G A R Y G O D D A R D Q & A
Gary Goddard is the Founder and CEO of The Goddard Group- an entertainment design firm based in North Hollywood, California. Goddard created several large-scale attractions for Universal Studios, including The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man (at Islands of Adventure, and Universal Studios Japan), Terminator 2/3D: Battle Across Time (at Universal Studios Florida, Universal Studios Hollywood, and Universal Studios Japan), Jurassic Park: The Ride (Universal Studios Hollywood, Islands of Adventures, and Universal Studios Japan), Conan: A Sword and Sorcery Spectacular (Universal Studios Hollywood), and Kongfrontation (Universal Studios Hollywood). Other notable attractions created by Goddard and team include Star Trek: The Experience (Las Vegas Hilton), The Georgia Aquarium (Atlanta, Georgia), and Sanrio Puroland (Japan). He also directed Masters Of The Universe (1987) and appeared in X-Men.
Gary co-created the original concept and script for Terminator 2 3D: Battle Across Time, working closely with James Cameron. JamesCameronOnline.com had an opportunity to conduct this Q&A with Gary about his work on the attraction.
JAMESCAMERONONLINE: How did you get involved with the project and were you a Terminator fan when you were first approached to work on it?
GARY GODDARD: First, yes, I was a big fan of the Terminator movies, and of everything Jim had done prior. But I especially liked T2 - I was there on opening night - I think it was the CINERAMA DOME if I remember correctly. We wound up buying a block of tickets for my little company (I think we had about 10 or 15 employees then) and all of going on opening night. And it was really fantastic. We were in the 4th or 5th row down front, so it was pretty immersive to say the least.
With regard to the
attraction, many years later - around 1991 or 1992 -- I was approached by
Universal Studios in the person of Jay Stein, then Chairman and CEO for
Universal Studios Recreation Group (Universal Studios Theme Park division) for a
new project that he wanted to consider for Universal Studios Hollywood. I had
already done quite a number of projects with Universal then, including writing,
directing and producing THE ADVENTURES OF CONAN: A SWORD & SORCERY SPECTACULAR,
KONGFRONTATION, and many others. I was also already working at the time on
creating an attraction concept for JURASSIC PARK, the motion picture that Steven
Spielberg was in production on at the time.
Jay asked me to come meet him at this office in The Black Tower to discuss a new idea he had. So I met with Jay and he said that he wanted to create a "stunt show based upon the movie TERMINATOR" that could go into the CONAN Theatre. He had no idea what it would be, but he thought the rights could be licensed but that we needed a great concept to take to Carolco Studios so that we could pitch them and get them into an agreement the rights. I knew enough about The Terminator films, and about how Hollywood works when it comes to properties, that whatever we came up with would have to pass the smell test with Jim too. But, being that I was already a big fan of the Terminator movies - both the first one and of T2 as well -- it sounded like a great assignment. Once we got into things a bit, we found out it was ONLY Terminator 2 that we could base the new attraction on due to legal and ownership issues on the first one.
So, the first thing I did was to get the laser disc (yes this was the era of laser discs) so that I could see the movie again. When I start to work on adapting a concept for a theme park attraction, I want to really try and capture the spirit and heart of the movie. I want to tap into the "emotional connection" that a film makes with an audience - and to do that in a 10 or 15 minute theme park experience is not easy. We work in a different medium, and because we usually only have 10, 12, or maybe 15 minutes to engage the audience, we look for the central EMOTIONAL heart of the story. We want to find a way to put our audiences into an experience that transports them into the world of that particular story and what they recall about it. I watched that laser disc often - over and over -- as I was trying to find the hook. What as the "big idea" that would make this concept work - how do we connect the audience with the experience of T2 that will ultimately be satisfying and not some lame typical theme park show that aims to the lowest common denominator?
One thing was clear immediately. Jay's original notion of a Terminator "stunt show" was not going to work. Very quickly, I realized a traditional "stunt show" was just far and apart from the emotional center of T2. I
thought, an Arnold look-alike, taking punches at a live actor in some kind of tinfoil suit? That would be a disaster. So what would it be then? It's got to be in a theatre setting and its got to have big action - so how do we get there?
