Spielberg had his first major success as the director of Jaws (for which homage is paid in Back to the Future Part II), which became, at the time of its release in 1975, the highest grossing film in history. Spielberg then had success with Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1977. Spielberg was also the director for the blockbusters Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
Though Spielberg was very impressed with Zemeckis and Gale, his first three productions of their work were box office failures. Spielberg was executive producer for I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978), director for 1941 (1979), and executive producer for Used Cars (1980). Although he was interested when Zemeckis and Gale approached him in 1982 for Back to the Future, the two writers did not want to take the risk of delivering another money-losing venture to Spielberg, and the stigma that it would cause for them. During the next several years, Zemeckis and Gale received more than 40 rejections while trying to get Back to the Future filmed.
When Robert Zemeckis successfully directed Romancing the Stone to box-office success in 1984, he recounts, people who had rejected Back to the Future were eager to back the film. Zemeckis and Gale went back to the one person who had believed in them, and Spielberg's Amblin Productions was their choice when the film began production in 1984 for Universal Studios.
Zemeckis and Gale give credit to Spielberg for protecting the film from a change in title that had been insisted upon by Universal's Sid Sheinberg. Sheinberg was adamant that he wanted the film to be called Spaceman From Pluto, on the grounds that no film with word "future" in its title had ever been successful. The Bobs give full credit to Spielberg, who responded to Sheinberg with thanks for his "humorous memo", for saving the film. Zemeckis commented that Spielberg earned every penny he got from the trilogy. Spielberg was executive producer on Back to the Future Part II and Back to the Future Part III
Spielberg is the father of six children, including Max Spielberg, who was born on June 13, 1985, three weeks before the premiere of Back to the Future, and who was made part of the story for Back to the Future Part II as director of Jaws 19 in the year 2015.
Spielberg also was an executive producer for several Warner Bros cartoons, including Tiny Toon Adventures which included several voice actors from Back to the Future: The Animated Series, including:
- Joe Alaskey as Plucky Duck
- Dan Castellaneta as Jeffries in "Grandma's Dead" and Harvey in "It's a Wonderful Tiny Toons Christmas Special"
- Hal Rayle as Coast Guard Captain in "Kon Ducki"
Spielberg also voice acted in several episodes, including:
- "New Character Day" as White Rabbit
- "Buster and Babs Go Hawaiian" as Himself
From 1995-1997, Spielberg was also the executive producer of Freakazoid!, which had David Kaufman voicing the alter ego of the title character, Dexter Douglas and Neil Ross voicing a Board Member on "The Chip, Part 1". Though Steven didn't do voice work for the cartoon, several episodes had an appearance by him.