Terminator 2's Ending Is Emotional, Even in Claymation

Artist Joseph Brett has created another iconic sci-fi moment for DUST that features Arnold Schwarzenegger's T-800.

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The black-gloved hand of the "good" T-800 giving a thumbs-up as it slowly descends to its doom in molten steel.
RIP T-800
Photo: Distrib Films US

Hopefully, we’ve all seen Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Because if so, we’ve all gotten emotional at the same unusual image. A black-gloved hand giving a thumbs-up as it slowly descends to its doom. The moment works because James Cameron has taken the unstoppable evil from the first Terminator film, and given him humanity thanks to John and Sarah Conner. When the T-800 Terminator dies, a piece of us dies too.

Okay sure, I’m being a little melodramatic, but it fits for what’s about to come next. A few weeks ago, we posted a short, hilarious claymation clip to help the sci-fi site Dust celebrate its five year anniversary. Dust then told us they had more coming soon, to which we replied “Yes, please.” That brings us to today and a claymation version of that unforgettable moment from Terminator 2. This time though, we have some insight into the process from the person who actually created the clips for Dust, Joseph Brett. He told io9 via e-mail that this clip took about eight hours to animated plus “maybe a few more hours building the plasticine models.” He uses the standard Newplast Plasticine you can find in local craft stores, with a few tricks of the trade throughout. “I’ll also often use a slanted sheet of glass if I need several things to hover, like the sparks in this Terminator shot. They were just small balls of plasticine which I would gradually move down a glass panel held across the back of the set,” Brett said.

Because these animations take so long, Brett usually put them together on the first try, though he admits “I always end a shot thinking ‘There was a better way of doing this.’” This shot in particular posed a few interesting issues because there’s so much going on. “In the original shot there’s a lot of chaotic elements like smoke, fire, sparks, liquid meta, so figuring out how to keep that energy without having too many elements to animate was interesting,” Brett said. “The method ended up being fairly straightforward, but actually animating all those tiny elements—moving each spark across glass and replacing each flame on the hand—definitely takes its toll on the brain. Also, the descending arm took a bit of planning. I ended up cutting a hole in the surface so that I could scoop out the bottom of the arm as I pressed it down through the lava. That was a lesson learned from regrets on another animation.”


The 34-year-old- from London began animating in claymation when he was 10, and though he moved to live-action in later years, recently he got back to that medium he loved growing up. “What’s great about claymation is that I’m essentially using the same tools I was as a kid,” he said. “Which just makes it such an accessible medium.” You can see more of his work on Instagram and YouTube.

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