Back to the Future: The Ride


                  • Universal Studios Florida: May 2nd 1991 to March 30th 2007
                  • Universal Studios Hollywood: June 4th 1993 – September 3 2007
                  • Universal Studios Japan: March 2001 to May 31 2016

                  The Institute of Future Technology had thrown open it’s doors for visitors to Universal Studios Hollywood to explore. It soon became clear, however, that not all is well… Biff Tannen was on the loose inside the building and he had theft of the Delorean on his mind.Would the Doc’s new 8 passenger time vehicle get up to speed and rise to the occasion?
                  A spectacular totally-themed incredibly immersive simulator ride with a specially made 4 minute ride film that literally took you back to the future, this ride cost a huge $60 million in 1993.


                  Because the film featured the year 2015 as the distant future the lifespan of the attraction was always limited. The Florida version of the attraction closed on March 30 2007, and the Hollywood version closed on September 3 2007. The replacement The Simpsons Ride  opened in 2008, using the same building layout (obviously rethemed) and a modernised (but identical in terms of guest experience) ride system.
                  The final version of the attraction, at Universal Studios Japan, closed in May 2016 to be replaced by Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem.

                  The building was constructed on the site where the Battle of Galactica show building stood. That show ran between 1979 and approx. 1991/2.


                  • 1955: Doc Brown perfects time travel
                  • 1985: Back to the Future movie opens
                  • 1988: Prework starts on the Back to the Future: The Ride design
                  • 1989: Initial publicity material published in 25th Anniversary Souvenir supplement (see bottom of this page)
                  • 1990: The ride movie is filmed
                  • May 2nd 1991: Back to the Future: The Ride opens in Universal Studios Florida
                  • June 4th 1993: Back to the Future: The Ride soft-opens in Hollywood
                  • June 12th 1993: Official opening in Hollywood
                  • March 31st 2001: Back to the Future: The Ride opens in Japan.
                  • March 30th 2007: The ride is closed in Florida.
                  • September 3rd 2007: The ride closes in Hollywood.
                  • May 14th 2008 The Simpsons ride opens in Hollywood


                  The overall design of Back to the Future: The Ride allows guests to the Institute of Future Technology to fully immerse themselves in the experience, with no barriers to suspension of disbelief.


                  The preshow video in the queue line sets up the Doc’s new invention (the 8-person time vehicle), then reveals that Biff is loose somewhere inside the Institute, and wants to steal the Delorean. What we’re unaware of is that there are three identical preshow areas on the 3 floors of the attraction. We’re never aware of any other groups as the whole experience is timed very carefully. Once the group before us has started to experience the main film, we’re called into the holding room adjacent to the car loading area for the second preshow sequence where Doc reveals our mission to catch Biff in the new remote-controlled 8-person time vehicle. Again, there are multiple preshow rooms like this, one for each car.

                  This video was shown on CRT monitors hung around the preshow queue areas.

                  Internal Queue Area and Pre-Flight Briefing Room


                  Through most of the life of the attraction one or more of the BTTF cars were displayed outside the Institute of Future Technology. Both cars were moved to the Picture Cars display on the Studio Tour. 


                  These office-style signs list the Institute staff you could find in the offices down the endless corridors. The East Wing and West Wing refer to the two auditoria of the BTTF building. The signage was different on each floor of the attraction. The names listed are either characters from the movie, historical figures, or people who worked on the attraction.

                  WEST WING – FLOOR 1

                  Signage, April 2007

                  THOMAS EDISON (1105)
                  MARTY McFLY (1109)
                  LEONARDO DA VINCI (1112)

                  WEST WING – FLOOR 1

                  Signage, April 2007

                  DR. JOHN WHELAN 1201
                  DR. BOB GALE 1202
                  ALVIS WALES PH.D 1203
                  DR. DAVE BOWMAN 1204
                  PROF. AARON POST 1205
                  TOM STEINMEYER 1206
                  ORVILLE WRIGHT 1207
                  DON KANE D.D.S. 1208
                  H.A.L. 9000 1209
                  JOHN KREIGER ESQ. 1210
                  D.W. MCCAULEY M.B.E. 1211
                  TOM REMMLARD 1212
                  DOUG CROMLIN PH.D. 1213
                  PROF. JAMES DEICHMANN 1214
                  PROF. MIKE CAPELLO 1215

