Spotlight On: Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye

September 17, 2018

“Tourists, why’d it have to be tourists?”


Just kidding! To all who come to this happy column, welcome! This is the place to be for everything Disneyland and Disney California Adventure related. These two parks mean so much to me, and I can’t wait to explore all they have to offer with you. Together we’ll delve into the music of these two parks, look at allergy friendly food offerings during events, and shine a spotlight on some of our favorite attractions, both past and present.


Today, our first stop is none other than Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye, located in Adventureland.


Indiana Jones Adventure sign | © Tabitha Anctil


1. Development

Disney had already developed a partnership with Lucasfilms before working on Indiana Jones Adventure. Together, the two entertainment giants had collaborated on the original 3D film “Captain EO;” the motion simulator ride Star Tours, based on the “Star Wars” franchise; and over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World, the live “Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!” show.


“Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!” opened at Hollywood Studios in 1989 and was wildly popular. This encouraged George Lucas and Disney to collaborate again with the Indiana Jones property, this time for the West Coast park. They developed a brand-new attraction for Adventureland in California that would employ new technology, and even a whole new kind of story-telling. In a December 1994 LA Times article, Imagineer Tony Baxter described the soon-to-be-opened attraction as a deliberate attempt to appeal to the “video-game generation” by creating an attraction where the rider felt like they were active participants in the adventure, not just watching their favorite, fedora-wearing archaeologist have all the fun.


One of the ways Imagineers achieved this goal of a fully immersive adventure was by developing a totally new type of ride vehicle: the Enhanced Motion Vehicle (EMV). The EMV is like a hybrid between an army truck and a motion simulator. I won’t bore you with the technical engineering details, but here’s an illustration from the patent filing that shows how dynamic the range of motion is:


United States Patent Illustration


This type of vehicle is only used in one other Disney attraction: Dinosaur, in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It allows for how rough both attractions feel, and can simulate feelings of acceleration, tilting backwards, and even going down stairs.

Indiana Jones Adventure was a massive undertaking, not only with innovations in tech and story-telling, but also in size! The Jungle Cruise and the Monorail were rerouted, and a parking lot was demolished to make space for this ambitious new attraction.


Four months before opening day, composer Richard Bellis was called upon to arrange the ride’s soundtrack using John Williams’ iconic film scores. In an excerpt from Bellis’ book, he describes the involved and detail-oriented process. He and his team rode the attraction twenty-two times in a row in order to take note of cues where music should change or swell. And here I can barely ride it twice in a row! We’re lucky Bellis persevered, though, because the music (in stereo for each guest in the vehicle) is what makes the experience. Go ahead and appreciate the attraction’s thrilling soundtrack while you read:



2. Opening Day
The ride opened in 1995 as part of Disneyland’s 40 Years of Adventure celebrations for the park’s 40th anniversary. Indiana Jones is the perfect franchise to embody adventure, don’t you think? Here’s the 40 Years of Adventure trading card that featured the brand-new attraction:


Scans courtesy of Rev Vandervort


A few weeks before opening day, the attraction opened early for Cast Members. Here’s a commemorative button from the cast premiere party in February 1995:

Indiana Jones Adventure Button Badge, courtesy of Tara Anctil | © Tabitha Anctil


The attraction’s opening day on March 3rd, 1995, featured a host of celebrity guests, including George Lucas, Disney’s CEO at the time Michael Eisner, Dan Akroyd, Lindsay Wagner, Carrie Fisher and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Two original “Raiders of the Lost Arc” actors, Karen Allen and John Rhys-Davis (the latter also appears in the ride queue’s film), also participated in a TV special to promote the ride that aired on Disney Channel.


But hold on a minute… you may have already noticed someone pretty important is missing from this lineup.











Top: Harrison Ford at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood | © Gavatron, Wikimedia Commons.

Bottom: Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye | © Loren Javier, Flickr


That’s right, Indy himself, Harrison Ford!


Harrison Ford was not present on opening day, nor did he lend his voice to the attraction, nor are the audio-animatronics technically modeled after his likeness. Why not? Well… good question. Harrison Ford is an interesting guy when it comes to his most famous roles. There’s speculation abound as to why he’s not involved in the attraction, but we may never know for sure.


Regardless, the attraction was very popular. The lines would get up to five hours long and began all the way in Frontierland by the Rancho Del Zocalo restaurant!

Here’s a commercial from 1995 promoting Indiana Jones Adventure:


Honestly, this video makes the ride look terrifying. It’s pretty scary, but maybe not this bad:

To be fair, that’s my face when comparing that $23 SoCal resident ticket to today’s prices. According to an 1996 LA Times article, we can partially blame the steep incline of price increases on the popularity of Indiana Jones Adventure; the demand for rides with stunning new technology meant ticket prices would have to go up. The standard admission ticket price increase from $35 to $36 in Sept.1996 would prove to be only the beginning!


