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T2 3-D: Behind-the-Screens of Universal's Larger-Than-Life Lost Legend

It's 1996. The iPod is still five years out. By modern standards, accessible technology is practically rudimentary. But while we lag a world behind, one corporation is thinking of the world to come...

Image: Universal

Cyberdyne Systems. From the start, many will recognize it as the Black Mirror-tinged gloabl technology corporation from the Terminator film series whose technological advances (ostensibly to make us "happier, healthier, and richer") toe the line with the dystopian... That's no mistake. Secretly, we know that Cyberdyne's greatest creation is destined to wipe out most of humanity and that – in the unlikely event that you and I survive – we'll be doomed to hide away in the obliterated remnants as artificially intelligent machines controlled by Skynet scour the ruins of civilization hunting us down like rats.

Eh-hem. But for now, we've stumbled across a most unlikely sight... A full decade before iPhone announcements became international ceremonies attended by thousands, Cyberdyne has decided to lift the veil and invite us inside their ultra-secret headquarters for a product unveiling like we've never seen before.

The queue weaves through the stark marble-and-silver interior queue before leading us and 700 of our closest friends into the imposing, geometric Miles Bennett Dyson Memorial Auditorium (named for the recently-deceased engineer responsible for Cyberdyne's greatest achievement. If you believe the rumors, Dr. Dyson was killed just a few years ago by a vigilante and escaped mental patient named Sarah Connor).

Image: Orlando Informer

But enough of that! Today is a celebration, and to know it, you need look no further than Kimberley Duncan, who appears at the tip of the triangular pre-show room on a glass balcony surrounded by no less than two dozen Cyberdyne logos. She's dressed in a quintessential '90s red pants-suit with ascot, and she's chipper... too chipper. "Well, you obviously know who I am," she singsongs, "I'm Kimberley Duncan! Cyberdyne's Director of Community Relations and Media" breath "Control. Today you're going to see a classified presentation of our latest and most exciting technology, and won't that just be super?" She chirps.

She directs our attention to the large, six-paneled screens on either side of her and steps off. The CYBERDYNE SYSTEMS logo gleams and glistens, then pulls away. The crooning voice of a disembodied announcer (famed voice actor Jim Cummings of... well... just about every cartoon you've ever seen) picks up... It's peaceful, if not a little uneasy.

"Imagine a world... where butterflies run on batteries..."

We see students in a darkened classroom gazing up at a screen where a teacher is projected. "Imagine a school system where children in Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Seattle all learn exactly the same lesson from exactly the same teacher at exactly the same time every day..."

"...Where a grandmother can choose from 5,000 television channels, and if she can't pick, her television picks for her."

"...Where a mother can tuck her baby in at night..." With the click of a button, cold, robotic arms lower on either side of a child in bed, pulling the comforter up to her chin "...from halfway around the planet."

Now, the announcers voice and music lose all hint of frivolity. "Our goal? Complete domination of global communication... making your life happier, healthier, and richer. Cyberdyne Systems is also the leader in defense technology. by the end of the decade, Cyberdyne will unveil the most powerful thinking machine ever imagined: SKYNET. When the Skynet system comes online, this nation and its allies will be protected by the ultimate guardian: the first fully computer-controlled defense system.

"Skynet satellites can read the license plate of any car in any city anywhere in the world. Commanding all our weapon systems in one coordinated forced, Skynet also commands the nation's nuclear arsenal, taking it out of human hands and thus reducing the possibility of error to absolute zero."

A flash of static jumps across the screen. "Soon, we can all sleep soundly knowing that Skynet is running the show!" The image and audio begin to flicker. "Cyberdyne Systems... the future of national defense... the futur–"

Image: Lightstorm

Suddenly, we're patched into a new, auxiliary video feed: Sarah Conner. "Are we in? Okay, listen to me everybody... we don't have much time. Skynet is our enemy. It must be destroyed before it destroys us."

As Sarah and John recount the looming apocolypse and refresh us on the goings-on of Terminator 2, they beg us to leave the building before it's too late. Kimberley furiously reappears, desperately trying to win back the video feed and howling darkly into her phone, but it's too late. We know the truth. Finally she manages to cut the Connors' feed, drawing the spotlight back to herself. "...Well, wasn't that just super? Okay, I want to apologize for that silly interruption. You know, it just takes a few sick, sad, warped individuals to ruin things for everyone doesn't it? But enough of that. Let's move on to our next exciting event, shall we? Super!"

