Four reasons for 2012 to be the last year for Universal's Terminator 2: 3D

April 26, 2012, 3:08 PM · We've known for some time now that Terminator 2: 3D's days are numbered at Universal Studios Hollywood (and perhaps in Florida, as well). So after we rode Transformers: The Ride 3D last weekend, I took my film-geek son, Brian, up to T2 so he could experience the attraction at least once before it goes away.

Terminator 2: 3D at Universal Studios Hollywood

There's no official word on when T2 might close, but after seeing this show again for the first time in years, I'm convinced that the sooner it closes, the better. T2's time is past, and its presence in the park at this point actually has become a liability. Universal can't get going with installing a replacement quickly enough.

Here's why T2's become a liability for the park:

Californians hate Arnold Schwarzenegger now

Forget Jack Dawson. In 1990s Hollywood, Schwarzenegger was the King of the World. But that was before Schwarzenegger trashed his reputation among Californians by serving seven dysfunctional years as governor, leaving office as the most unpopular governor in California history.

Sure, it's The Terminator up there on screen, but the people hissing when he appeared in T2: 3D were booing the man who played him. Californians don't want to be reminded of the Schwarzenegger administration.

It's embarrassing to watch Cyberdyne Systems' vision of the future that's already here, or past

Any attraction that portrays the near future, as T2: 3D did when it opened in 1996, runs the risk of becoming laughably outdated if it's not refreshed within a few years of opening. T2 hasn't been, and now some of its pre-show "predictions of the future" are unintentionally, and embarrassingly, hilarious.

Video chat? Tablet computers? A grandmother will have 5,000 channels of television, and if she can't decide what to watch, the TV will decide for her?

We're not laughing with you, T2: 3D. We're laughing at you. Worse, though, are the kids who aren't laughing at all. They can't understand why we're supposed to care about the lame versions of iPads and TiVos that Cyberdyne is showing us during the pre-show. Apathy is death for a theme park attraction.

The 3D projection looks terrible next to Transformers and Kong

At one point during the show, I took off my 3D glasses and asked Brian, "Are you seeing this in 3D?" He chuckled, shook his head and replied, "No, it's all out of synch."

At very few times did the images on screen "pop" out into space as they should in a 3D film. Instead, as is too often the case with years-old 3D projections, I saw plenty of double or ghost images in 2D instead. T2 is worse now than Disneyland's Captain EO for inferior projection. Next to the sharp, stunning, world-class 3D imagery of King Kong and Transformers, T2's 3D seems especially inferior.

The story setting still doesn't work

T2's always had great in-theater effects, and USH's performers typically give great performances. But it's always bothered me that we start the presentation inside a Cyberdyne auditorium, then somehow end up outside the theater - in the future - around and inside the SkyNet headquarters. Okay, so I guess the entire theater-full of people were transported along with John Connor and The Terminator when they busted out of Cyberdyne - and no one in the future battle ever sees us there.

But even if we accept that, a big narrative setting problem remains. When Connor goes through the portal to return to the present time, we don't go with him. We stay behind to watch The Terminator battle the T-1,000,000. When SkyNet's destroyed, the portal goes with it. How do we survive and get back, when the Terminator doesn't? Heck, he's a lot stronger and more durable than we are.

The great in-theater effects, performances and (at the time awesome) 3D easily overcame these weaknesses back in the 1990s. But this is far from Universal Creative's best work today. Here's hoping Universal pulls the plug quickly and greenlights a better attraction for its fans and guests in Southern California.

So what could that be?

The hot rumor of the moment is Universal will duplicate Orlando's upcoming Despicable Me show for the T2 theater in Hollywood. But it's fun to imagine another couple possibilities as well.

What if Universal moved Shrek 4D over to the T2 theater, then rebuilt its exterior to become a Singapore-like Far, Far Away castle? That'd allow Universal to raze the existing Shrek theater to clear space for an expanded Hogsmeade for its version of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Shrek would fit better thematically in front of the European facades near the current T2 theater anyway.

