To The Future ...For Now!
Day, the future ends at Universal Studios Hollywood. That
would be the Back to the Future ride, anyway, which
will shut down after more than a decade of service and yes,
I'll stoop to the cliché, delighting park visitors.
for the end...
haven't checked this attraction out, you only have weeks
left (the Florida park's version closed in March), and if
you're a theme park junkie (like myself), you should catch
this one before it's gone.
To honor its last month, Universal held
an event last Thursday, August 2, in front of the ride.
A replica of the famous Hill Valley clock tower, much lower
to the ground, sat in front of the attraction while press
and fans gathered. Among those in the crowd, according to
a Universal spokesperson, were over seventy DeLorean owners
eager to be part of the farewell.
Of course, only one DeLorean truly mattered.
Though Universal had one under wraps near the tower, everyone
waited for the actual car that could travel through time.
After Bob Gale, co-creator of both the films and the ride,
thanked the crowd for their support, that car came roaring
around the bend.
While the crowd had been promised Christopher
Lloyd, the driver turned out to be one heck of a good Lloyd
impersonator. Only at a theme park can an actor and his
fictional alter ego stand side-by-side to mark a milestone
in the character's life. The Doc Brown that drove up played
well to the crowd, imitating Lloyd's whispery shout to perfection
before introducing his passenger in the DeLorean: Lloyd
looking into a mirror!
actor seemed pleased by the response, but he kept his comments
brief. Gripping the podium, he gathered his thoughts and
finally uttered "GREAT SCOTT!" before stepping back to allow
the show to go on. (audio
As the park spokesperson welcomed Doc Brown,
the character realized it was a few minutes past 10:04.
"If we don't connect the past to the present," he twittered,
"we may not have a future!" Grabbing Gale and Lloyd, the
wild-maned scientist handed them power cables in order to
launch the ride.
Brown himself held the power converter,
and as the three came together, smoke exploded from behind
the clocktower. Soon all were covered in ribbons of mylar,
and Gale in particular looked amused by the whole thing.
so the countdown had begun. The park spokesperson looked
over at the trio and invited them for one last ride (audio
file here). As they walked off together, Lloyd turned
and waved to the crowd, appearing to be touched by the fandom.
The ride itself didn't actually go into
operation for a few more minutes, the better for press to
swarm all over that DeLorean. One nice surprise came in
the form of Claudia G. Wells, who had played Marty McFly's
girlfriend in the first film. Owner of a
men's clothing store really just down the street from
Universal Studios, she showed up for the festivities and
posed in the passenger seat of the car.
and Claudia G. Wells, too...
What, you might ask, about the ride itself?
closing will be a loss to ride fans. Hands down, this is
one of the best storytelling rides around. Audiences queuing
up get an entire plot handed to them on television screens
at the Institute of Future Technology. If you've never seen
the films, it doesn't matter.
Brown (Lloyd) introduces himself, and occasionally the video
cuts to Thomas F. Wilson's Biff Tannen sneaking around trying
to find a DeLorean to steal. The set-up even introduces
the ride vehicle, the unlikely eight passenger time machine.
Moving to another room, it becomes clear
that you are the only hope to keep Biff from creating a
time paradox that will destroy all reality. Once you're
in that eight passenger DeLorean, the ride really takes
off, hurtling you into the future and the primordial beginnings
of Hill Valley,
without ever losing the plot. A video screen
in the car cuts back and forth between Doc Brown offering
encouragement and Biff in the DeLorean ahead of you to keep
moving the story along with the spectacle.
celebrates! (click on pic for large version)
It really needs a couple of rides to take
the whole thing in, which is the mark of a good attraction.
That's one thing to be said about Universal Studios Hollywood
in general; they don't have a lot of room for a lot of rides,
so what they put in are all definite E Tickets.
I'll vouch for that, too, as I wandered
the entire park, taking the tour and trying not to correct
my tour guide on too much trivia. (Yes, yes, I should be
on some sort of anti-pompous medication - but he was still
calling Will Smith's superhero movie Tonight He Comes.)
Everyone has to do the tour at least once,
and the park has done a good job of freshening it up over
the years. I miss the Battlestar Galactica attack,
The other rides are top-notch. Revenge
of the Mummy is one heck of a great rollercoaster, and Terminator
2: 3-D set the bar years ago for integrating storytelling
with thrills. Heck, even the Waterworld stunt show
should be seen - if only because it's so well done it makes
you think the movie might be worth watching.
to the Future: the Ride will close on September 3, to
be refurbished into The Simpsons. Before you visit
America's favorite family, you need to say farewell to this.