So, either we’re 17 years behind schedule or 9 years ahead of schedule. I’m not quite sure. Either way, I fully expect—demand, really— that the kinks be worked out of Hammacher Schlemmer’s Hover Scooter by 2015, so that I can finally cross off at least one of my childhood dreams (funders have unceremoniously rejected my plans to build a LazerTag arena, complete with bicycle ramps).
If you were a kid when Back to the Future II came out, you almost certainly heard the urban legend that Mattel had actually made hoverboards, though they couldn’t release them due to safety concerns. I remember spending hours daydreaming about how the hoverboard would work: where was its on/off switch? How would you control it? Did it come in colors other than pink and blue? Though Snopes debunks the rumor, its analysis leads me to conclude largely that Robert Zemeckis has been crushing childrens’ dreams since long before The Polar Express.
Robert Zemeckis, the film’s director and special effects genius, became fed up with people asking him how the hoverboard sequences were done, and, according to Michael J. Fox, he began answering, “What do you mean, how did we do it? It’s a real hover-board. It flies. Michael [J. Fox] just practiced a lot.” His exasperation-fueled flippancy only served to heighten the rumor; now even the director was confirming it!
The hoverboard’s failure to appear on toy store shelves was attributed to pressure brought to bear upon Mattel by parents’ groups concerned for the safety of children, and once again Zemeckis was right there to stir the pot: “Hoverboards have been around for years, but parents’ groups worry that kids will get hurt, so they’ve pressured the toy companies not to put them on the market,” he said. “We got our hands on some.”
Don’t you understand that we’re talking about people’s feelings, Bob? Their hopes and dreams? Maybe next you’ll tell us that Forrest Gump wasn’t real, just another figment of your power-induced imagination. Whatever, man.
I do, however, enjoy the temerity of the online order page, which blithely asks: “How many?” Granted, if you can afford one of the $17k hover scooters—say, if your intials happen to be R.Z., and you’re a fairly successful, if heartlessly cruel film director—you can probably afford two (unless you, like me, have been carefully putting all your spare change into a jar marked ‘Hoverboard Collection Fund’ since 1989). And fortunately, they’re offered in four colors, so you don’t get yours confused with your next-door neighbor’s hover scooter. Okay, Hammacher-Schlemmer, so you’ve got the hoverboard started. Any progress on that time-traveling DeLorean? Maybe you could start with a Pinto or something. No pressure.
Of course, unless Zemeckis lets me drive his, I’m probably going to need a bigger change jar.