Originally, the ride was sponsored by AT&T (currently, there is no sponsor). The most memorable way they contributed was the decoder cards. Indiana Jones Adventure’s queue is filled with inscriptions of mysterious hieroglyphics, and from 1995 through 2002, special decoder cards were passed out for guests waiting in line. Here are the three variations of those cards—next time there’s a long wait time, entertain yourself by translating the writing on the walls!


Scans courtesy of Rev Vandervort


One more opening day tidbit: a popular conversation regarding this attraction involves the former crumbling rubble effect. Here’s a video and more in-depth discussion, but the short version is when the attraction first opened, there was an effect in the Cavern of Bubbling Death where tinted ice fell from the ceiling to look like crumbling rubble. The effect did not last very long, however, possibly due to the ice machine rusting or just simply the unreliability of the effect. Supposedly the ice machine is still hanging out and “chilling” in the ceiling! I sure would love to excavate the temple and see if this is true or not.


3. Current Version

The official Disneyland website boasts that the plethora of variations in the attraction culminates in around 160,000 unique combinations for your ride experience. Some of the varying details are probably pretty small, but here’s an overview of what the attraction today is like, as of Sept. 2018:


With Mara’s hieroglyphics and the short newsreels in the queue, we can piece together the attraction’s story. Legendary archaeologist Indiana Jones has uncovered a mysterious temple in Bengal in 1935, guarded by the ancient deity Mara. There are numerous artifacts throughout the temple, but Mara can grant the gift of earthly riches, eternal youth, or visions of the future—only if you do not meet his eyes! Unfortunately, Dr. Jones has run out of funding for his venture, so his friend Sallah steps up and starts conducting tours for interested tourists. Not all tourists have made it out of the temple, though, and have instead gone missing. Dr. Jones entered the temple a week ago in search of these missing tourists, but has not yet returned… perhaps you will be able to find him? And maybe avoid angering Mara while you’re at it?


The queue takes you both outside and inside the temple. It is definitely one of the most immersive in the entire park. Plus, it’s interactive! If there’s a sign telling you not to pull on something, you might want to go ahead and break the rules.

Sign in Indiana Jones Adventure Queue | © Tabitha Anctil


Funnily enough, though, there is a passageway warning you not to step on the diamond-patterned stones. If you do… nothing happens, and nothing has ever happened. This special effect was never utilized.


Once you board your troop transport, the adventure really amps up. Your truck will appear to enter one of three doors, leading to either the Fountain of Eternal Youth, Observatory of the Future, or the Chamber of Earthly Riches. There is, in fact, only one door leading to one ride and chamber, but the projections vary, and it could be described as any of the three rooms. What path you “choose” affects Mara’s initial dialogue and the special effects used in the next room, the Hall of Promise. No matter what, though, Mara is angered by your car’s brazen looking into the eyes of the idol! Since opening day, these effects have been revamped to include impressive projection mapping on Mara’s face.


Next, Indiana Jones himself is seen holding back the Gates of Doom, and once again you are berated for looking into the eyes of Mara (geez, just can’t catch a break). Two of the attraction’s three Indy Audio-Animatronics have also been upgraded since opening day, allowing wider ranges of motion. You enter the impressive main chamber, the Cavern of Bubbling Death, complete with real fire effects. From here on you will come face to face with mummies, bugs, snakes, rats, spikes, and, of course, a massive rolling boulder!


After just barely evading the climactic giant boulder in a nick of time, you see its wreck, as well as a tired-looking Indy greeting you with one of several lines (each with varying degrees of snark).


“Not bad, for tourists!”


You may not have come out of the Temple of the Forbidden Eye with riches, the secret to eternal youth, or knowledge of the future, but at least you found Indy and survived to tell the tale. Congrats!


4. Fast Facts

Are you “Jonesing” (sorry) for a trip to the Temple of the Forbidden Eye now? Here are some fast facts:

  • There is a single-rider line

  • The height requirement is 46 inches (it was 48 inches when it first opened, but has since been lowered)

  • An “E-Ticket” attraction, the queue can get pretty long (I often see it at 45 minutes)

  • FastPass and Rider Switch are both available

  • Guests in wheelchairs or EVC must transfer

  • The attraction is very dark, rough, and loud, and may frightened younger riders. The roughness also means expectant mothers should not ride.

  • Tokyo DisneySea has their own version of this ride too, called Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull. Many aspects of the two attractions are similar, but their stories are unique.

Want more facts? This card from when the attraction first opened, given out if the attraction was down, does my job for me:

Scan courtesy of Rev Vandervort


(What does it mean about 60 lbs. of falling rubble? This is probably referring to the previously discussed ill-fated ice effect!)


“There! That wasn’t so bad, was it?”


Thank you for reading! Do you remember the fabled five-hour wait times from 1995, or are you a more recent treasure seeker? Maybe you’re still looking forward to visiting the Temple of the Forbidden Eye for the first time! Share your adventuring experience down in the comments!


See you on your next visit to 1313 Disneyland Drive!


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