It might surprise some to learn that the Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden eye is just a baby in Disneyland years. In fact, only ToonTowns Roger Rabbit and Gadgets Go Coaster are newer. But despite that, this attraction might still have more secrets and history than any but the most historic of Disneyland attractions. And so it is that in this episode of Fresh Baked we’re going to cover the secrets and history of Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden eye.
The attraction premiered at Disneyland on March 3, 1995, but this wasn’t the first Indiana Jones themed attraction at a Disney park. In fact it’s the third. There’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril in Disneyland Paris that opened in 1993 and Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, which premiered at Walt Disney World in 1989. We’ll begin this story with some of the technical details, of which there are many to note. The attraction sits on a site of approximately 57,000 square feet, most of which is in a show building that placed outside of the parks perimeter, much like haunted mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean. It took about 7 years to complete, from conception to final construction, at a cost of around $100 million dollars. Imagineers credited with the development of the attraction are Mark Davis, Susan Bonds, Skip Lange, and Tony Baxter who headed the project.
Because the 50,000 square foot show building is outside the park, like haunted mansion and pirates, guests have to negotiate the Disneyland Railroad tracks before entering. As such, guests must walk nearly a half mile beforehand. This gave imagineers a wonderful opportunity to surround guests in the best theming the park can offer. There are 16 vehicles, each capable of carrying up to 12 passengers with a max speed of about 14 miles per hour and can cycle about 2400 guess per hour.
Inside the attraction, there are more than 150,000 square feet of hand carved, intricately detailed surfaces, plus a couple thousand skulls. The queue itself is home to even more intricate rock work, engravings, realistic caves, not to mention all the hidden mickeys, Easter eggs, and interactive elements.
We’ll get to those in a minute. First, let’s go back. Back to 1988 when Disneyland was enjoying the early success of Star Tours over in Tomorrowland. Star Tours was the first of its kind. A motion simulator where guests were transported through space thanks to a ride vehicle that rested on a gimble that allowed the vehicle to simulate flying up and down and in all directions, while actually remaining in a fixed position. Imagineer Tony Baxter asked the question, how can we take this technology, and make it mobile? And when George Lucas came to Disney and said he wanted to build another attraction for Disneyland, the two ideas came together and the Indiana Jones EMV was born.
Guests are aboard what looks like a traditional jeep like vehicle, but it’s a vehicle whose wheels never actually touch the ground. They never really do anything at all really. The entire thing is perched on platform and it’s the platform that is moving throughout the attraction. Think of those toy slot cars from your youth. The body of the vehicle is attached to the frame by three hydraulic rams, which allows for the body to move separately from the frame. In this way imagineers can articulate the vehicle in ways that can simulate dangerous hair pin turns and sudden starts and stops while also maintaining perfect safety for the guests.
The downfall to this technical marvel of a ride vehicle is that it’s prone to breakdowns. A lot of them. To the point that cast members leave offerings at this Buddha, or breakdown Buddha as he’s nicknamed, for good luck. So we’ve got Indiana Jones as a hero, and a technical marvel in the EMV as a guest transport. The next step was to create a setting and a story for the attraction itself.
The story is set in 1935, BEFORE the events of Raiders of the Lost Ark for those keeping track, and Indy has found a map that shows the location of an ancient Bengalese temple. This temple, located in the lost river delta, is home to the deity Mara. It should be mentioned that though it is said that this takes place before Raiders, there are still references to that movie in the attraction, thus confusing the time line a bit. But we won’t dwell on that.
Mara can grant one of three gifts. Earthly riches, eternal youth, or visions of the future. The only rule is that you can’t look Mara in the eye. Indy is attempting to excavate the temple, but his funding has run out, so they start offering guided tours, hosted by Sallah. But some of the tourists looked in to the eyes of Mara apparently, so Indy returns to the temple to help rescue them. But now Jones is missing inside the temple as well. So Sallah is now asking the paying tourists to help him find the missing Indy.
Parts of this story can be learned through the newsreels shown in the entrance queue, as well as on letters scattered throughout the queue. I’ve seen only one of these letters myself, but I’m sure the others exist somewhere in the attraction. To look at the Indiana Jones attraction from the long view, one can observe that its footprint is enormous. But what’s really surprising is just how ambitious the original concepts were for the attraction.
Early drafts of the attraction included TWO rides. The adventure ride as we know it, plus a mine cart roller coaster inspired by scenes from Temple of Doom. Further, the Jungle Cruise and the Disneyland Railroad would pass through the attraction. I would imagine in a way similar to how the Disneyland Railroad passes through Splash Mountain. In fact, there was even an idea to have jungle cruise boats actually STOP within the temple to drop off guests.
