MattyCollector ‘Back To The Future’ Hoverboard Interview

One of the biggest surprises at Toy Fair last month was Mattel’s ‘Back To The Future’ Hoverboard full scale prop replica.  The “prototype” at the Toy Fair show room was just a foam model to give people an idea of the scale and idea, but now Mattel has a better idea of where they are going with it and how the features will work.  If you have played with either of the two recent Ghostbusters prop replicas that Mattel has done you know how they strive not only for accuracy and cool factor, but they also load them with features and fun play value.  The hoverboard is no exception.  They even had ‘Back To The Future‘ Co-writer/Co-producer Bob Gale come into the the design center last week and he brought two of the screen used props for Mattel to study.

We caught up with Brand Manager Scott Nietlich to talk more about where Mattel is at with the development of the hoverboard and what fans that preorder the hoverboard by March 20th can expect!


AFi: So the big question, why a Hoverboard?

Scott Neitlich: Isn’t it obvious?! It had to be done!!! Mattel actually “made” the HB in the second BTTF film, so really we are the only company that can truly make a HB prop replica and have it be accurate to the film.


AFi: Will the board actually “hover”?

SN: Unfortunately hovering technology won’t be invented until 2015. So for now we are making sure the prop replica does everything the board in the movie does except Hover. It will however gently glide over most flat surfaces and of course it will make the trademark “woooshing” noise and hmmmmm as it moves.


AFi: Are you going to hold on to the tooling so when the hover technology is ready and affordable you can just retrofit the molds? :)

SN:  Um…


AFi: How how will the sound effects work? Will the board have built in speakers?

SN: We actually are using top of the line tech here with a new speaker system that turns the board itself into the speaker. This avoided having to have a “grill” or speaker holes in the board and ensure it is screen accurate. It will also have motion detectors so it will know if it is sliding forward, backward, or side to side. It will also shut off automatically when picked up just like in the film. Put it on the ground and it hmmmmms to life again!

Universal Studios has been an amazing partner and provided all of the original sound files to ensure accuracy.


AFi: Will the Board come with a stand?

SN: We are actually working on this to see if we can include a stand that will simulate hovering. Not locked in but we all want to make this happen. We also want to include a non numbered certificate of authenticity so you know this is an actual Mattel board.


6" scale hoverboard with Hot Wheels Time Machine for scale reference

AFi: Tell us about the 6” Hoverboard accessory?

SN: If you pre-order the HB before March 20th, you will also get packed in with the prop replica (in the same package) a 6” scale HB for use with most Mattel 6” action figures. This 6” scale board will also come with removable handlebars.


AFi: As I understand it, you are not including the handlebars with the 1:1 prop replica?

SN: Yeah, we looked into this. Including the handlebars would have raised the price 50-70 bucks and we wanted to keep this as close to $100.00 as possible (final price for pre-order is $120.00). If the board does well we might do the handlebars as a separate item in 2013. Always a possibility as we did build the “hole” for the bars into the board so if we ever wanted to offer the bars as a separate item we could do that down the road. Time will tell (no pun intended!)


AFi: What 6” figures work best with the 6” pre-order board?

SN: We don’t have a final 6” board yet, but it should work best with a variety of 6” figures from Movie Masters to MOTUC.


AFi: Does this mean a 6” line of action figures of Marty and Doc are coming? You know BTTF fans would love that?

SN: Oh, as a fan myself I sure do know that! We have tried quite a few scenarios to do this and it just hasn’t worked out from a financial stand point. Both Marty and Doc from any of the films are a 100% tool with really no shared parts. One of the reasons we can do 100% tool’d figures in a line like MOTUC or GB is because we can bank those figures with other partial tool figures. For BTTF you are talking all 100% tool for every figure and that makes it a bit harder. We looked into doing station figures as well but really it just wasn’t crunching right.  That is one reason we are doing the 6” board.  In addition to being an incentive to pre-order, it is as close to a 6” figure line  as we are going to get right now.


AFi:  We have mentioned the pre-order several times, will there be “Day of” units available for sale on in the fall when it ships?

SN: That is still up in the air. We will likely do some, how many is still being reviewed based on how the presale goes. But we know the 6” board will only be with the presale units and the price will go up in the fall for day of stock.


Bob Gale and Scott Neitlich - Gotta go back in time

AFi: You recently were visited by Bob Gale, Co-producer and Co-writer of the BTTF films. How did that go?

SN: Bob was amazing. He shared a ton of insight into the Hoverboards and showed us original boards form the film. They made over 30 boards for the film and almost no board was used in more than one or two shots. It was really interesting to see how the boards he had (one made of wood, one of foam) were very different looking. So locking down what our prop replica will be will also be based on screen shots. It was great to work with him and get his blessing. He is very excited for this project! He even shared letters from kids back in the late 80’s asking for boards. Maybe we can track some of them down and let them know where to finally buy one! (only on!)


AFi: The current “prototype” has been under fire as not being as accurate as possible. How do you address this?

SN: Oh boy! Yup. Of course the proto is not perfect. This was a dummy model we made very quick for NYTF. We are well aware many details are off such as the color of the green stripe and the pink background sticker. This is one reason it was great to have actual screen used boards to use as reference. Our goal is to make this as accurate as possible.


AFi: By preordering you are asking for a lot of faith from customers, to buy a high price item without even seeing it.

The 6" Scale Hoverboard with handle bars

SN: Absolutely. But if you have seen our Ghostbuster props like the PKE meter (which will be back later this year! And the Trap, you know the quality to expect. We know fans are putting their faith in us and we will deliver! You just need to think 4th dimensionally on this one!


AFi: What will the packaging look like?

SN: We have not locked that down yet, but I can tell you it won’ t have the BTTF logo. This is not an item from the movie, but rather we are treating this like it is from the real world and Mattel is actually making it. I really want to call out things like “Hover scooter also available*   *not actually available” as a cross sell and have a burst that says “does not work on water”. I’m also working with legal to see if we can put all the TM dates as 2015.


AFi: That sounds fantastic. Anything else you want to add?

SN: I honestly can’t believe that we are finally doing this. I’ve been trying to get a Hoverboard made for years and this has certainly been a passion project of mine and Bill’s (Bill Benecke, lead designer). To have the proto sitting in my cube against the wall just brings a smile everytime. Everyone here at Mattel is putting their heart and soul into this one to ensure it is the best it can be.  The preorder window is now through March 20th, so log on today on to preorder. You won’t want to get left behind! Lighting only strikes once on this.


The 6" Scale Hoverboard without handle bars

AFi: Thanks as always Scott.

SN: My pleasure.


You can preorder a BTTF Hoverboard prop replica here. Remember of you do it by March 20th you will also get an exclusive 6″ scale replica to go with it!  You only have until THIS Monday to pre-order!

If you can’t get enough information about the creation of the hoverboard check out this gallery on Matty’s Facebook page of Bob Gale’s visit to Mattel and this gallery of his hoverboard pre-production sketches!


AND ONE MORE UPDATE!   The following was just added to the Hoverboard pre-order page on

“Mattel proudly sponsors the Michael J. Fox Foundation and will be working with them to auction off a limited number of Michael J. Fox autographed Hoverboards this fall with all proceeds benefiting the Michael J. Fox Foundation. If you would like to donate or learn more about the foundation and how you can help, please click the banner below.”

You must be 18 or older to purchase this product.

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