                  EAST WING – FLOOR 1 / 2

                  Signage, April 2007

                  SUSAN SCHLANDER – RETAIL TECHNICIAN (2202)
                  JULES VERNE (2212)
                  BENJAMIN FRANKLIN (2216)

                  EAST WING – FLOOR 2

                  Signage, April 2007

                  MARTY GALBREATH M.B.E. 2101
                  WILLIAM GUEST PH.D. 2102
                  CHRIS REANEY PH.D. 2103
                  DR. CHRIS REYNA 2104
                  PROF. DOUGLAS TRUMBELL 2105
                  MRS. CLARA CLAYTON BROWN 2106
                  WILBER WRIGHT 2107
                  PROF. JIM CARMODY 2108
                  LOUIS HIGUERA 2109
                  DAVID C. DE VOS PH.D. 2110
                  MIKE KONLE 2111
                  STEVE MARBLE 2112
                  DR. BILL MORRIS 2113

                  WEST WING – FLOOR 3

                  Signage, April 2007

                  RUSS RANDALL, PH.D. (3101)
                  PROF. RICHARD ALES (3102)
                  RON BENSION (3103)
                  BRIAN COMPTON – PROJECT CFO (3104)
                  PROF RICHARD CODIGA (3105)
                  LARRY KURZWEIL PH.D. PROJECT DIRECTOR (3106)
                  FELIX MUSSENDEN PH.D. (3107)
                  PROF JOHN NIELESKY (3108)
                  JOHN REAMES (3109)
                  DR JAMES SCHMIDT (3110)
                  BEN SHELDON P.E. (3111)
                  BOB WARD (3112)
                  BILL WHITCOMB P.E. (3113)
                  KURT BIRKY – TIME FLUX DESIGNER (311 )

                  Behind the Scenes

                  The Ride Film

                  Diagram from Patent 5192247

                  Duration: 4 minutes 11 seconds

                  Budget: The ride film was reported to have cost $40 million to produce and involved two years of work.

                  Format: The Back to the Future: The Ride (BTTFTR) film uses 15-perforation per frame, 70mm film. The 15/70 frame is 10 times larger than the standard 35mm frame used in regular movie theatres and 3 times larger than the standard 70mm process used on some epic films. The format is known as IMAX. The way it’s projected is known as OMNIMAX.
                  More information: IMAX Corp.
                  Rather than being projected from the rear of an auditorium, the film is projected from the centre of the audience area, through a fisheye lens onto a huge 84 foot diameter domed screen. In a normal Omnimax movie theatre, the audience seating would be steeply raked so that everyone had a view of the whole dome. In BTTFTR, the seating consists of 12 Delorean cars on hydraulic motion bases.
                  In order to accommodate the expected crowds, from the outset the attraction was designed with two identical show buildings (each containing an Omnimax screen with 12 Deloreans) linked by a central foyer / queue area. 

                  Credits (from
                  David de Vos (Institute scientist)
                  Freddie (Einstein the dog)
                  Michael Klastorin (Security guard)
                  Christopher Lloyd (Dr. Emmett Brown)
                  Thomas F. Wilson (Biff Tannen)
                  Darlene Vogel (Institute Spokesperson – Preshow)
                  Written by: Peyton Reed
                  Directed by: Douglas Trumbull

                  Additional credits:
                  Film Production: Berkshire Ridefilm
                  Optical Effects: Imagica Corporation
                  Musical Score: Alan Silvestri

                  Special Effects

                  It’s amazing to discover that as it was made in 1989, NONE of the film contains any computer graphic imagery. The effects in the film were produced using traditional optical techniques and a multitude of highly detailed models.
                  It was one of the first Omnimax films to feature stop-motion animation (Dinosaur).
                  It’s alleged that one model of the iconic Clock Tower still had a coffee cup sitting beside it which can be seen in the final film – keep an eye out for it

                  Director: Douglas Trumbull

                  The director of the film, Douglas Trumbull, is a pioneer of optical special effects technology and has been responsible for the optical effects on many revolutionary effects movies, from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) through Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). His contribution to the technology of special effects has been immense, and he was responsible for inventing major components of the Omnimax projection system that BTTFTR uses, and is currently working on greater refinements of the connection between theme park rides and projected images.