What if we wanted a fresh attraction in the space, rather than a relocation or Orlando import? How about a new 4D show featuring Dr. Seuss characters and stories? Universal Studios Hollywood lacks anything from the Seuss Landing land in Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure. A new Seuss 4D show would add a welcomed family-focused attraction in the park, and if Universal threw in a Caro-Seuss-El on the site of the Coke Soak, that'd be a solid mini-land for the park. (Coke Soak could go to the site of the old Stunt Show theater if there's an ongoing contractual obligation to maintain it.)

What do you think about T2: 3D and its future, both in Hollywood and Orlando? The comments await your thoughts.

Replies (41)

April 26, 2012 at 3:30 PM · I vote for turning it into the Gringott's coaster and make the area surrounding it Diagon Alley.

Or doing a Combo Shrek setup. 4D show + Donkeys Crazy Carriage ride. (Similar to a Crushes Coaster but instead of a Turtle Shell/Under water highway; you'd be on a run away carriage that spins around as you traverse through the Shrek universe)

April 26, 2012 at 3:37 PM · I say only keep it in Orlando, yet update the computer animation, the projection system (either RealD or Dolby), and the preshow (obviously, they've predicted the iPad and video chat). As for Hollywood, the Seuss idea sounds good, or make a different 4D movie for the theater.
April 26, 2012 at 3:52 PM · 3D Theatrical movies should be considered outdated as theme park attractions. They are no longer novelty attractions that can stand a 10 minute presentation. I'm in favor is dumping Terminator for a family dark ride, which Universal seems to lack. Universal needs more family attractions.

I felt Schwarzenegger's performance as Governor has hampered by the Legislators. In other words, if Californians wanted him to succeed, why do we keep electing the same dysfunctional legislators that are in the pocket of the Unions? We get what we deserve. Nonetheless, his pardon of the son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez was the worse thing he did to cement his cronyism image.

I'm a big fan of the Terminator franchise so I'm disappointed that they didn't keep the attraction in good shape. It was the best 3D presentation at its debut and it blew Disney away. Disney never had an answer and still doesn't.

As for the show's continuity, I never had a problem with it. The problem is expecting every 3D attraction to be exactly the same in presentation.

April 26, 2012 at 3:52 PM · I havnt seen it yet. I had the oppurtunity to pick Terminator or Jurassic Park in Orlando because a storm was coming so I picked Jurassic Park. I never have ridin any of those rides before so that seemed like a good choice. I really want to see the show anyway. Maybe they will leave it in Orlando for a few more years and then rip it out and build a House of Horrors? But I really want to see this ride.
April 26, 2012 at 3:54 PM · Finally, all the things I hated about the show are pointed out. The voting on best 3D/ 4D shows was happening, people defended this show as still cutting edge and cool. I never liked it when I first saw it 10 years ago. I study plots and storylines all day, and this show just made so little sense and the mixed effects were always mediocre.

That being said, I think Shrek 4D is even worse, so lets not keep that one either. Dr. Suess makes some sense, but I don't imagine it being as ambitious as T2 3D was.

April 26, 2012 at 3:55 PM · I'm all for T2:3D getting the boot down here in Orlando. I can't imagine what'd go into the show building there with such a small footprint, but if it's better than Terminator I can't complain.
April 26, 2012 at 3:55 PM · With T2 being the most unique 3D show you can find anywhere (Even moreso than Disney), I'll be sad to see it go.I will agree though that it is laughably outdated and does need a replacement. Things change.

I wouldn't mind seeing Despicable Me replace it as the park could use a nice family ride.

April 26, 2012 at 3:58 PM · I actually went to T2:3D after riding Thransformers last week and felt the same way. The fact that USH has other 3D attractions make this stand out even more, obviously not in a good way. I'm a fan of the terminator series, but the attraction feels so dated, (the pre show video itself has a Murder She Wrote reference, old style desktop computers......1 of the people in the asked who the basketball player was.....)

The live performers do a great job, but I agree it's time for something else.

