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Tour James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment Studio Museum – Home Of His Hollywood Props

As part of Ubisoft’s exclusive media event for the upcoming video game Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, Geek Culture was given an exclusive tour of James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment Studio Museum in Manhattan Beach, California. Nestled in the massive 22-acre Manhattan Beach Studio Media Campus, the 115,000 square feet production company, founded in 1990 by filmmaker James Cameron and producer Lawrence Kasanoff, has a massive room dedicated to an extensive collection of actual movie props from many of James Cameron’s blockbuster movies, including Aliens (1986), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), True Lies (1994), Titanic (1997), Avatar (2009), Alita: Battle Angel (2019), and Avatar: The Way of Water (2022).


Avatar

First up, upon entering the room, visitors are greeted by two 3.3-metre tall theatrical marketing statues of the Na’vi Jake Sully and Neytiri, from 2022’s Avatar: The Way of Water. Only 14 of each were made and placed around Los Angeles for cinema-goers to take photos of and with.

Right next to them is one of three original hero props of the AMP (Amplified Mobility Platform) suit used in the filming of 2009’s Avatar. Fans of the blockbuster would remember at the start of the movie when Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) was suiting up in the mobile armour’s cockpit while talking to the newly arrived Jake Sully. The second prop is with Weta, currently used for shooting the Avatar sequels, while the third one currently sits at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida, in the new Pandora – The World of Avatar themed area. Here’s a shot of it dressed up for the festive season when we were at Animal Kingdom last November.

Next up, is a life-size bust of Neytiri, made by Legacy Effects. The realistic appearance is due to the use od silicone skin, real hair, and glass eyes. There are only two busts made, with the second one also placed at the merchandise store in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Jake Sully’s Avatar backpack prop is also on display, along with his combat boots for guests wanting to take their only step in his shoes, and on to Pandora. My Jake, what big feet you have.


Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Come with us if you want to live! This is the very T-800 hero prop that was used in the opening scene of 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day where the Terminator steps on and crushes a human skull, before the camera pans up on its now iconic, souless face. Fun fact – this Pulse Rifle is 1.5 times wider than all the others used in the film because there is a real machine gun housed within to create an actual muzzle flare when firing the pulse rifle. Another fun fact is that the T-800 was sculpted to match the exact skeletal structure of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s. Again, there are only three of these hero props ever made. The second piece is with Arnold, and the third one belongs to a collector in Japan.


Aliens

Ah yes, that iconic climatic battle sequence between Lieutenant Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and the Alien Queen Xenomorph in 1986’s Aliens. These were the actual original hero props used in the film. The Power Loader even has a fully functional flame thrower mounted on it. Here’s a fun fact – the Power Loader had to be operated by a 300-pound man with his legs slotted into the back of each leg, and you can even see the foam boot still inside each leg.

As for the Alien Queen, she was operated by a single man on the inside of her lower cavity, while her lower arms, upper arms, head, upper mouth and inner mandible were all animatronics. Another fun fact – Aliens was filmed in an abandoned factory in London, which was later used as Axis Chemicals in 1989’s Tim Burton’s Batman movie. So on one side was Batman‘s Axis Chemicals set, and on the other, the Hadley’s Hope terraforming facility set with the Xenomorph hive architecture. It must have been quite a sight to behold back in the day.


Alita: Battle Angel

This pair of full 3D-printed Alita props were made at the Weta workshop and used for in-theatre promotions. The pair of gyro bikes were also the actual hero props used for shooting 2019’s Alita: Battle Angel.


True Lies

The Harrier Jet from the finale of the 1994 film True Lies is seen hanging above the Titanic engine room prop. If you look closely, you can even see a tiny model of Arnold Schwarzenegger sitting in the cockpit, and yes, this was also the actual hero prop used in the classic spy film.


Titanic

More on the engine room prop from 1997’s Titanic, it was built at 1:12 scale, and the engine motion is operated by an actual working crank at the front of the display.

And of course, the car prop used in the movie that marked the first time Rose (Kate Winselt) and Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) came together. They event retained Kate Winslet’s handprint on the glass, along with an accurately reproduced functional lifeboat.

And behold, the biggest prop in the museum is none other than the 1:18 scale hero prop of the Titanic, alongside the underwater shipwreck prop, as well as two versions of the safe, the ship’s steering wheel and more.

The tour ended off with none other than the actual movie prop of the ‘Heart of the Ocean’ as worn by Kate Winslet in Titanic, as well as the 1997 Oscar trophy for Best Picture: Titanic, which James Cameron proudly displays in his museum for all to marvel at.


That wraps up our brief tour of Lightstorm Entertainment’s private museum. While we are still a long way off for the third Avatar sequel in December of 2025, fans will have Ubisoft’s Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora to whet their appetites when it releases on 7th December 2023 for the PlayStation 5, Xbox X|S and PC.