                  Year Film/Project Role
                  1968 Candy Special photographic effects
                  1968 2001: A Space Odyssey Special photographic effects supervisor
                  1971 The Andromeda Strain Special effects
                  1972 Silent Running Director
                  Special photographic effects
                  1973 The Starlost (TV series) Producer
                  1974 The Towering Inferno Visual effects supervisor
                  1977 Close Encounters of the Third Kind Special photographic effects supervisor
                  1978 Night of Dreams Director
                  1979 Star Trek: The Motion Picture Special photographic effects director
                  Second Unit Director
                  1980 The Starlost: Deception (TV) Executive Producer
                  1982 Blade Runner Special photographic effects supervisor
                  1983 New Magic  (23 minute film showcasing the Showscan process) Director
                  1983 Big Ball (22 mins) Director
                  1983 Brainstorm Director
                  1985 Tour of the Universe (Motion Simulator film) Co-Director
                  1985 Let’s Go (17 mins) Director
                  1989 Leonardo’s Dream (20 mins) Director
                  1990 To Dream of Roses Director
                  1991 Back to the Future: The Ride (4 mins 11 seconds) Director
                  1993 In Search of the Obelisk  (4 minute film for Luxor Showscan ride) Director



                  The Making of Back to the Future: The Ride at Florida (excerpt from Douglas Trumbull documentary ‘Immersive Media – Part 3’)

                  A view of the film going through the Omnimax projection system

                  Patent plaque above the main entrance

                  Patent number 5192247 describes much of the ride system

                  Producer & Project Manager: Terry Winnick

                  Creative Talent: Peter Alexander
                  Peter writes: “An industrial design firm in Pasadena mocked-up the seating and look of the DeLorean ride vehicles. The trick there was to make a two passenger DeLorean into an 8 passenger ride vehicle, and yet still make it look like a DeLorean. I remember we designed the unit (again, Bill Watkins engineered it) to pull 1G, although after I left my boss Jay Stein cranked it up to pull more than that. The Omnimax screen was 84 feet in diameter, equal to the largest done to that date, and each of the two theaters held 12 DeLoreans. The film, done by Doug Trumbull, was 4 minutes and 11 seconds long and was one of the first Omnimax films to use stop motion photography (the first was a film called Kronos, produced by Cindy Fisher, who was our project manager on BTTF in LA for a while.)”

                  The sound for the simulator portion of the ride is fed through speakers mounted behind the domed screen. The sound is transmitted through the tiny holes in the screen. Additional effects speakers are mounted in the cars and around the auditorium.
                  The 12 channel surround sound makes the riders in each car feel totally part of the film – no mean feat when you realise there are 11 other cars watching the film on different levels!

                  The attraction consists of two identical ride buildings linked to a central lobby/queue area. The building is themed as the Institute of Future Technology. Each of the ride buildings consists of 12 Delorean cars cleverly shielded from each other, facing a 84 foot diameter Omnimax domed projection screen.

                  BTTFTR features in “Thrill Ride: The Science of Fun” available on DVD or VHS


                  Behind the Scenes
                  These exclusive photos were taken May 31, 1998 in the Operator Control Rooms by David Crown

                  In the Hollywood version of Back to the Future (which opened after Florida), the Control positions are located at the bottom level of the attraction, whereas in Florida they were on the top, where they were known as ‘Towers’. The name was carried forward to Hollywood.


                  Press Releases

                  1989 Press Release

                  EARLY PUBLICITY RELEASE (from LA TIMES Souvenir 25th Anniversary Supplement, July 1989)

                  Back to the Future Early Concept Art

                  NOTE: This information was published before the ride film had been made – it sounds like a very different story from the finished movie. It’s also interesting that the ride didn’t open in Hollywood until two years later than scheduled.