I'd actually lean toward not having another "3d show" type of attraction. I'd take the T2 space (and Coke Soak) & come up with something different. With the Studio Tour, Shrek 4D, Waterworld, Animal Show, Blue's Brothers, I think the park has enough "audience viewer" type of attractions for it's size.

I think the T2 space could be used for a dark ride of some kind.

April 26, 2012 at 3:58 PM · How about making a hunger games themed ride where they show you in the preshow that you are about to enter the arena and see the tributers do stuuf or whatever. Just think of something good. Or how about... moving waterworld here and build harry potter there. Or build us a new amazing ride. But keep the one in Orlando running but update the 3-d to spiderman good and preshow
April 26, 2012 at 4:57 PM · I fear the future of USH is more and more 3D attractions. People really seem to like them and they are far cheaper to operate than more conventional "rides".

I would love to see a "dark ride" in that building - even expanding into Coke Soak - but I doubt we'll ever see something like that.

My personal preference would be a live stunt show over there - outside with the valley and mountains as the background.

April 26, 2012 at 5:11 PM · I always liked T2. Even the last time I saw it I enjoyed it. I have not experienced Kong 360 or Transformers yet (but I will this summer)so maybe then I will find T2's 3D outdated.

Unfortunately the advancement in 3D technology at the Imax has killed the 3D wow factor at the theme parks.

April 26, 2012 at 5:23 PM · Ive been saying for years that T2-3D in Hollywood hasn't functioned to 100% in years. For a couple years one of the robots in the auditorium was broken(funny story while i was in a VIP show after a child asked the host what happen to the 4th robot where the host replied he's on vacation).

Projections are blurry and until about a year the screen had a horrible wrinkle that worsened the image. Smoke effects are never working properly so u can see the screen move up & down. Pre show is horribly out dated. As for whats to go here I think with the success of the Lorax a dark ride featuring suess characters would attract the young crowd.

Shrek will most likely be sacrificed for Harry Potter which is great as shreks tech and seats are out dated with D Box moving forward, back, left, right, up, down, around and shake. Why haven't these d box seats been used in more theme parks(D box made TRON a good movie as i wanted to walk out but stayed for the effects).

April 26, 2012 at 6:09 PM · I agree. My family and I have discussed and we feel its time for terminator to be terminated. Would love to see Universal Orlando replace it with transformers 3D!!!!
April 26, 2012 at 6:44 PM · It's a shame that Terminator 2: 3D has ended up like this. It used to be one of my favourite attractions but I have to admit that it just doesn't stand up against today's experiences. However, I do have a soft spot for the out of date vision of the future; it's almost ironic. But that said maybe T2's time has past.

I would like to see it stay in some form in much the same way as you can still ride the original Star Tours (in Paris, I believe. Do correct me if I'm wrong). I guess I love nostalgia and for a memorable attraction to cease existing seems a shame. In Margate there were plans (there still are presumably) to create a park filled with original and old theme park rides which I think is a wonderful idea; it is history after all.

Also reiterating what BehindTheTheme Disney-Universal said, plot wise Tron: Legacy wasn't a great movie. But that said I would be surprised if Disney don't adapt that in some way (more that ElecTRONica, I mean). Considering how much of a flop John Carter was, a Tron sequel seems inevitable considering how much it made and that it is essentially a fledgling franchise as most people who saw it probably hadn't seen the original. Disney aren't going to want to take many (if any) risks following Mars Needs Moms and John Carter so I would expect more Tron, Pirates and animated classics.Plus Tron's unique visual style would be perfect for Disney to innovate and to attract older visitors without using Marvel too much.

April 26, 2012 at 6:51 PM · Ben,

I've always thought Disney & Universal should have a walkthrough exhibit highlighting intem or so from former attractiions.

It' could be like a timeline or history of the park. USH could have an ET bike, something from BTTF, etc.

Even Disney could have something on mainstreet, yesteryear type space that contained either mini replicas or an actual part of the ride.

April 26, 2012 at 8:57 PM · Terminator 2:3-D, the Globe theater, House of Horrors, the old Wild,Wild,Wild West stadium, Coke Soak, the courtyard, and the building next to Animal Actors can make way for Wizarding World of Harry Potter with Forbidden Journey and Gringotts coaster.

