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Some Fans Call This Disney's Best Modern Dark Ride... Here's the Legend from the Beginning...

Temple of the Forbidden Eye

The troop transport kicks to life, shuddering and rumbling as it powers ahead, sagging from the twelve passengers on board. Sallah's voice crackles over the radio. "Hello? Hello, can you hear me? Uh, the brakes may be needing a little adjusting! Easy on the curves, heh heh!" With that, the Jeep lugs around the corner, our headlights flashing against the mirrored wall, then flickering out.

This is it.

Image: SoCal Attractions 360

The three doors of legend lay ahead. One displays Mara with chalices of riches overflowing, but it's locked by a circular vault door; another is marked by the all-seeing eye of the gods, obscured by an ethereal, hazy web (as our view of the future is, as human); the last is carved with urns pouring out the waters of the Fountain of Youth, but the door is rusted, tarnished, and aged.

As one of the three begins to glow more brightly, Mara's booming, chilling voice (reportedly provided by James Earl Jones, of Mufasa and Darth Vader fame) echoes from the walls. For example: "You have chosen wisely..." the water pouring from the vases is suddenly alive, sweeping across the archway and then pouring down the doors as a waterfall, washing away their age. "This path leads to timeless youth and beauty..."

The now-freed doors swing wide, ushering the troop transport inside. In this Hall of Promise, the walls shimmer with dancing light as if reflecting from water; around us, we hear the distant, echoing sounds of water dripping through the ancient vastness; murals between elegant columns show the ancient people of this land drinking from Mara's Gift, remaining forever young; a hazy, otherworldly mist seems to grip the walls, and ahead, the massive, stone, twenty-five foot tall face of Mara looms. His eyes open and focus on us... oh no.

It's too late. "NO!" he cries. At once,  his face is overcome with mold and fungus, growing instantaneously around him. His eyes turn black and endless, with deep, disfiguring fissures cracking from them. His face begins to decay and rust almost as if he's... aging. 

Image: SoCal Theme Parks 360

(The clever trick, of course, is that all three "Gifts" of Mara deliver you along the same physical track and into the same physical room; it's merely the work of swapped lighting, sound, and projections that create the three "tracks" of the ride. For example, when lit from the front, we see murals of the Fountain of Youth in action; when lit from behind, the scrims become invisible, revealing priceless statues and piles of treasure. In each room, looking into Mara's eyes rescinds his gift – in the "gold" room's Vault, he rusts; in the Observatory of the Future, his third eye becomes a raging storm.)

"You looked into my eyes... Your path now leads to the Gates of Doom!"

Rounding the corner from his face, a path forward is illumated in rich blues and hazy light – the Fountain of Youth. But that's not our destiny anymore.

As the powerful score of John Williams trumpets to life, the Jeep is yanked to the left, bucking as it's suddenly forced down a new pathway with the temple collapsing around us. Streaks of lightning race down the length of this shattered, splintered chamber, emanating from a single point ahead: the Gates of Doom. The Jeep looses its grip with the floor, suddenly floating helplessly through the corridor and toward the massive doorway carved with cobras, a green and blue energy swirling behind it... We're done for.

Except... can it be? Leaning against the doors with all his might is Indiana Jones himself. He heaves against them, closing the Gates of Doom just enough to send the Jeep slamming back to Earth. "Ugh! Tourists?! Why'd it have to be tourists?! Up to the left! It's the only way out!" The Jeep revs as it gains traction, lurching forward and up an incline. As we speed past Indy, he gives one final admonition. "You had to look, didn't you?!"

As the Raiders score builds, the Jeep ruggedly climbs up through the darkness and – to the sounds of "The Miracle of the Ark" chorus – stages what may be the most iconic, powerful, and emotional visual reveal in any Disney dark ride: the Jeep tilts forward, providing stadium seating for a look at the heart of the temple.

Image: Disney

That mural of Mara and the bridge we saw painted on the rotunda, his followers making offerings to the massive god? It's real. Only now, half of Mara's sculpted face has fallen away, revealing a decaying, skeletal structure beneath. One of Mara's eyes is gone, with a focused green light projected from within. Another troop transport just like our own inches its way across the rickety, wooden bridge, but a burst of light from Mara's eye threatens to destroy the bridge with our fellow explorers on-board.

Seemingly also in awe of the sight, our Jeep idles forward, slamming down a set of stairs – just the effect we need to be awoken from our trance. Molten lava flows between Mara's horrific, jagged teeth and falls into a boiling pool, simmering and steaming. Seemingly having noticed us, another green beam fires our way, striking the path ahead and causing an explosion of red-hot steam in front of us. The Jeep pulls to the left – the only path forward – teetering momentarily along the edge of the vast lava pit.

Image: Disney

Much of the rest of our adventure will take place in this massive central chamber, darting in and out of catacombs along its perimeter. For example, we now race into a glowing, bioluminscent chamber filled with rotting corpses of those who came before, tempted by Mara's eyes. Disturbed by our speeding vehicle, the bodies fall around us, seemingly hissing through the echoing caverns.

