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Behind the Ride: Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland

Recieve Your Destiny

The heart of the Temple of the Forbidden Eye is the Chamber of Destiny, much alluded to by the queue and pre-show. From their loading position parked in the temple's antechamber, boarding guests are likely to notice a wall of gilded mirrors directly before them. This ingenious element added by Sallah is a convenience, allowing guests to see the three doors of legend without actually risking a meeting with Mara. In the reflection of the mirrors, careful observers will watch the off-roading transport ahead of them approach the doors until one begins to glow. It swings wide, ushering guests in, then promptly closes and re-seals.

But we're not here to see the doors via reflection. So, it's your turn.


The three doors: Earthly Riches, Visions of the Future, and Timeless Youth (left to right). Via Youtube user SoCal Theme Parks 360, video embedded below.

As the vehicle jerks from the loading platform (evidence of a sticky accelerator), it rounds the corner. Before you stand the three locked doors of legend with stone reliefs of Mara above each. As the vehicle presses forward, Mara's voice (allegedly provided by James Earl Jones, voice of Darth Vader from Star Wars and Mufasa from The Lion King) rings out, deep and thundering, as he announces which of his three gifts he deems your vehicle worthy of. 

"You seek the Treasures of Mara: glittering gold!" he might offer if the door adorned with gold begins to glow (far left, above). Its circular pieces begin to revolve and align as tumblers echo, falling into place. "It is yours..." Mara's voice – vaguely sinister – booms as the vault unlocks as gold coins appear to rain down from the relief above. In the astounding Chamber of Earthly Riches beyond, piles of gold, bronze statues, and priceless carvings fill vestibules on each side with a massive gold face of Mara at the far end of the Chamber.

"You have chosen wisely! This path leads to Timeless Youth and Beauty!" In that case, the rusted, corroded doors of that chamber (far right, above) are rinsed clean by a sheet of purifying water pouring from the relief above, revealing their pristine, metallic nature as they swing open. Beyond lies the the Grotto of Eternal Youth, where painted murals on the walls show the timeless beauty of Mara's chosen ones as everyone around them ages, the walls reflecting with the light of choppy water. At the far end of the Chamber, another massive stone face of Mara, but in this chamber, it's marble with flowering vines scaling the walls around it.

"You seek the Future! I will lift the curtain of time... It is your destiny..." Mara's third gift - the vision of the gods (center door, above) - is sealed by an icy web that clouds its carved reliefs. But upon Mara's announcement, the all-seeing eyes above glow, whisking away the icy wall as shooting stars illuminate the newly unlocked pathway into the Observatory of the Future. Within, the ancient chamber is lit with innumerable glowing stars and the temple's open roof reveals the endless night sky above, with a glowing, ethereal face of Mara at the far end of the hall.

Defy the Gods

It's the moment of truth, as the towering stone face of Mara at the end of the hall is an insurmountable temptation. In each of the three rooms, the sound of grinding stone rings out as Mara's eyes shoot open. Of course, no matter which destiny you’ve been granted, someone always seems to glance up at the looming stone face of Mara at the end of the hall. Mara's voice cries out in tormet – “NO! You looked into my eyes! Your path now leads to the Gates of Doom!”

Fittingly, Mara rescinds each of his gifts:

In the Chamber of Earthly Riches, his face rusts and tarnishes as his eyes turn into copper.

In the Observatory of the Future, a pulsing, raging storm builds from the "third eye" gem in his headdress as lightning bolts strike his eyes. 

In the Grotto of Eternal Youth, his magnificent marble face begins to crack and "age" as the vines around him shrivel and their petals fall. Chillingly, his eyes fade to a deep, endless black.

At the base of the statue, the vehicles turn left, poised to press deeper into the temple, but as Mara's maniacal laugh rings out, the vehicles headlights blow, darkening the corridor and sending the Jeep careering to the side toward the crumbling Gates of Doom. From there on, the three paths reunite and the rest of the ride's track is identical.

But how do the three rooms connect to a single ride path beyond?

The answer is simple – they don’t, because there’s no “they.” Only one of the three doorways opens and closes at all, and that single doorway leads to a single room with Mara’s dreaded visage at the far end.

How does one doorway and one room stand in for all of the three gifts described above?

The effect is nothing short of brilliant. High definition, perfectly timed, texture-mapped projections are projected onto the three blank doors in the Chamber of Destiny. Say that the first vehicle gets the "future" door as in the photograph of the doors above. Once the Jeep passes through the doorway, a computer system scrambles the projections, changing the real, functioning doorway to one of the other "gifts" at random.