                  At Universal, ride the wings of the future with our Cinemagicians. For 25 years, they’ve been taking your favorite film fantasies and making them real.
                  You marvel and say, “What next?”
                  Our talented team of designers, artists and engineers say, “What if?and put your dreams and their imagination to work. “We’re not afraid to explore any thought, any creative idea, any concept, no matter how far-fetched it may seem,” says Chief Cinemagician Barry Upson, head of the planning and development division.
                  Doc Brown of Back to the Future simply says, “Where we are going we don’t need roads!”
                  Buckle up! Doc Brown has plans to take you on the ride of your life in his time-travelling wonder car! The hit movie Back to the Future is going to become the ride of your life at Universal Studios Hollywood in 1991.
                  Doc’ll take you climbing, diving, banking and blasting back to the dinosaurs at the Dawn of Time. You’ll catapult to Kitty Hawk for a run-in with the Wright Brothers. Rocket to Venice for a brush with DaVinci. Whoosh through Niagara Falls. Doc Brown will literally hang you up on the brink of disaster and let you teeter on the edge, then plunge you down, down, down in the steepest drop imaginable. You’re on your way to the most unbelievable time-travel adventure ever imagined.
                  Back to the Future is a 21 million Jigawatt adventure that brings the box office blockbuster roaring to life and hurls you headlong into a new dimension of thrills and excitement. It’s a sight, sound and total sensory senstation with 7-story-high Omni-Max surround screens, space-age flight simulators and live, Cinemagic special effects that will make any other thrill ride seem tame! It’s an incredible trip that spans a million years.
                  Bring us your dreams and our Cinemagicians will turn them boldly into life. At Universal, the future is yours.”

                  1993 Press Release

                  June 10, 1993 – For Immediate Release


                  Universal Studios Hollywood today unveiled the $60 million “Back To The Future” time travel adventure with the stars and producers of the “Back to the Future” movies — Steven Spielberg, Michael J.Fox, Mary Steenburgen, Lea Thompson and Tom Wilson — in attendance for the first ride.
                  “Back To The Future” opens to the public this Saturday, June 12 at 7.00am.
                  Standing an imposing thirteen-stories tall, it dwarfs the surrounding landscape.
                  The massive steel girders could support a small city.
                  It’s the most ambitious ride ever engineered. It’s “Back To The Future — The Ride.”

                  With its debut, “Back To The Future” represents the culmination of years of research and development throughout the four corners of the globe.

                  Engulfed in a cold fog. Blasting through the space-time continuum. Free-falling down volcanic tunnels aflame with red-hot molten lava. Cascading down volcanic tunnels. Colliding with prehistoric dinosaurs. It’s an experience so real, so exhilarating, studio guests’ senses will continue to “move” long after they’ve stepped out of their customized DeLorean time-travel cars.

                  “Back To The Future — The Ride” is a result of a breakthrough, state-of-the-art technology never achieved before in any media or studio attraction. This ride brings together the most dynamic kinetic motion base with sophisticated hydraulics, multi-channel sound, live effects and groundbreaking Omnimax film to create a total sensory impact experience. Whatever guests see on the screen, they will also feel.

                  Twenty-four specially designed flight simulators, in the shape of the now famous “DeLoreans,” create the illusion of blasting through time at lightning speed.

                  “Back To The Future — The Ride” continues the record-breaking movie trilogy, “Back to the Future,” about time travel, directed by Robert Zemeckis, starring Michael J.Fox as Marty McFly and Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown.

                  During “Back To The Future — The Ride,” the saga continues with the eccentric Doc Brown, master of time travel, at home conducting experiments in his new laboratory, “The Institute of Future Technology” — which features some of the authentic props from the “Back To The Future” motion picture trilogy, including the flux capacitor, the invention which makes time travel possible.
                  In his new lab, Doc has created his most futuristic invention yet — a convertible, eight-passenger Time Vehicle that’s faster and more energy efficient that his earlier time machine. But what’s this? Jumping jigowatts! Biff Tannen is loose in the “Institute of Future Technology” and threatens to end the universe as we know it. With no time to lose, studio visitors jump into the driver’s seat and take off on a pulse-racing, barrier-breaking adventure. Doc guides them by remote control as they careen through time in pursuit of the diabolical Biff.
                  The chase is on. Engulfed in three-dimensional images, guests fly into the futuristic Hill Valley of “Back to the Future II,” circa 2015, and travel back through the aeons to the chilling Ice Age. With dizzying speed, they thunder through caverns, crevasses and canyons of jagged ice, collide with a glacier and explode into the Volcanic Era. Up, up they fly, propelled through the immense open mouth of Tyrannosaurus Rex, erupting through a volcano and plunging over the edge of a molten lava fall into a sheer vertical drop.