WaterWorld will be saved.

April 26, 2012 at 10:21 PM · I saw the Orlando version recently and it was working perfectly, all the robot killers worked, all the special FX worked, and the 3D movie was clear and crisp. Some parts of the story are outdated but we're dealing with an alternate time-line so, big deal.

I didn't know the Hollywood version was such a crumbling mess and, if so, should be replaced. Leave the Orlando version alone.

April 26, 2012 at 10:39 PM · Lol I liked the Titanic reference! :p
April 26, 2012 at 11:38 PM · I'll be sad if Terminator leaves, as it is really a somewhat unique show. It isn't just a 3D movie, but is a hybrid of a movie and a live show. However, I do agree that the show is getting old and as long as the replacement is good I'd be okay with it leaving.

As for the replacement, I really don't want anything similar to what the park already has. No 3D/4D movie (at least as long as Shrek 4-D is around), which I believe is what Despicable Me is; in fact, the park has enough shows. They really need a ride. However, not another motion simulator since the park already has Simpsons and Transformers. I really hope that the replacement would be either something from another Universal park that isn't similar to a ride already present at USH or a completely unique ride (provided it is not a Harry Potter attraction).

Whatever happens, I just really hope Waterworld doesn't get the ax. It may be old, but I don't think there is a better stunt show anywhere and it still plays to capacity crowds.

April 26, 2012 at 11:52 PM · I agree Tony, the Orlando version is fine. The 3D works perfectly and the ride is still packed (at least when we are there). We had front row center which was pretty cool.

I could care less what happens at Universal Hollywood, but I would hate to see the one in Orlando go away.

April 27, 2012 at 5:51 AM · The first time I saw it, in '96, it was awesome!!! The last time I saw it, probably '01-'02, I really didn't care for it anymore... It is probably time to replace it with something else... or perhaps freshen it up (if there is any way one can do that?!?)... Maybe use the existing infrastructure with a different movie??
April 27, 2012 at 7:17 AM · I could care less about T2-3D, as one time is enough. The effects were working fine when I saw it, so it's probably USH's film. I'd love to see the Bourne franchise replace this at USF.
April 27, 2012 at 7:36 AM · As much as T2 has been a part of my overall Universal experience over the years, I won't be as heartbroken over it's demise as say Jaws or King Kong. It's gotten long in the tooth over the years and just doesn't feel amazing anymore. The effects are still somewhat effective, but when the most thrilling part is the fog effect at the end, probably time to call it a day.
April 27, 2012 at 8:58 AM · come on, are we really talking about taking out one of the best films of a decade for shrek or transformers? (im a huge transformers fan and i would love it to come to orlando, but not at the expense of terminator).
I agree the attration is past its prime, i would keep the theme just make a new ride based on it, we already lost jaws and back to the future for freaking harry potter man and the simpsons (im sort of ok with that one, i like the simpsons).
Universal used to be my favorite park, but i saw it as a park for movie lovers, it was supposed to keep the expierence of good movies not just good rides. Now we have the momy (horrible movies, great ride), and harry (dont get me started). Please conserve the themes and add new ones, dont take away one for another one.
As an example look at the great job Disney did with Star wars, and that is why even if i like universal more i have to say that disney has a better strategy, you can enjoy the classics and the new movies.
April 27, 2012 at 9:16 AM · Are we saying we could care less or could not care less? Because that makes a difference in two comments.
April 27, 2012 at 9:46 AM · As much as I'm a fan of the T2 movie, the 3D attraction was never a priority at the park. The whole identity crisis it had of starting with us as part of the show, then watching, then back to part of the show made little sense. I don't really want to be at a theme park and WATCH a movie. I'd rather be part of it. Shrek can go away too as it's even worse than T2.

The only attraction that needs to stay is Water World. The attraction that's a bajillion times better than the movie, and is the best stunt show in North America!

