The Hoverboard Scene In Back To The Future 2 Pre-Empted the Swegway Craze That Came 25 Years Later
We Don’t Need Roads, by Caseen Gaines, the story of the making of the Back to the Future Trilogy features an entire chapter devoted to the hoverboards seen in the second movie of the series. The film’s producers were already getting phone calls from parents wanting to know where they could buy a hoverboard, even before filming was completed—after a TV special about the making of the film aired during production. The huge demand for hoverboards & their swegway cousin should come as no surprise some quarter of a century later.
The hoverboards in the film were created with wires; then cutting edge green screens & the then-new technology of computer animation - which removed the wires. This was pioneering stuff back in 1989 & the hoverboard was one of the major novelties of what was a major blockbuster of the day. In certain scenes the hoverboard was mounted on a pole attached to a truck whilst the actors were placed in a harness.
In the film there was a sign next to the pond in Courthouse Square which clearly read NO HOVERBOARDING. According to the front page of the October 22, 2015 edition of USA Today, a Border Collie who could ride a hoverboard, had a one hour special on Canine Sports Network that night. It was also announced in the column that the following year hoverboards would be "lighter and thinner", but they still would not be able to work on water. The hoverboard seen in the film was similar in appearance to a skateboard.
Data: "Hey McFly, you bojo! Those boards don't work on water!"
Whitey: "Unless you got power! Hahahah..."
— Griff's gang taunts Marty McFly
The film would go on to gross $332 million at the global box office after its November 22, 1989 release. It had taken two years to finish the set building and the writing on the script before shooting could commence. Director Robert Zemeckis said on the film's behind-the-scenes featurette that the hoverboards used in it were real, but not released to the public. Footage of "real hoverboards" was featured in the extras of a DVD release of the trilogy. Many believed Zemeckis was telling the truth. In an interview, Thomas F. Wilson - who played Biff - said one of the most frequent questions he got asked was if the hoverboards were real.
Besides the hoverboard the film featured or predicted or advanced the following:
Air traffic control
Auto-adjusting and auto-drying jacket
Automated Texaco service station
Barcode license plate
Holofilms (Jaws 19)
Kirk Gibson Jr. Slugger 2000 adjustable bat
Litter Bugs, robotic mobile trashcans
Multi-channel video screen and the 300-plus channel universe
Portable thumb unit
Scene screen, featuring The Scenery Channel
Soda bottles with built-in straws
U.S. Weather Service, controlling and scheduling weather
Video glasses/Video telephone glasses
The uptake in interest in the hoverboard first scratched the surface in more recent times around March of 2014 according to Google Trends with the United States & Philippines were hotbeds of interest in the emerging, long awaited for product. Interestingly enough from a linguistic perspective the term “swegway” enjoys prominence in the United Kingdom alone whilst “hoverboard” appears to be the most prevalent term for the hottest trending product among teenagers in the world today.
Not unsurprisingly Google search interest in hoverboards & swegways peaked in December of 2015 - just in time to be the must-have teen Christmas gift of the year. In December 2015 there were fully 9,140,000 searches globally for the search term “hoverboard” whilst “swegway” enjoyed 673,000 searches - 301,000 of which stemmed from the United Kingdom alone. London, predictably, was the largest market with 49,500 “swegway” searches with the remainder of the top 10 as follows:
- London 49,500
- Birmingham 5,400
- Liverpool 4,400
- Glasgow 4,400
- Leeds 2,900
The uptake of the swegway has been supported by their popularity with a range of the world’s biggest celebrities including:
- Justin Bieber
- Chris Brown
- Bella Thorne
- Alberto Moreno
Back to the Future Part II (1989)