                  “Back To The Future — The Ride,” with creative direction from Steven Spielberg, combines an Omnimax 70mm film (produced by Berkshire Motion Picture / directed by Douglas Trumbull) projected on eight-story high hemispherical screens, multi-channel sound and powerful hydraulically-activated dynamic motion. The ride is enhanced by a riveting musical score which was composed by Alan Silvestri, who scored all three “Back To The Future” films.
                  Every aspect of the film, simulator vehicle motion, live effects and sound, has been integrated to send guests time-traveling into the stratosphere of cinematic excitement.


                  Facts Behind The Most Ambitious Ride Ever Engineered.

                  • Back to the Future — The Ride stands thirteen stories tall.
                  • The ride is housed in the world’s tallest twin Omnimax theatre domes.
                  • Each “Back to the Future” Omnimax screen covers twice the area of an average Omnimax.
                  • To accommodate the concussion of Back to the Future’s massive sound system, 23 percent of each giant Omnimax screen is actually composed of holes. Each screen has 72,400,000 holes.
                  • Back to the Future’s” screens weigh 12 tons each.
                  • They are the largest screens of their type in the world and took six months each to construct.
                  • Back to the Future — The Ride utilizes the first Omnimax film ever created via the use of miniatures and can only be seen at Universal.
                  • Back to the Future” represents the first successful integration of motion-base and simultaneous filming – the ride program was created to be in perfect sync with the picture – guaranteeing a totally realistic experience.
                  • Back to the Future — The Ride houses the largest permanent theatre sound system in the world.
                  • Each studio guest is subject to 10,000 watts of sound throughout each dome.
                  • Thirty two independent sound systems function within the building.
                  • The Back to the Future state-of-the-art ride system has been subjected to the same testing procedures as NASA’s Space Station, U.S. Armed Forces fighter planes and missiles and the Space Shuttle.
                  • Technology known as “frequency injection” — a revolutionary technology which injects soundwaves into each DeLorean’s hydraulic system — enables each vehicle to perfectly mimic terrain ranging from a cobblestone tunnel to the lava flow of a prehistoric volcano.
                  • In four and one-half minutes guests will travel back in time 4,000 years, 25 years into the future and back to the present.

                  2007 Press Release #1

                  Universal Studios Hollywood Invites Guests to Be the Final Time-travelers on ‘Back to the Future – the Ride’ and Take a Chance at Winning a Collectible DeLorean as Doc Brown Sets the Ride on a Countdown to Its Last Mission on Labor Day, September 3, 2007

                  UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif., July 23 — After thrilling over 61 million visitors with wild rides across “the space-time continuum,” the ground-breaking “Back to the Future – The Ride” attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood will soar into the future for the very last time on Labor Day, September 3, 2007.
                  Fans of the attraction will also have an opportunity to take the last ride and drive off as the owner of one of the stainless steel 1981 DeLoreans that served as inspiration for Doc Brown’s flux capacitor-equipped time machines.

                  Back to the Future – The Ride” blends breakthrough simulator technology with a cutting-edge Omni-max 70mm film to create a total sensory experience. A signature attraction at “The Entertainment Capital of L.A.” for over 14 years, the ride is being closed to make way for the introduction of a new thrill ride based on the enormously popular “The Simpsons” TV series and movie. The Simpsons ride is slated to debut in Spring 2008.

                  Back to the Future – The Ride” was introduced in 1993 as a continuation of the Oscar(R)-winning blockbuster “Back to the Future” film trilogy directed by Robert Zemeckis and executive produced by Steven Spielberg for Universal Pictures. The attraction features an eight-seat convertible DeLorean Time Travel Vehicle that elevates the theme park ride experience to an unprecedented level of detail, beginning with an artfully staged queue line experience that helps set up the ride’s narrative storyline.

                  At the center of “Back to the Future-The Ride” is an original film, masterfully designed to interface with the simulator’s technology by an award-winning team of filmmakers, including Oscar(R)-winning and three-time Oscar(R) nominated director Douglas Trumbull, Oscar(R)-nominated cinematographer David K. Kennedy and Oscar(R)-nominated writer Bob Gale.