One of the side effects of this co-mingling of attractions is that the backstory for the jungle cruise was re-written so that it is set in the same time as Indy. This means any references in the jungle cruise script, jokes etc., has to be removed or re-written. But as is often the case with early Disneyland attraction concepts, this was just too ambitious and costly, and the VERY blue sky ideas were scaled back to just the jeep ride.
Once plans were settled, ground broke in August of 1993, with the attraction eventually opening in March of 1995. The attraction was an instant success, and an instant classic, mostly because of the massive queue that was expertly conceived by Tony Baxter, the attractions lead imagineer. Temple of the forbidden eye, above all things, is thought by most to be the single best themed attraction at the Disneyland resort. It all begins at the exterior of the temple, where guests waiting in the standby queue enjoy walking through a base camp of sorts, with endless amounts of rich theming. There are statues, and bamboo, and realistic looking generators that appear to be providing electricity for the attraction. Guests in fact will notice that the lights flicker on and off due to the instability of the power source.
A particularly amazing set piece for the attraction is this Mercedes truck parked out front. Many fans will recognize this as the truck Indy famously went underneath at full speed while trying to steal the lost ark. It is said that this is NOT a replica, but one of the actual trucks used for filming.
Stand by guests and fast pass guests merge as you enter the temple and you see your first of many glyphs and depictions of mara, the temple deity. Guests will note that in every depiction of Mara, his eyes are closed. They open only when you enter the attraction. The long meandering queue was designed to serve two purposes. The first was a practical one. Much like Pirates and Haunted Mansion, the actual ride is in a show building on the other side of the Disneyland railroad.
Guests therefore need to negotiate that railroad, first by going down a gradual grade right around this long stretch of queue. Then guests pass under the train tracks and enter the show building. Thus a second purpose was produced, allowing imagineers to fully immerse guests in the Indiana Jones experience. By the time they have reached the vehicles, guests are primed and ready for a spectacular adventure.
When the attraction first opened, its sponsor, AT&T, had cards made with a primer on it that enabled guests to decode all the glyphs on the walls. Decryption is of course fairly simple, with most characters resembling their alphabetic counterpart. In this way, it was hoped that guests could occupy themselves while waiting in what was sure to be an exceptionally long line. There are 13 total glyphs throughout the attraction. Today, guests breeze by many of the glyphs as the queue is managed so that the guests don’t start bunching up until they reach at least the caves.
In addition to the glyphs and depictions of Mara, guests can entertain themselves by looking for hidden mickeys or Easter eggs throughout the queue, or testing the interactive elements. Perhaps the most infamous of all is the Eeyore parking lot sign hidden in the rafters of the film room. The attraction was built on the site of the old Eeyore parking lot, so cast members left this sign in the rafters of the projection room as an homage. There’s the oft mentioned, but rarely spotted mickey hears on one of the skulls on the attraction.
And be sure to read the stenciling on the crates left throughout the queue. This one references crate #9906752. That is the number of the crate that holds the ark of the covenant.
This crate used to build Indy’s office within temple was destined for club Obi Wan. Astute fans will note that not only is this an obvious reference to star wars, but also to the actual club, club Obi Wan, found in the opening scene of the Temple of Doom.
And while we’re here at Indy’s office, there are lots of Easter eggs within, if you’ve got a minute to look around. There’s a copy of an old life magazine that features mickey mouse.
It is believed that many of the items inside were used in the Indy films. And if you’re up for a bit of a fun, back in the long walking section of the queue, pulling that bamboo pole on the left in the spike room will in fact activate the spike. Don’t be discouraged though if it doesn’t work for you as there is a long re-set period after it gets activated, so most guests will not get to enjoy it. But for those who do, it’s quite a bit of fun.
Further in to the queue in the rotunda, there is a well with a rope hanging down in to it with a sign that reads “don’t pull the rope” but yeah….of course, pull that rope. Some guests will get to hear some poor British explorer fall or crash. Phew…and we haven’t even started the actual ride yet! So let’s ride. We’ll begin at the chamber of destiny, where Mara chooses your gift.
The three gifts, represented by chamber doors, are the fountain of eternal youth, the chamber of earthly riches, and the observatory of the future.
