Back to the Future: The Ride is a 3-D simulator ride at various Universal theme parks.
Guests enter a large building in the middle of the Hill Valley section for the park, in place of where the Courthouse is in the movies. Visitors to the Institute wait outside the facility. The queue video features clips from the Back to the Future trilogy, as well as new footage featuring Dr. Brown. It features diagrams for other innovations, ostensibly created by Brown; newsreel footage of Doc with Albert Einstein and other historical figures.
In the queue, riders watch a video in which Brown explains the story of the ride from the DeLorean in 2015. Following the events of Back to the Future Part III, Dr. Emmett "Doc" Brown and his family Clara, Jules, Verne and Einstein have moved to the present time in Hill Valley where, in 1991, Doc founded the Institute of Future Technology, a scientific Institute specializing in his futuristic inventions. Meanwhile, Doc travels to 2015 in the original DeLorean to make sure the space time continuum is back to normal after the events of his previous time traveling adventures, while his other Institute scientists travel to 1885 and 1955.
A group of 192 riders enter a large room ride as "volunteers" for a time travel experiment at the Institute of Future Technology which is meant to send riders one day into the future. Riders enter a lab. Biff is shown on televisions around the lab showing "security camera footage" and he asks riders for help in finding Doc's time machine. He then spray paints the security camera and it then cuts to footage of "live feed" video (acutally pre-recorded) of Doc Brown introducing the experiment, but says that caution must be exercised as Biff, who was graduated from the Hill Valley High School in 1955, has escaped his time period and is now running amok in the space-time continuum. Once inside, Doc reveals some of the inventions he has been working on, including his "crowning achievement" - an 8-passenger DeLorean time machine (also a convertible), which is what the riders will be using in the experiment.
Riders are then given a pair of "Time Goggles" (3-D glasses) and split into groups of 8. 8 riders are brought to 1 of 24 smaller labs where they watch the pre-flight briefing. Heather appears on a TV and announces that the pre-flight system checks are in progress and informs the visitors to stand by for an announcement from Doc. Doc begins to give riders their pre-flight breifing but Biff traps Doc in his office, and it is revealed when one of the time traveling teams was conducting an experiment back in 1955; Biff stowed away. He takes the DeLorean and vanishes into time. Doc frantically pleads with the visitors to assist him and says that the only way to bring Biff back to the present day is to accelerate to 88 miles per hour and bump him, which will open a time vortex that will send both time vehicles back to their original point of departure. Doc goes over saftey instructions and then informs the passengers with some helpful advice saying that Doc will drive the car via remote from his office and the time vehicle Biff had stolen has a sub-ether time-tracking scanner; that way whatever time period Biff may be, the 8-passenger vehicle will pin-point to that exact location. Riders then enter the 4-seat, 2-row (8 passenger) DeLorean.
When the doors of the time machine close, Doc appears on an in-car monitor and uses his remote control to start the time machine. Riders are told to put on their goggles. Riders take off out of the lab and accelerates to 88 miles per hour and the ride begins. First, Biff leads the riders to Hill Valley in 2015 where they chase him through town. They smash into neon signs, flying over neighborhoods and the town square, the chase culminating at the iconic clock tower. He then departs for the ice age.
The riders follow, and slowly lower into the icy caverns of the ice age. Biff honks his horn, causing an avalanche that damages the riders' vehicle. Flying out of the caverns, the car sees Biff shoot away into time, but their own engine has failed, and begins to plummet down a waterfall. Doc manages to restart the vehicle, accelerating backward and through time into the Cretaceous Period.
The riders follow Biff's vehicle into a dormant volcano in which a Tyrannosaurus is discovered. Tannen goads it into attacking the riders, who barely escape. The dinosaur strikes Tannen's car, sending it flying out of control; the dinosaur then swallows the riders' car, but spits it out mere seconds later. The riders then drop down onto a lava river to see Biff's DeLorean, now damaged and unable to maneuver, moving down an active lava flow toward the edge of a cliff, with Biff pleading help from Doc. As both vehicles plunge over the edge, the riders' car accelerates to time travel speed and bumps Tannen's, sending both of them back through the vortex to the original point of departure - the present, at the Institute of Future Technology (in which they crash through the big neon sign in front), where Biff gets out, thanks the riders and Doc for saving his life, but is soon grabbed by security and taken away. Riders exit the vehicle, as Doc thanks them and reminds them that the future is what they make it! An animated logo of Institute of Future Technology flashes up on the monitor with the words "Please lift lap bar and exit" and after a few seconds Doc warns "Hurry up! Get out! Before you meet yourself coming in!" As guests leave, the song "Back in Time" plays.