The movie - when analyzed, has some great characters in some very intense sequences, but most all of them are in motion. I mean, they are chases, whether on foot, or on motorcycles, or in helicopters. Not exactly an easy transition to a stunt show that takes place in a stationary locked down theatre. So for a week or two, I struggled with ideas, tossing them out as being obvious, bad, and --- because I knew it would come down to this ultimately - nothing Jim would approve. (Having written and directed movies, I knew that - regardless of a license from Carolco or anyone else --- ultimately if James Cameron did not like the concept, then it would be a no go proposition. My goal was to find a "big idea" that Jim would like - that he would embrace. So it had to be something that would really build upon what Jim had created, yet, in adapting it for a new medium, be something that could somehow bring the energy, life, excitement and sheer energy of T2 into the theme park world.
But I hadn't really come up with it after two or three weeks of trying. And we were coming up on a meeting with Jay Stein (at Universal) to present our initial idea. And I was thinking - everything we've come up
with so far just doesn't work. In fact it sucks. Two nights before the meeting I was in a restaurant having a late dinner and I was scratching around in my notebook. And I said, ok just think WHAT WOULD BE COOL? What could happen in that theatre that would be cool - and I got this idea of the liquid metal - the T-1000 - coming off the screen in 3D and suddenly forming into the Robert Patrick COP character, and when the process was completed, the COP was a life actor IN THE THEATRE who leaps out at the audience. And I thought - "well I don't know how we could accomplish that, and I am not sure what happens next, but this would be a COOL thing if we could pull it off."
And that ultimately was "the big idea" because once I thought about using 3D, and having people out on glasses, then what ELSE could be 3D? And how could be make this something REALLY cool - more than just 3D - a 4D attraction that would blur the line between what is on screen, and what is in the theatre. And suddenly ideas starting popping up and the notion of a very cool "theatre of the future" formed in my head. If we're going to have a 3D screen, why not have the screen wrap all the way around the audience? (And yes, originally we were going to have a full 360 degree set of screens.) Very soon into the process came the idea of Arnold and the Chopper COMING AT US on screen (3D) and then BLASTING INTO THE THEATRE with a real Chopper and Arnold (look alike). Many of these initial "big ideas" remained in the show and became some of the most spectacular parts of the show.
So I knew what it could be now. I knew what I would be pitching to Universal. We were going to create an attraction where the audience is not a passive observer. We will put them in the middle of the action- we will create a show that happens all around them. With 3D and 4D and a host of other elements -- it will be an assault on the senses. Things will come at the audience from in front, behind, around, above, below - from everywhere.
So the genesis of 3D and 4D, with live performers, came together in my mind and now I had a foundation upon which to build something very unique. And very COOL. And I thought I had the seed of an idea now that Jim would be able to embrace. So I was ready to pitch Jay on an idea, though I did not yet have the story.
The pitch to Universal was "well, what I am about to pitch you is NOT a stunt show exactly. But I don't think a stunt show based upon TERMINATOR will really work." And I listed the reasons it was not a great idea to do a "stunt show" per se. So Jay said "well then what are you pitching?" And I said - "live actors, 3D film, and big pyrotechnic effects in the theatre." And I gave him the two sequences that I'd thought of - the T-1000 morphing into a live version of the COP who menaces the theatre, and the 3D ARNOLD ON MOTORCYCLE charging the screen and EXPLODING through it with a LIVE performer and chopper. I said "This is a very basic idea, but before I go further with it, I want to know if you're okay with this IDEA of merging live actors and 3D film. Because its not exactly a stunt show, but I think it will be far better!" And Jay said "Okay - develop it and get back to me in a week or two. I need more details." I said we'd get back with some solid ideas and a story as well.
And that's how this whole thing started.
JCO: Whose idea was it to get James Cameron involved?
GG: Well we HAD to
have Jim approve the show concept, or there would never have been a license. So
I knew we would be having a major presentation for him. I would say that I hoped
that Jim would not only approve the project, but that he would get behind it in
a big way - because without him, I knew we'd never get Arnold.