April 27, 2012 at 9:53 AM · I've always enjoyed T2. I will admit it is dated in different ways, but I still would be sad to see it go in any of Universal's parks. I don't know if it is time to get rid of the attraction in USF, though. All they have to do is update the footage like they did in Spider-Man, and make another pre show. This will happen with any attraction that deals with the future. It will become outdated and old. But i am sure the Terminator franchise will live on forever and will always be popular. That's my thought on the attraction. Update it.
April 27, 2012 at 10:51 AM · On the topic of Shrek... Shrek 4D was a fun movie when it debuted, long before Dreamworks beat that franchise to death with so many sequels. And Universal's invested a lot in Shrek as an in-park character. He needs an attraction as an anchor, so I can't imagine that show going away.

That said, if Universal would like to replace the 4D show with a Shrek dark ride someplace in the park within the next decade, that would likely make me a very, very happy theme park writer.

April 27, 2012 at 12:28 PM · We want a Transformers in Orlando!! Don't know if the Terminator site would be large enough though.
April 27, 2012 at 12:36 PM · It's sad, but in the same breath all things must come to an end sometime.

First Kong then Jaws then Back to the Future. Now T2:3D and soon it will be Twister because the attraction itself really is nothing spectacular now and even with the cutting edge pre-show to Disaster the main part of the ride remains the same and lacks believability.

Within a few years the park as I knew it when we moved to Orlando in 2003 will be gone. I am excited, however, that all of our theme parks in Orlando are getting some pretty substantial upgrades! Keeps things fresh and that helps lessen the sting of annual passes!

April 27, 2012 at 1:30 PM · I would have to agree with Mr. Niles about Shrek. There has to be some sort of high profile presence of Shrek, Donkey, and the rest of the cast beyond characters walking around. The fair is mediocre at best, and the attraction needs to be completely re-done as something else! Maybe this is their chance to out-do Disney even more than just with Transformers and Harry Potter! USH needs all it can to prove that it can be ahead of Disney in terms of quality.
April 27, 2012 at 1:54 PM · For us hollywood folks, I think it's time for Terminator to be replaced.

If the Orlando version is in fine working order and still pulling in crowds that are pleased, then I say leave it alone.

But the Hollywood park is already limited in terms of attractions (versus) Orlando, so even 1 subpar attraction, isn't a great use of space.

Like I said, I like the terminator series, but the current attraction, in it's current state (especially in light of transformers, & the new hp, etc) doesn't deliver.

April 27, 2012 at 6:59 PM · Im tired of classic attractions being replaced! The fact that jaws was closed for harry potter had me considering sending a strong letter to universal creative. Yes t2 is an outdated attraction but it's a wonderful ride . The only thing that would make up for t2 is transformers . As for hollywood I'm up for an inception ride . When teenagers think disney is too kiddie , they go to universal and seuss would defeat that purpose . If it goes make the loss worth it.(harry potter doesn't live up to that )
April 27, 2012 at 10:56 PM · That is all so true! We've all feared the governator more than appreciated him- more the better reason for terminator to leave universal
April 27, 2012 at 11:52 PM · Hi, Robert -

Very interesting discussion here about a show that's near and dear to my heart. I conceived, co-wrote and co-directed "Terminator 2: 3D" (together with Jim Cameron and Gary Goddard), so I've been following its impending demise with very mixed emotions.

Despite being so close to the attraction for so long (I was involved in all three installations around the world), I have to agree with you: the time has come to bid adieu to the Connors and their cybernetic pals.

You're quite right that above all, time has passed the show by. Not just because of our governor, but because the Terminator movies themselves have fallen far from the public consciousness. The series certainly peaked with "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," and the subsequent installments have taken us further and further away from the jaw-dropping power of the Cameron originals. (The story has also gotten way out of sync with the Universal attraction. When Cameron worked with us on the show, we planned it so that he could wrap a third sequel around it gracefully. But when he left the series, later producers went off in totally different directions, leaving the attraction orphaned in the time stream.)