The two pre-show videos use HD remastered versions of the ones from the original ride. Even though parts of the video is cut or moved to a different portion, none of the acutal footage is reshot. However, to retain the realism, the background music of both pre-shows is removed.
The ride is a motion simulator with the cars located under a 3-D 80-foot IMAX Dome screen. Each of the 24 cars (12 per dome) was mounted on three pistons, allowing it to rise, fall and tilt, following the motion on the screen. The cars were arranged on three tiers and were staggered to prevent riders from seeing the other vehicles in the theater. The cars rose eight feet out of the lab and into the dome for the ride. The actual range of motion from the simulator base was about two feet in any direction.
Whenever the DeLorean is traveling through time, puffs of air and smoke is sprayed onto riders. Throughout the ride, wind is blown to give the effect of flying. For the scenes in 2015 Hill Valley, the theater blows a warmer tempature of air to feel like a warm summer night. Multible different colored spotlights shine randomly on the vehicles to make riders feel like they are flying by headlights and lampposts around the town. Whenever the car crashes into a sign, it vibrates and riders are popped with air. During the scene in the ice age, the entire theater becomes a lot colder. During the avalanche, mist and sharp burst of air are blown from above the vehicle. When the avalanche is happening, blocks of ice appear to be hitting and wrecking the car. To make this effect, the ice blocks falling are projected on-screen and the car shakes whenever it gets hit. To make it look like the ice is directly damaging the car, puffs of smoke are sprayed from the parts of the car the ice supposedly hit it. When riders fall down the water fall, mist is sprayed. In the volcano, intense heat effects are used. When the T-Rex swallows riders, his breath scent fills the air and water is sprayed. When riders are in the lava river, warm mist is sprayed from the sides of the car. When the riders crash into the institute in the end of the ride, an actual flame ignites on the front hood of the vehicle. The fire goes out when the man on the screen sprays the riders with a fire extinguisher. Smoke is sprayed from the hood to add to the effect of being sprayed by an extinguisher.
The ride vehicle is desgined to look identical to the one from the Back to the Future trilogy, except with 2 rows of seats with 4 seats in each row, Mr. Fusion on the back, and it is a convertible. The vehicle has a front panel containing a in-car HD video monitor, a time tracker telling rider when they are, when they were, and when they are going, a flux capcitator prop, a keypad, and a steering wheel. When the ride is over and riders exit the vehicle, they may notice the vehicle looks different then it was at the beggining of the ride. The front hood is now covered in snow, burnt, and has many large dents in it. This shows how the car was snowed on, damaged by falling ice, and burnt by lava during the ride. The effect is achived by two different hoods. The damaged and altered hood riders see at the end of the ride is on the other side of the hood riders see when they board the vehicle. At the end of the ride, the hood flips over so the damaged and altered side is in the guests veiw when they exit.
When the ride footage was made, computer animation was not widely used, so all the special effects, sets and other things in the ride footage were actually very detailed miniature sets recorded in stop motion filming. The miniature sets were large, with the replica 2015 buildings as large as half a grown man, and the T-Rex model being about 7 feet tall. The ride film for this specific version has many enhancements, such as being converted to digital 3-D, having the screen be bigger and curve around the back more, IMAX surround sound, and many CGI enhancements. For example, all flying cars and technology that did not exist in actual 2015 are digitally removed from the ride film. The T-rex in the ride film is remodeled with CGI to make more realistic.
- Saftey Restraint: Lap Bar, Handrail
- Universal Red Carpet Access and Single Rider available.
- This is a version of the same ride at Universal Studios Japan. This version has more physical effects and is 3-D.