Terminator 2: 3D – Battle Across Time was a theme park attraction at Universal Studios Florida and Hollywood. As of 2018, the ride now only operates at Universal Studios Japan. James Cameron – director of the first two Terminator films – played a big part in its creation. The principle cast returned: Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator, Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, Edward Furlong as John Connor and Robert Patrick as the T-1000. The ride featured a mixture of live actors and 3-D film interaction.
In the early 1990s, designers from The Goddard Group and producers from Universal Studios met to come up with concepts for a Terminator attraction. The Goddard Group had previous success for Universal with rides such as The Adventures of Conan and Jurassic Park: The Ride, as well as other theme park attractions around the world. CEO Gary Goddard loved Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) so much when it came out that he took his entire staff to see it in the cinema. They took up an entire row of seats. He was very excited to work on the T2: 3-D project. Extensive brainstorming and storyboarding were completed before anything was proposed to Cameron.
The director was unsure of the idea and was convinced he would be telling both companies “no” on his way to the meeting. He was very impressed with what Goddard and the rest had come up with and, not only had a few things to add, wanted to direct.
The budget for T2: 3D has been estimated at over $60 million USD ($24 million USD for the film alone). This makes it one of the most expensive theme park attractions of all time. The “near future” battle ground scenes were shot at night in the Arizona Desert and took three weeks to complete. New 3-D camera technology was invented to meet the requirements of the production. In one extreme close up shot, Schwarzenegger unintentionally damaged part of a $40,000 USD camera beam splitter with his shotgun prop. The film crew had to cut retakes short because of the incident.
While filming continued, a custom-built theatre was made at Universal Studios Florida. It featured three 15 meter wide screens, 66 speaker locations, as well as secret panels, sliding walls and hydraulic lifts that would work in sync with the film throughout the show. In post-production, editors continually tweaked the film to seamlessly match the movement of actors and stunt people. A full-size replica of the theatre was constructed in an abandoned airplane hangar where the live action choreography was rehearsed.
Special effects, animatronics and puppetry fell to Stan Winston. Cameron and Winston had previously worked together on both Terminator films, as well as Aliens (1986). Winston’s other credits include Predator (1987), Edward Scissorhands (1990), Batman Returns (1992), Jurassic Park (1993), Iron Man (2008) and many other movies. He won academy awards for Aliens and Jurassic Park. Sadly, he passed away in 2008 from cancer.
After the audience are ushered to their seats, the show begins with a Cyberdyne Systems representative taking the stage and welcoming everyone. A brief video is played that highlights the company’s upcoming technological marvels, including a group of T-70s (a crude and simplistic precursor Terminator to Schwarzenegger’s T-800 model). The machines show off their capabilities before Sarah and John Connor highjack the video feed. They tell people to evacuate the building as they are about to blow it up. The T-1000 enters via a time portal and is followed shortly after by The Terminator on a motorcycle. The T-1000 chases The Terminator and John back through the time vortex to the 2029 battle grounds of the human and machine war. The Terminator and John evade the T-1000, Hunter Killers and Mini Hunters before infiltrating the Skynet complex. They fight the T-1000000 – a completely computer-generated chrome spider-like creature – before blowing everything up and winning the war. John is returned to the present day.
T2 3-D opened at Universal Studios Florida on the 27th of April 1996. It received 5.1 million visitors during its first year of operation. A second attraction was opened at Universal Studios Hollywood in 1999, and a third in Japan in 2001. The attractions have been a great success, but the Hollywood ride was closed in 2012 and the Florida one in 2017. The ride at Universal Studios Japan is still going. With the release of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines in 2003, T2: 3-D is no longer considered Terminator canon.
Stan Winston – IMDb (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0935644/?ref_=nv_sr_1)
T2 3-D: Battle Across Time – IMDb (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117880/)
T2 3-D: Battle Across Time – Terminator Wiki (http://terminator.wikia.com/wiki/T2_3-D:_Battle_Across_Time)
T2 3D: Battle Across Time – The Story Behind the Theme Park Extravaganza at Universal Studios (https://www.flickeringmyth.com/2012/12/t2-3d-battle-across-time-story-behind/)
The Making of T2: 3-D: Breaking the Screen Barrier (Documentary, 2000)