The hoverboard from Back to the Future: Part II is one of the most iconic artifacts of 20th century futurism. But surprisingly, the hovering toys were originally envisioned to be much larger than what made it on screen. That’s according to John Bell, the visual effects art director on the classic 1989 film.
“The early designs for those hoverboards were much bigger,” Bell told Uproxx. “More like wake boards and they had a lot more power devices on them, a lot of personalisation that [Griff’s] gang would have done to them. They were much more elaborate. But they kept evolving and whittling back till it became the minimal boards.”
The Uproxx interview with Bell has plenty of other behind-the-scenes trivia from BTTF2 including his marching orders from the producers: “We don’t have a script. All we know is they go 30 years in the future and there’s something called hoverboards. So come up with some stuff.”
And come up with some stuff they did, creating a movie that left an entire generation enthralled with the years to come — and more than a little disappointed that we still don’t have our hoverboards.
You can read the entire interview with Bell over at Uproxx. He talks about surveillance, hologram sharks, and the fashion of 2015. Bell’s reflection on his own childhood in the 1960s and the optimistic futurism of that era is particularly fascinating.
“I grew up as a kid in the ’60s and all the images of the future back then were optimistic,” Bell told Uproxx. “We’re going to be having jet packs and cars and city under bubbles and there would be peace and no bigotry. A lot of wonderful things and a lot of that hasn’t happened.”
In the end it would seem that Bell’s legacy as a Baby Boomer was to pass the torch of optimistic futurism to Gen X and Millennial kids around the world, only to set us all up yet again for disappointment that the world is still so broken.