The original intended effect was to show guests three tracks and three doors. There was only one track of course. It was the walls that moved. Today though, not even the walls moved. Where it used to be that you APPEARED to go through the left door or the right door or the middle door, today it always the middle door. The door opens to room known as the hall of promise. Each “room” has its own lighting and effects package.
The fountain of youth is lit with blue lights and flowing water effects and Mara states “You have chosen wisely. This path leads to endless youth and beauty.” The chamber of earthly riches is lit orange and gold and features treasure effects and Mara states “you seek earthly treasures and gold, it is yours!” The observatory of the future is lit purple with thousands of small lights simulating stars and Mara states “you seek the future. It is your destiny.”
But of course, someone in your transport will ruin it for everyone and look in to Mara’s eyes. Mara bellows “you looked into my eyes, your path now leads to the gates of doom!” In 2013, Mara was given somewhat of a makeover. The face was changed a bit using new mapping technology that added new effects to Mara’s face based on Mara’s gift. But more importantly, the voice was changed completely. Gone was the deep bass of James Earl Jones in favor a much younger, less…ominous sounding voice. The change was short lived however, and the voice was restored to the original.
Guests turn left in to the Tunnel of Torment where the transport is lifted up as though floating through the air until they see Indy at the Gates of Doom. You’ll recognize the music played here as being from Raiders of the Lost Ark. In fact, all of the music is John Williams original work done for the Indiana Jones franchise. After passing by Indy, the transport emerges in to the cavern of bubbling death where we get our first look at another giant stone likeness of Mara. In this case, the right half has eroded, giving it a skull like appearance.
From this eye, green rays shoot in your direction, as well as at other transports. When the attraction first opened, there was an effect where the green rays would shoot upward, causing “rubble” to fall to the ground. This rubble though was actually dyed ice cubes. It is said that this feature was disabled either because the ice would sometimes melt, causing the cubes to fall down in a rain of slush rather than rock, or because maintenance simply could not keep up with the wear and tear. While the physical effect is no longer there, you can still hear the sounds of the rocks falling.
Another left turn and we’re in the mummy chamber and the bug room. The bugs are just projections against the wall. We come out on to the bridge where there’s another transport coming at you. It’s sometimes hard to remember, but look left when crossing this bridge, as the view of the 45 foot stone Mara is most impressive from here. Once across the bridge we enter the snake room The voice? Not Harrison Ford unfortunately. This voice is convincingly portrayed by Dave Temple.
We avoid the oncoming jeep by going down a mudslide to the right and under Mara. Now guests are really close to the action. You can see fire, and Mara’s enormous head, and the whole joint is rockin. But don’t forget to look up. Many guests miss the projected phantom on the ceiling. By this time on the ride, you will probably notice frequent stops, and starts. These change in terms of where you experience them, as they’re needed to maintain balanced spacing between vehicles throughout the attraction. But they’re blended in so well, it feels as though it’s part of the normal course of the ride.
From here it’s the rat cave with the rates being projected on to the mist and the dart corridor where compressed air is shot from the walls to simulate poison darts being shot at you.
A right turn takes us to the rolling boulder, perhaps the most talked about feature in the attraction. Is the boulder rolling at you? Does the jeep back up? The answer to both is no. The boulder is rolling, but it is fixed to a pole, forever rolling forward. And the jeep isn’t moving backwards, the walls are moving forward. Literally. There are two enormous walls flanking your jeep, and they move, in their entirety, away from you. That means the walls, the boulder, AND Indy.
Credit for this effect goes to imagineer Tony Baxter, who came up with the idea after going through a self drive car wash. While in the car wash, the car is parked in a fixed position while the enormous buffing apparatuses move around it. In the same way, our jeep is parked, and stays that way until it goes down the hill and under the not rolling boulder. After escaping the rolling boulder, guests meet Indy again, where he has a variety of witty phrases to throw at you.
In 2010 this Indy was upgraded to include 7 different series of movements (formerly there were just 3). And thus your Indiana Jones adventure is over. But your enjoyment isn’t!
Guests exit through a queue that is as equally brilliant as the entrance. You pass through the same corridors and caves and some final pieces of wisdom before heading back in to the sunlight along side the Jungle Cruise. On your left you’ll have all the time you wish to take in all the lush scenery of the outdoor queue, and observe the many easter eggs and pieces of theming. It’s a masterpiece of Disney imagineering and design.
And so concludes OUR fresh baked adventure through the secrets and history of the temple of the forbidden eye. We do hope you enjoyed this video and ask that you please like and subscribe if you did. That’s all we ask. Fresh Baked!