As the doors beneath her swing open, we continue on...

Battle Across Time

Stepping through the doors, we find ourselves in a cavernous, marble auditorium that seats 700 – without a doubt, one of the largest 3-D theaters on the planet. It's enormous and convincingly beige and blue with a very large presentation screen behind its ornate marble stage. With our "safety goggles" on, the unveiling can begin. But this is not your father's 3-D theme park show.

Image: Universal

Kimberley Duncan is back, at the podium at the front of the stage standing before the metallic Cyberdyne logo. She's on hand to introduce Cyberdyne's newest revolution... not a phone or a tablet or a car, mind you, but a warrior. At her request, billowing fog rises from six spots on either side of the audience and an army of eight-foot-tall cybernetic robots arise from their holding places beneath the stage. They're T-70s ("or as I like to call them, the Terminators") – clunky and inefficient compared to the Schwarzenegger T-800 model and the liquid metal T-1000, but it's only 1996, after all, and those more streamlined models won't be created by Skynet for decades. As their piercing eyes scan the auditorium, 

They're the most advanced fighting systems in the world, this demonstration can't be complete unless we see what they can do. Paper silhouette targets lower from the ceiling as the Terminators lock-and-load, their automatic targeting systems focusing on the sheets.

In a hail of gunfire, the targets above us are shredded. As Kimberley leads us in a round of applause, she promises that the Terminators are only the start. "Our next project is Skynet! Skynet is –"

Before she can get another word in, an alarm sounds and smoke billows from the ceiling as Sarah and John rappel from the rafters. Sarah fires her rifle (complete with deafening blasts) to kill the alarm earning shrieks from the crowd. As Kimberley huddles, Sarah demands that she shut down the Terminators and fires a warning shot into the metallic Cyberdyne logo behind the screen. As the T-70s power down, the rifle blast left in the metal begins to liquify and heal over.

Sarah and John race down from the stage and through the theater as the metal reshapes into the T-1000 (disguised again as Robert Patrick's police officer), stretching out into the crowd. When it spots them, the T-1000 snaps back to the stage where the live police officer appears. The T-1000 makes quick work of Kimberley and reprograms the Terminators to target them. But before he can, a time portal appears. Arnold's T-800 is back, riding across the stage on screen before literally bursting out of the screen on a motorcycle. 

He rides across the stage and uses a deafening shotgun to blast back the T-1000. "I said I'd be back," he affirms. "Come with me if you want to live." As the officer staggers back to his feet, John hops onto the back of the motorcycle, which accelerates up a ramp and into the screen again.

The best way to see what happens next is with your own eyes, so we encourage you to pick up the unthinkable adventure here:

Propelled forward in time, the T-800 and John face the post-apocolyptic world. Their destination? Skynet itself. This is where the attration's most amazing moments take place. Piercing into the core of Skynet, the walls sink away to create a three-screens tryptich that completely surrounds the audience – without a doubt, the largest and most immersive 3-D screen out there.

Deep inside Skynet, the duo encounter the self-aware computer network's guardian: the T-1000000. Made of the same metallic alloy as our left-behind cyber-cob, the T-1000000 morphs into its true form: a liquid spider. It comes to life, storming the audience from all sides (which, combined with the 3-D, creates an almost  awe-inspiring sense of reality) as John and the Terminator (again, live on stage) fight the creature.

Image: Universal / Lightstorm / Goddard Group

One final act of sacrifice finishes off the creature. John jumps back in time to the present while the Terminator bids us farewell: "Hasta la vista... baby." Skynet's core explodes and – in a matter of seconds – an all-encompassing cloud of fog overtakes the entire auditorium while the seats physically lurch and fall, earning squeals and screams from the crowd.

As the audience applauds wildly, the Terminator appears on screen as Sarah speaks.

"So, the battle continues. And once again, I find I owe my son's life to the heroic actions of a machine... a Terminator."

I'll Be Back

Image: Lightstorm / Universal / Goddard Group

Up until it's closing day, T2 3-D: Battle Across Time played to enthusiastic, full audiences. But as time moved along, Universal began to reevaluate their movie-themed studio park and things began to shift... On the next page, we'll dissect the goings-on that led to the closure of T2 3-D and try to imagine what the park could be planning to use the space for now... 

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