So, as I mentioned above, I knew that Jim would have to approve whatever we came up with. So I was always working with that in my mind. To that end, we worked very hard to stay true to the characters and mythology that he had created. Knowing all the while that at some point, I would be pitching Jim on this. But that was in the back of my mind. In the forefront was - how do we make this a compelling experience? By the time we here in the heat of creating storyboards and detailed treatments, it occurred to me that this attraction had to have Arnold in it - and the rest of the cast. And at that time no theme park attraction had ever been able to get the star of the franchise to participate. I knew then that would ONLY get Arnold if Jim were involved. And yet, I couldn't say that to Universal. I kept telling them "don't worry, if Arnold won't do this we'll re-storyboard it and we'll use doubles and long shots and we'll make it work." But I KNEW if we didn't get Arnold, that the show would really never meet its potential. And I knew the only way to get Arnold would be though Jim, and the only way that would happen is if Jim really embraced the concept and the creative approach.
T2 3D storyboards - click to enlarge
Again, at this time, no one - including me -- thought Jim Cameron would get involved to a level of actually directing the film sequences (and in working with us to improve the script and the design and every little thing) - but I was hoping he'd get involved to the point that he would help us to bring the stars in, and to ensure the quality of what we had created would be supported with the budget. Remember that at this time, major film directors did not really work on theme park attractions. While Spielberg would consult on certain rides and shows in the park, that meant meetings and reviews from time to time, in between his film shooting schedules. And Steven's input was always really great - he always had fantastic ideas to plus the rides and shows. But he was never day to day on the theme park rides or shows, and I think everyone's expectation of Jim was that he would function in much the same way. But as you know Jim is a hands on guy - and once he embraced the concept - he fully committed and leapt into the fray. And there's no question we could not have achieved the level of quality and cutting edge work, had he not done exactly that. Jim Cameron IS the 2000 pound gorilla.
JCO: How much input did James Cameron have on the script, and what were your contributions?
GG: Well I created
the concept, then wrote the initial script (with two employees of mine at the
time Adam Bezark and Ty Granaroli, contributing as well), created the initial
storyboards with several artists (Greg Pro did the main boards initially), and
our team (at my company) did the initial technical research to show that the
technology existed in some form or other to achieve MOST of what we were
I think this story best explains Jim's involvement.
The big day had come. We had previously pitched to Gale Ann Hurd, and to the Carolco management team (though Carolco at this time was about to go out of business), and to Lew Wasserman and Sid Sheinberg at Universal. Everyone had approved it -and everyone liked it - though some of them were not sure HOW we were really going to do everything we were presenting. But of course, with regard to Gale and to Carolco it was "we love this - what does Jim say?"
So, as I had known from day one, it was all about Jim. So the day was set - we were set up in the basement conference room of the Black Tower. Lew, Sid, Jay (Stein), and myself. That was it. We had three walls of storyboards and color renderings. We had a foam core study model of the theatre I believe. And we were all waiting for Jim to arrive. And I had been pretty cool up until now - focusing on the concept, the development, the writing, getting the storyboards right - and then all the presentations to Universal and Gale and others. And now the day had come. And it wasn't until I was there, in the room, waiting for Jim to arrive that I suddenly thought - "Jeez - I am going to present what we were now calling T2/3D - Jim's creation - to HIM. To the creator of the Terminator universe. And we had taken some liberties - being that Edward (Furlong) was now 5 or 6 years older than when T2 was made, we had decided (in the event we could get the stars on board) that we were slightly ahead of the last movie's timeframe - dictated by Edward being a young man now.
So all of this suddenly comes flooding into my head - we're not retelling T2 here, we're kind of building and riffing on it - and we have made certain assumptions here. And I was looking back at the boards thinking "how do I frame this for Jim" and suddenly he walks in. So, after a few introductions and hand shaking, I'm on. And over a year and half of development and work is on the wall, and everything I know hinges on this next hour.
