If you’re going to build a Hoverboard into a collector’s piece, why not do it with some style?
Throughout the first full week of December, the much anticipated Back to the Future Part II prop-replica Hoverboard, produced by Mattel’s high-end Matty Collector brand, began shipping out to eager fans. For many who had been waiting since pre-orders were placed back in March, expectations were set high. Beyond the Marquee had a hand in raising those expectations when we produced two episodes at Mattel’s design studio covering the development of the boards. Our staff were just as enthused when we met with Scott Neitlich, Mattel’s Marketing Manager, who ensured everyone that “it’s going to be perfect, it’s going to be what we wanted, it’s going to be the Hoverboard we’ve been waiting for”. The bar had been raised.
Back to the Future’s Co-Creator/Producer/Writer Bob Gale and Special Effects Supervisor, Michael Lantieri, visited Mattel and were brought in to consult and share screen-used Hoverboard props with the Hoverboard design team. With these authentic visual references fully available, it seemed like a guarantee that all aspects of color, size, shape and sound for constructing a screen-accurate prop replica would be met. As the months rolled by, however, rumors began swirling online that the final product might not live up to those expectations and Mattel, when pressed, remained very quiet on the subject. The company still isn’t saying much.
Unfortunately, the rumors turned out to be 100% accurate and the end result was a Hoverboard that has not lived up to the hopes and dreams of those who shelled out good money for a quality collector’s piece. Fans who purchased the boards are now becoming more vocal online, requesting refunds and lambasting Mattel (with Beyond the Marquee and Bob Gale thrown in the mix a bit). Despite our loyalty to Scott Neitlich and Mattel’s generosity to our site, we don’t blame the critics of these Hoverboards at all and we, as fans of Back to the Future ourselves, do join in the complaints.
Mattel sent us a Hoverboard a few days ahead of their shipping schedule so that we could have a chance to review it. This Hoverboard was fully purchased by us and not given as a free or promotional item from Mattel. We encourage you to view the video and read the review at this link: http://www.beyondthemarquee.com/15970.
Bob Gale, who enthusiastically ordered eight boards for himself, has now publicly come forward to express his concerns to loyal Back to the Future fans who believed, as he did, that this would be the ultimate Hoverboard prop-replica. He shared his views with us and our partner site, BTTF.com, by submitting the following letter.
To: The BTTF Fan Community, particularly those who purchased a Hoverboard Replica
From: Bob Gale
Date: 10 December 2012
Subject: Mattel’s Hoverboard Replica
Friends and fans,
Many of you saw my appearance back in March on “Beyond the Marquee” in connection with the announcement of Mattel’s hoverboard replica. (Here’s the link if you’re curious: http://beyondthemarquee.com/5460/ ) Mattel had invited me, along with BTTF-2′s special effects supervisor Michael Lantieri, to tour their facility and meet with the team that was doing the project. I brought my two hoverboards from the movie and John Bell’s original art concepts so they could get the exact measurements, determine colors, and get some ideas about materials. Michael and I talked with the team about the boards and the visual effects. We liked everyone we met, and their passion for the project was genuine. I was convinced Mattel was going to do us – and themselves – proud, and that the final version would be something every fan would want to own. You can see my enthusiasm on that video segment and, shortly after that segment ran, I put my money where my mouth was: I dropped a grand and ordered eight of them for myself.
I had no further meetings, discussions, progress reports or updates regarding the project with Mattel. I did hear some rumors in October that some fans were unhappy with what they perceived the final product was going to be, but I (wrongly) attributed this to the usual “you can’t please everyone” syndrome.
Last week, I received the first of my hoverboards. I had seen the review on “Beyond the Marquee” a few days earlier (http://beyondthemarquee.com/15970/ ), so my expectations were lowered. Nevertheless, I was disappointed. Jon and Steve’s review was spot on, and my issues are basically the same as theirs. The plastic stand is poorly designed and damn near impossible to make work. And although it was indicated that the board would somehow glide across certain smooth surfaces (like carpet), mine certainly didn’t. I too thought the sounds the board makes were underwhelming. But I would have forgiven all of these things if they had just gotten the lenticular quality of the movie board correct. This, in my opinion, is the product’s biggest problem. It’s supposed to be a prop replica so, at a $120 pre-sale price, it should look perfect. But it misses that mark. It’s not a disaster — far from it: the colors, dimensions, weight are great with a solid build quality, and the box graphics are a lot of fun (even though it’s missing the sticker that says “warning: does not work on water!”). And if it was $70, I’d give it an A. But at almost twice that price ($130 now), it is, at best, only a B. And dammit, I expected an A.
I emailed Mattel, expressed my opinion and told them I planned to go public with it. Scott Neitlich was a total pro and responded immediately. He told me that despite many attempts, they were unable to satisfactorily recreate the lenticular surface and chose to go with the photographed version. That may be true, although I am puzzled how we were able to do something 23 years ago in the movie (admittedly at a much higher cost) that Mattel could not do today. I honestly don’t know why Mattel didn’t tell me, or Universal, that they were having this problem when it developed, nor why they didn’t ask us to help them solve it. And I really don’t understand why they didn’t get in front of this issue when they made this compromise instead of choosing to disappoint their customers at delivery time. But no one likes to own mistakes or compromises, especially in corporations. So it is what it is.
I put myself out there to promote this, so now I want to publicly stand here with egg on my face and apologize. This product, at this price, falls short of the top notch standards that you and I have come to expect for something that carries the Back to the Future brand. To those of you who bought one because of my endorsement and are upset with the product, I’m very, very sorry. Please accept my apology. I share your disappointment, and you have permission to put my photo on a dart board and throw sharp objects at it.
If you need a headline, it’s: “Bob Gale says Mattel’s hoverboard replica did not live up to his expectations, okay to throw eggs at him.”
As always, Bob Zemeckis and I truly appreciate the continued support and enthusiasm of all of you in the fan community for our films and for all things BTTF. We thank you for that, and I promise to do a better job of riding herd next time.
Meanwhile, I’ll end with some good news: the “A” Car Delorean restoration is proceeding beautifully (http://youtu.be/M2GFA8biDDE ) and, thanks to Joe Walser and Terry Matalas, it’s absolutely going to be an “A!”
My best wishes to you all for a happy holiday season.
UPDATE: A day after posting his letter, Mr. Gale further explained some of his reasoning for not being entirely pleased with Mattel’s final Hoverboard version. Here he provides side-by-side comparison photographs to show some of the inconsistencies that unsatisfied collectors have been mentioning.
What do you think about Bob Gale’s letter? Let us know (we’re sure Mattel will see this) by leaving your polite comments below.