You're also absolutely right that the technology references -- especially in the Pre-Show video, and even more so in the Queue video -- are comically outdated. When we wrote the show in 1993-95, there wasn't even a standard name for the internet! (If you pay attention, you can hear us use the Al Gore term, "Information Superhighway.") There might have been an opportunity to update those shows five or ten years ago, but now it's probably too late.

I'm especially sorry to hear your report that the show isn't being well maintained. (Haven't seen it myself for a while, so I'll have to take your word for it.) That sort of thing comes and goes, and I'd sort of hoped T2 would at least go out with its head held high. I'm sure the good folks at USH will do the right thing. Last I looked, the Osaka version was actually the most polished and best maintained, if you'd care to see what it was really supposed to look like.

The one place where I'll respectfully disagree with you is in your critique of the multiple-format story structure. I've heard a few people criticize the way we jump from "live theater" in Act I, to "pure movie" in Act II, to "immersive opera" in Act III. This non-literal reality progression is actually one of the things I'm proudest of. Often in the theme park world, we let ourselves become excessively focused on creating a literal, totally air-tight logical reality for our attractions. But who said that was the only way to go? What's wrong with a certain level of theatrical abstraction? Did you complain about the radical format changes in "Kill Bill," or the manic reality shifts of "Moulin Rouge"? I believe audiences actually enjoy being creatively challenged, and like it when a show throws them a mental curve ball, forcing us to become partners in the storytelling effort.

That's not to say we were completely random in our choice of formats; quite the opposite. As we conceived it, T2:3D is presented in the format that works best for each act. The first Act is a live presentation, the second is a huge chase sequence, and the third is a monstrous underground world... so the show changes format to present each part of the story in its best light. (We put a lot of effort into creating interesting transitions between these different formats to signal the audience that a change was happening, and give them permission to go along with the shift.)

In a sense, you could argue that we, the audience, make a subtle transition during the show: from physical visitors at a Cyberdyne Systems demo, to the invisible observers of a much bigger story that spans time and space. I've always loved the way this turned out, and I'm still disinclined to apologize for it.

Thanks for your great work on TPI, and it's a pleasure following this very interesting discussion. See you all at the last performance: I'll buy the beers.

April 28, 2012 at 2:55 AM · Skipper, I could care less on what happens.

Robert, I agree that a Shrek dark ride would be better then the 4D show right now.

April 28, 2012 at 10:20 AM · I guess I'm clueless, because I saw T2:3D again in December, and thought it's still a great show. Even the 3D still looks good.
April 28, 2012 at 10:45 AM · It is out dated, but not a bad show. Maybe they replace it with often talked HHN experience.....
April 29, 2012 at 6:27 AM · Adam, I have to disagree with comparing T2:3D with Kill Bill or Moulin Rouge. The entire time, we're watching those two movies from different perspectives, but are never physically involved. That's the difference. We're physically part of the show in T2, then watching, then part of it again... no explanation for a sci-fi film. From a storytelling perspective, it doesn't make sense. Why aren't we there in the future? Why are we only watching? Sure, you never have all of the answers to everything in life, but there's no excuse when you're trying to tell a story in a short time. The transition is jarring to say the least.
April 29, 2012 at 8:23 PM · I have to disagree with Adam as well. As a fiction writer, just like film makers, we can jump from perspectives and POV to improve the story because the reader is not there in the story, just a distant witness. But in theme parks, the guest are involved. The show starts with guest as a part of the story, and then suddenly it goes places where the audience should be completely unaware. It was always odd and distracting and never understood it. It doesn't make for strong story telling, just a muddle experience from the guest's perspective.
April 29, 2012 at 9:57 PM · When I go to a theme park, I leave Politics in the outside world and live in a fantasy land of adventure. What Arnold did is his own fault. However, can we fault his behavior for what he has done to the Terminator franchise? Absoultely not. I would rather see Terminator 2: 3D over and over again than see Scary Potter in its place. If that will ever happens, I will never buy a season pass to Universal ever again, even though they have Transformers and they are near to where I live. I'd rather go 35 miles north to Six Flags to enjoy my day than give my hard earned money to Hogwarts lovers.

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