to the Future: The Ride experience is themed as a visit to the Institute of Future Technology, a corporation run by Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd). The Institute has a program where guests can travel one day into the future. That's what we're going to do today. While waiting in the exterior line queue, television monitors play highlights from the Back to the Future trilogy along with clips of Dr. Brown with some of his latest inventions. One such invention is a larger, eight-passenger version of the DeLorean. The newer version of the car also happens to be a convertible for time travelling to the sunny days.
Outside the building are movie props including Doc Brown's time travelling steam train from Back to the Future, Part 3, and one of the DeLoreans used to film all three movies. Down the street is Back to the Future: The Store, a shop selling merchandise from the hit movie trilogy. A highlight in the store is a hovering DeLorean that "crashed" through one of the walls.
We reach a point in the line queue where a worker directs us to one of three floors in the building. Ramps take guests to the upper floors and gives them a fun view of part of Universal Studios Florida. Inside the building there's a holding room where we're further divided into rows of eight people. Television monitors keep us updated as we wait for our turn to time travel one day into the future.
As we watch the monitors, Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson), specifically the teenage version from 1955, is seen running around the Institute and causing chaos. He ties up workers, disables security cameras, vandalizes property, and gives Dr. Brown a big headache. Dr. Brown doesn't know why Biff is in the building, but hopefully his appearance shouldn't ruin our visit. As soon as it's ready, we're sent into a small preshow room.
The preshow room is a small room with a hoverboard on display, a billboard full of notes, and a television set. The preshow video begins with Dr. Brown in his laboratory office. Suddenly, Biff Tannen appears and disables out the security system, causing the security gate to fall and trap Dr. Brown inside of his own office. Horrified, he asks Biff how he's here in the present. Two tied up workers reveal that a team was conducting experiments back in 1955 and Biff somehow stowed away in the time machine. Biff isn't too concerned about being in the future and he tells Dr. Brown that he'll head back home to 1955. But first he's going to "take a little joy ride." He dangles the keys to the original two-passenger DeLorean from the Back to the Future trilogy. Doc is infuriated as Biff climbs into the DeLorean time machine and peels out, racing out of the building.
Dr. Brown wants to stop Biff but he's trapped in his office. But we're not. Doc wants us volunteers to use the eight-passenger version of the DeLorean to chase Biff Tannen. He's going to pilot our DeLorean by remote control. Our objective is to reach 88 mph and bump into Biff's car. Supposedly the impact of two time machines will send them both to their point of origin, that being the Institute of Future Technology. A safety video plays and uses test dummies to show us the correct way to board the vehicle and safely enjoy the ride.
The door opens and we board the eight-passenger DeLorean. A worker lowers the lap bar and then closes the gull-wing doors, securing us in the car. A preflight checklist plays on the small video screen until all of the ride vehicles are ready to go.
Our tracking system locates Biff Tannen, so off we go! Our DeLorean uses its hover mode and accelerates to 88 mph. We time jump into 2015 and chase Biff through the futuristic version of Hill Valley. We go above, below and through some structures as Biff stays one step ahead of us. We almost bump into him but we're forced to swerve around another hovering car. Biff grows tired of the future and time travels to the past. We follow him, crashing into the famous Hill Valley clock tower and travelling back in time.
Our next destination is a hundred thousand years ago in an ice age. We slowly enter an ice cave and hunt for Biff. He's waiting in the cave and tries to knock giant ice columns on top of our car. Biff then hits his horn and triggers an avalanche. Biff escapes and travels through time again. We try to follow but our car's engine stalls. We fall down into an icy ravine and almost crash into an icy river. The engine restarts and we accelerate backwards, reaching 88 mph and jumping again through time.
Now we're back millions of years ago in the Cretaceous period. What would eventually become the town of Hill Valley is now a massive volcano. We follow Biff's DeLorean and enter a cave. Up ahead are not one but two Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaurs! Biff tries to get one of them to attack us. One of them succeeds and bites our car, but it's unable to swallow, so it spits us out. The other dinosaur damages Biff's car, disabling it. Now Biff is the one in trouble as his car hovers above a river of lava. The current carries him over the edge of a massive lava waterfall. Doc is able to accelerate our car and we bump into Biff at 88 mph. The impact sends us both through time and we make a crash landing back at the Institute of Future Technology. Back to the Future: The Ride ends as security guards quickly arrest Biff Tannen and haul him away.
As you can imagine, Back to the Future: The Ride was a smash hit when it first opened. It was common to see a wait time of over two hours long in the early days of the ride. Not only was the Back to the Future theme awesome, but this was simply the simulator to ride back then.
The years passed and Back to the Future: The Ride (BTTF:TR) had less and less of an impact on the public. A major turning point in the decline of BTTF:TR's popularity occurred with the opening of Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park in 1999 and The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man ride. Spider-Man raised the bar for theme park simulator rides as its popularity skyrocketed during its first few months of operation. BTTF:TR was now obsolete. The "futuristic" ride's days were numbered. Popularity continued to decline and it was just a matter of time until A) BTTF:TR was upgraded with a new story and ride experience, or B) BTTF:TR was replaced with a completely new attraction.
Unfortunately, the second option was the one chosen by management. Back to the Future: The Ride closed for good on March 30, 2007. The attraction would be converted to a brand new experience as The Simpsons Ride. Back to the Future: The Store was also closed and replaced by the Kwik-E-Mart store right out of The Simpsons. The Back to the Future DeLorean car and Jules Verne steam train were moved to an alternate place in Universal before returning to the World Expo in 2013.
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