Then, the room beyond "shifts" to accomodate the selected gift by changing lighting patterns and colors, highlighting certain elements of the room and downplaying others, selecting a different audio track, and lighting scrims from either in front or behind to display (or hide) different props in the room altogether. Of course, the same goes for the projection on the blank Mara - in the "gold" room, he's gold. In the "future" room, he's an etheral cloud. In the "water" room, he's marble. Projections bring him to life.

One pathway that instantly resets itself to represent any one of the three "gifts!" 

Feel duped by Mara yet? Hold on tight...

The Transport

Once you've locked eyes with Mara, all hope is lost. The vehicle slams to the left and presses unwillingly into a crumbling, electrified hallway. At the far end, radiating lightning bolts converge on the towering stone doors that must be the Gates of Doom. Their magnetic pull has lifted the troop transport off of the ground as it levitates through the air toward the spinning green vortex visible through the ajar doors. All hope is lost as the Jeep slowly floats closer and closer.

But then, you see him: at the base of those doors stands Indy himself, using all his might to push back against them and keep them closed. He manages to shut the door with a grunt, and – instantly free from the draw of the Gates – the vehicle falls a foot or so to the ground below. "Tourists!" He scoffs, "Quick, up to the left! It's the only way out. You had to look, didn't you?!" The transport accelerates, scrambling for a moment to gain traction and then climbing clunkily over the uneven terrain below, surely filled with rubble and debris from the collapsing chamber. 

But wait... How does the vehicle levitate, drop, and drive across uneven terrain? 

Disney Imagineers will tell you that the most important character in the Indiana Jones Adventure isn’t Dr. Jones himself, or even the vengeful Mara – in fact, it’s the car you ride in. Disguised as 1930s wartime troop transports reclaimed from the Great War (that's World War I), the twelve passenger vehicles (comprised of three rows holding four people each) roll into the loading dock with little fanfare, looking pretty simply like your average, run-of-the-mill ride cart.

 

But turn the corner into the ride and it’s hard to believe what these EMVs (Enhanced Motion Vehicles) can do. The jeeps run on real tires, but on an unusual road. The track through the attraction is slotted down the middle like a toy race track set. Secured down through the slot, the jeeps can pilot themselves while also sending and receiving location information and electric supply for on-board sound systems.

But that’s not all. While the car travels along the smooth road (with elevation changes and speed changes), the chassis holding the twelve guests is connected to a six-degrees-of-freedom motion simulator, that pitches, rolls, rotates, and jumps to simulate rough terrain, tilting turns, and dramatic motion. Sharp turns are accentuated by the feeling that the jeep is “tilting.” A bridge begins to collapse as the jeep shudders and slams back and forth, and every inch of the temple is met with uneven terrain as the jeep climbs through apparent debris. Here's one fan's recreation of one portion of the ride profile:

Once riders have looked into Mara’s eyes and been cursed to the Gates of Doom, the jeep’s motion signals that the car is “floating” toward the giant doors (as in the video above), and once Indy slams them shut, the jeep dramatically "falls" a foot or so (:16) to the ground and can be felt and heard fighting for traction. 

Each vehicle, too, is programmed with a “personality” that inspires it to react differently to different elements of the ride. A vehicle that is “afraid of the dark” may be heard and felt “shutting off” during the ride’s darkest moments, followed by the struggling sound of an engine turning over. Another reacts violently to loud noises or surprises. A particular vehicle has a distaste for creepy-crawlies, and doesn’t mind sharing.

The EMVs' trick isn't just good for simulating rough terrain: it's also theatrical. Past the Gates of Doom, Indy instructs us onward, warning that there are big steps ahead. Even after all we've already seen, what's coming next may be the ride's most impressive moment. Read on... 

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There are 2 comments.

The unique personification of the ride vehicle itself sounds interesting, like the different vehicle reactions such as "being afraid of the dark". Something very subtle that I never noticed. I'm DEFINITELY going to have to check that out soon next time I go.

Riding the ride isn't nearly as exciting as reading about it. When I went last year, it sucked. First off, the ride kept having mechanical failures, second, you could barely understand what the God was saying over all the other noise, and as far as the vehicles go, if they are different, they move too fast for you to really notice.All in all, the ride could've been much bigger, much longer, and much better, giving people more time to take in the things ranter than throwing them about. Otherwise, it was good, and worth maybe a 10 minute wait, at longest, 15 or 30.

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