So I did the pitch. About 30 or 40 minutes, and Jim said nothing - he really just focused on listening and understanding the concept and story. At the end, I finish, and the room is silent. Jim's sitting staring at the boards. The silence is getting a bit uncomfortable, so I try to break it with a kind of "Well, you know this is ----" And Jim raises his hand to cut me off. I stop talking. He gets up and goes to the storyboards. He says "these are pretty good boards - who did them?" I said Greg Pro - he's really great. He nods, looks at the boards a bit more and then says - and I'll never forget this ---
"You know when I was driving over here, I was thinking, Who the hell is Universal to take my Terminator and try and create a ride from it? What would the know about it? And I was fully prepared to come here and not like whatever it was that you were going to present." He turns back to the boards and continues, "But this is really good. You got the characters right. You got the mythology. The whole idea of it is great." And then he turns to me and the group and says "not that I can't improve it a bit."
And so began this collaboration. Jim not only got behind it, he participated in more development meetings, he rewrote the film part of the script and inputted on the rest. He got Arnold and the cast to agree to do it. The entire project just became more robust and more fantastic with his on-going involvement. And I would say it was a great collaboration at every step of the way. So the answer is that Jim was VERY involved. That being said, I think he would confirm that is was very collaborative - and that he pretty much deferred to me on elements involving the live aspects of the show, and the interactive elements with the film, and I (OBVIOUSLY) deferred to him on anything having to do with the film aspects. And that being said of course, Jim had input and absolute say on every element in the show. Honestly working with Jim was fantastic - he is obsessive about whatever he is working on - and I am the same way. Every day brought new ideas, new sparks -- we worked VERY close together on the sequences that require interfacing on the stage with the live actors -- something that would not even happen for another year and a half from when we were filming. So we had to work together closely to ensure that everything would mesh together properly.
I think my greatest moment of connection was when Jim said that Brad Fiedel had called him to say he wouldn't be there for the final mix and that he should work with me in that regard. And Brad was understandably surprised having worked with Jim and knowing his perfectionism. But Jim was in the thick of Titanic and he knew he could not get away, but he told Brad that he trusted him and he trusted me. Brad came to the theatre for what would be a week of mixing, and essentially said "If Jim trusts you, I do." And we had a very positive collaboration as well, working with Tony and John Micelli (sound design for the project) to create a true "wall of sound" that brought the whole production to life.
Honestly the entire project was very collaborative.
JCO: What was the biggest challenge?
GG: There were many
challenges on this. From my point of view, the biggest challenge was keeping the
vision intact along the way. In the theme park industry, unlike the film
industry, the creative lead (in this case me) does not always have the absolute
creative power that a movie director has. There were many times when executives
in the theme park side of this project wanted to make changes because they
didn't understand this, or they disagreed with that - not that we don't take
such issues into consideration. But again, having Jim to back me up let us keep
the vision pretty much on track.
But the biggest challenges really occurred on site when we had to put the show together. I came to the site finding things in a bit of disarray (by the time we were on site for the installation and programming, Jim was heavy into Titanic and could not break away at all). I had to do what every director does when its time to get the show on its feet - which is to creatively problem solve every hour of every day and night. Nothing goes like its supposed to, yet you have to make it work. So we were revising, enhancing, subtracting, adding - we were involved day and night in merging all of these different elements. We had the film sequences, the 4D effects, the lighting, audio (a highly complex audio system with over 86 speakers throughout the theatre), moving sets and drops, major mechanical elements, lifts, animatronics, live actors, real weapons too. It was chaos at one point. But it's the role of a director to bring order out of the chaos.