The Jeep exits back into the central chamber but, with no discernible path forward, dips back into another cavern... It's pitch black, but as our headlights flicker on, they reveal something we'd rather not have seen: thousands of insects crawling on the walls around us. Bursts of air signal that they're falling from overhead, landing on top of us, as the transport shudders out of the darkness and arrives at an equally horrific sight. As the angelic choir of "The Miracle of the Ark" score returns, we align with the suspension bridge.

Image: Disney

 The transport throttles it, racing onto the uneven planks of the bridge. But there, before the massive, sixty-foot-tall, decaying face of Mara... it shudders and powers down. As the Jeep furiously tries to get its engine to turn over, the growing power of Mara's beam blasts across the bridge, causing an explosion of flames just opposite the lava pit. Another beam strikes the two stone serpants supporting the bridge's rope cables, and an eerie green mist begins to billow from their mouths...

The Jeep turns over and the accelerator slams as it races off the bridge and whips to the right. A cave-in has blocked the path back to the Chamber of Destiny, so it races off to the left where a round chamber is decorated with stone serpant heads... While they may look complete, one is missing. It's simply been replaced with a hundred foot long cobra. "Snakes... you guys are on your own." The cobra rears back, then strikes, its fangs unfurling as it hisses.

Okay... wrong way. The Jeep accelerates forward toward the bridge once again, but when a fellow Jeep pulls up on the opposite end and flashes it headlights, our transport does the courteous thing – it defaults down a new pathway. We feel it fighting back against the loss of traction as it slides down a mudslide and behind the carving of Mara's face. It hurriedly climbs over the rubble there and lurches along a new pathway down around the bubbling edge of the lava pool. As it dips beneath the suspension bridge, another explosion of flames bursts in the lava, and a rogue eye beam strikes the rocks around a tunnel ahead. As they begin to collapse, we make it inside just in time.

Overcome with complete, deafening silence and endless darkness, the vehicle tugs right and left, weaving through the unseeable obstacles around us. Then, it comes to a well-deserved rest in the pitch black darkness of this new cavern. As dim lights appear, it becomes clear that we're inside caverns jutting from the temple, overrun with tree roots that have cut their way through the tunnels like branches. Squeaking in the distance signals that we're not alone... and the transport bursts forward, doing a 'wheelie' as it accelerates through the roots and smashes through one just as the rats crawling across it fall into the vehicle (an effect created via projection on a screen made of mist).

The transport comes to a stop as it faces a narrow corridor lined with day-glo murals of a skeleton army poised for attack. Of course, that's not the scary part. It's clearly nothing more than a painting. However, we've seen enough adventure films to know that we're facing a booby trap.

The vehicle cautiously advances into the hallway in silence and, as if on cue, the sound of whizzing darts comes from our right, then our left. Bursts of air signal the darts just barely missing as they "thwip" through the air, the Jeep rocked back and forth as they plunge into its sides. We duck, desperate to make it out. And it appears that we have!

We buck to the right and enter a new cavern. Up ahead, a single dim light from above illuminates Indy himself, hanging from a rope above us. "I've got a bad feeling about this... Uh oh... Back. Up. Back up!" The Jeep slowly begins to retreat as, in the distance, we see something coming... something big. A massive, enormous, rolling boulder is heading straight for us. It's too late. After surviving all of the horrors of the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, this final trap will seal our fate forever.

Image: Disney

But at the last moment, as the Raiders score returns, our troop transport decides to give it its all. It races forward toward the boulder. Closer and closer, strobes illuminate the rolling ball as it's mere feet away. At the very last second, the vehicle plunges down a ten foot drop as the boulder passes inches overhead. With the triumphant score signaling our victory, a massive, resounding, echoing crash tells us that we've safely avoided Mara's failsafe trap. The Jeep lumbers out of the darkness to see Indy himself, standing before the crashed, cracked, steaming boulder. He wipes his brow. "Not bad... for tourists. Next time, you wear blindfolds, okay?"

Of course, an in-depth look at a ride as visceral as Indiana Jones Adventure wouldn't be complete without a point-of-view video to show how this ride perfectly fuses storytelling, special effects, visuals, and music to create one of the most sensational dark rides ever:

If you're determined to figure out what makes the ride (and its surprising special effects) tick, you'll find more on that in our Behind the Ride: Indiana Jones Adventure feature.

But that's not quite the end of the story.

Did you know that Indiana Jones Adventure has not one, but two spiritual siblings? Or that this Disneyland exclusive is rumored to be on the way to Walt Disney World... and in a place you might not expect? On the last page, we'll dissect where, why, and how Indiana Jones Adventure's DNA is found in Disney Parks across the globe, and just where insiders say this E-Ticket might pop up in Florida... Read on...

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