                  With imitation being the most sincere form or flattery, the ride has inspired many replicas at other theme parks worldwide since its gala 1993 premiere at Universal Studios Hollywood.

                  Fewer than 10,000 DeLorean automobiles were built at the company’s Northern Ireland factory. The car was notable for its futuristic design, including a stainless steel exterior and top-opening gull-wing doors. The 1981 DeLorean that Universal Studios Hollywood will give away has been driven with just over 60,000 miles. Officials at the studio are unable to estimate how many millions of years the vehicle has traveled in the space-time continuum. To learn more about winning the DeLorean, guests can log on to or visit the theme park to register at specially-created “Back to the Future” kiosks.

                  2007 Press Release #2

                  ”Christopher Lloyd Helps Universal Studios Hollywood Set Official Clock Tower Countdown”’

                  Emmy-Award winning actor Christopher Lloyd helps Universal Studios Hollywood set official Clock Tower countdown as Back to the Future…The Ride prepares for its final voyage into the Space-Time Continuum.

                  Convoy of DeLoreans set to arrive en masse at the Entertainment Capital of L.A. to pay homage to the vehicle that served as the inspiration for Doc Brown’s Flux Capacitor-Equipped time machine.

                  WHO: Christopher Lloyd, Emmy-Award winning actor and star of the Back to the Future film trilogy and the Back to the Future…The Ride original film; Bob Gale, Oscar-nominated screenwriter and co-creator of the Back to the Future films, and Kevin Pike, special effects supervisor for Back to the Future, will be joined by a convoy of stainless steel DeLoreans arriving en masse and thousands of loyal Back to the Future fans.
                  WHAT: After sending over 61 millions guests on wild rides, Universal Studios Hollywood’s ground-breaking attraction, Back to the Future…The Ride is preparing for its very last journey in the “space-time continuum.” Under the watchful eye of Christopher Lloyd, Doc Brown will arrive via an elaborately-equipped DeLorean and set a “clock tower” countdown to mark the ride’s month-long farewell celebration.
                  Back to the Future…The Ride was introduced in 1993 and will take its last ride on Labor Day, September 3, 2007. As part of the fanfare, guests will have a chance to enter a sweepstakes and become the lucky owner of a stainless steel 1981 DeLorean.nnBack to the Future…The Ride was as a continuation of the Oscar-winning blockbuster Back to the Future film trilogy directed by Robert Zemeckis and executive produced by Steven Spielberg for Universal Pictures. At the center of Back to the Future…The Ride is an original film, masterfully designed to interface with the simulator’s technology by an award-winning team of filmmakers.
                  WHEN: Thursday, August 2, 2007. Press event begins promptly at: 10:00 a.m.
                  WHERE: Universal Studios Hollywood – Back to the Future…The Ride (100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608)

                  Closure Event (August 2, 2007)


                  Chris Mackenzie (Universal Studios Hollywood): “Doc Brown’s Institute of Future Technology, better known as Back to the Future: The Ride has thrilled visitors to Universal Studios Hollywood, the Entertainment Capital of LA. However, on September 3rd after more than 61 million flights, this great ride will be closing it’s doors. [crowd boos] So today with the help of some very special guests and the Hill Valley clock tower, we begin the countdown to the final flight of Back to the Future. During our month long celebration, not only will guests have the chance to take one last trip across the space-time continuum but one lucky time-traveller will win our Out of time sweepstakes and will become the proud new owner of an original 1981 DeLorean, and while it can’t travel through time, online and in-park guests will have a chance to own this piece of automotive history. And it’s another opportunity for our very special guests, the many DeLorean owners we have in the crowd today, to get their hands on one more of these beautiful automobiles.”
                  Photos: Skillz Entertainment 2007

                  More Information

                  • If you’re a fan of BTTF, check out BTTF.COM – it’s got loads of information about the movies and merchandising, and up-to-date news on everything BTTF-related.
                  • Blog by Jim Hill about the Back to the Future Ride Film that never got made
                  • 1991 – December 29 – New York Times
                    “Technology; Loping toward the Death Star, With Every Sense but Smell” by Matthew L Wald