The ultimate challenge was when Universal management, about week before we were to open ordered us to be ready to show the attraction to a test audience in 48 hours. AND that they intended to take a survey afterwards. I was like "no way - we're not ready - this isn't fair" - but Ron (Bension) was adamant about it. They were really worried - I cant blame them. They would come into the theatre and see chaos. They would see things not working. They would see actors on a break for four hours while the tech team tried to track down a bug in the show control system. It certainly looked like they had a $64,000,000 bomb on their hands. But I told them that when everything is glued together, It's going to be great. 48 hours later we cleaned the theatre, and we set up a complicated set of live controlled operators to trigger the various effects. It was like an elaborate stage show with a stage manager calling the cues. I got up onto the live actor bridge in the pre-show and I prepped the audience - who were all excited to see this special PREVIEW of the new TERMINATOR attraction. I told them there might be glitches and we might have to stop the show. I told them it was a dress rehearsal, not everything would be perfect. I told them that they had probably never seen anything like this before. They were ready to experience it.
So we did the show for them. It was a miracle that we got through it - without a stop. Everything worked. And the audience went BALLISTIC. That is no exaggeration. They were stomping their feet and shouting and clapping. It was unbelievable. I got a call that night at about 8:30pm. Universal ordered us to do TWO MORE SHOWS the next day. The survey numbers were SO HIGH - higher than anything they had ever seen on any attraction before, that they thought there was some kind of anomaly that affected it. So we did two more shows the next day, and again, the surveys were through the roof. We had a HIT on our hands. And now, management went from being worried about having an expensive bomb. To knowing the they had a hit like nothing they have ever experienced so now it was GET IT OPEN. And they directed me to get it open in a week. WE somehow managed. And the show became a hit that had no parallel in our industry. Audiences raved. The Disneyworld/Orlando Visitor Guides (which are generally pro-Disney but also give an overview of what else do to in Orlando) were saying things like "if come to Orlando do not miss T2/3D - it surpasses any ride, show, attraction or any other kind of theme park experience you have ever seen. Its THAT good."
JCO: T2 3D was often described as the continuation of the saga and the third installment in the series, even by James Cameron himself. When writing/working on it, was that what you had in mind?
GG: As I alluded to before, the fact that we wanted to use the original cast, and the fact that we knew Eddie was older, kind of forced us into creating what Jim once labeled as "T2 and a half" --- so we were mindful that we were creating an extension of the mythology yes, in a medium where you could only experience it at Universal and in our specially designed theatres. But that is very much in keeping with what I think a theme park attraction that is based on a popular IP should do. You cannot re-create a moment from a movie in a live setting BETTER than the movie. The movie has close ups and cutting, pacing - all kinds of things that we don't have when we are LIVE with an audience. To try and retell the same story on stage is only going to come off inferior. But we if we can create an extension of the movie, and in doing so, put people into the same emotional state - so that we connect to their memory of that experience - and in the experience provide some new revelations or new surprises - then we succeed. We move from being a lousy ride or show that simply sticks the IP name on it, and we create an EXPERIENCE, that only works in our medium, that brings the story to life in a new and exciting way.
Click to enlarge
JCO: James Cameron mentioned that T2 3D was also a stepping stone into a third theatrical feature. Did he spoke about doing a 3rd theatrical movie?
GG: Actually we did have a conversation or two, and he was very mum about it. But one of those times I started to tell him what MY idea would be for the 3rd one and he cut me off saying that I was "on the right track" and not to say any more. So whether I was in tune with his thinking, and was close enough that he didn't want to hear anymore so that I could not later claim "that was my idea" -- or more likely, if he was just humoring me to get me to shut up - either way -I felt like my idea for the 3rd sequel were sound.
JCO: Do you think it will ever get released on DVD or Bluray?
GG: Well you know "The Making of T2/3D" was on the T2 special edition release. But I think that might be as much as ever gets on DVD or Blue Ray - as it would be difficult to really get the T2/3D experience onto the DVD format - as its an experience DESIGNED to seen and felt within the particular theatre setting we built for it. For theme park attractions - "the medium is the message" and in this case, as I stated up above, we decided that the audience would not be in a passive theatre OBSERVING the action - they would be in the MIDST OF IT. The entire experience would surround and immerse you. We wanted it to be an attack on the senses - and I think we succeeded. TO this day, it remains the highest rated, or among the highest rated, attraction in the Universal parks.
We want to sincerely thank Mr. Goddard for this Q&A and we wish him luck in his future projects