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

Though Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye is a one-of-a-kind Disneyland exclusive, that doesn't mean it hasn't inspired other Disney Parks attractions around the globe... To finish up our in-depth look at this groundbreaking E-Ticket, let's briefly look at the rides it inspired – both built and unbuilt – and consider the surprising place where some Disney Parks fans expect it to appear next... Could an Indiana Jones Adventure open at Walt Disney World soon?

Temple of the Crystal Skull

Location: Tokyo DisneySea
Opened:
2001

When Tokyo DisneySea opened in 2001, it shook fans of the themed entertainment industry to their cores. A sprawling, $4 billion theme park exceeding anything Disney had ever done before, the Oriental Land Company’s unthinkable and unprecedented park was comprised of thoughtful and massively scaled themed “ports” from around the world, representing humanity’s connection to water, how it has shaped our cultures, and the stories we tell about it.

Image: Disney

One such port is DisneySea’s Lost River Delta. Ostensibly, the land is the first full land dedicated to Indiana Jones since Disneyland’s Lost Expedition stayed lost. But in true DisneySea style, the land lacks any cartoonish allusions or overly-stylized fantasy elements. Instead, it looks, feels, and sounds like a real South American river delta. Like the Adventureland of old, this is a world split into two halves. One side of the river is a Spanish encampment where explorers and adventurers might set up shop; across the river is a jungle of ancient relics, forgotten altars, and the towering Temple of the Crystal Skull (discovered, we should note, before the controversial fourth Indiana Jones film of the same name, and in no way related to that film’s plot.)

The ride inside is technically a bolt-for-bolt replica of California’s ride (albeit, with electrically-orchestrated motion in the EMVs rather than hydraulics), but swaps the three gifts, Mara, and the lost Indian temple for a water-logged Aztec temple said to be home to the Fountain of Youth, protected by the ancient and mysterious Crystal Skull.

Image: Disney

Swap California’s fiery red palate and Mara’s crumbling visage for a misty blue temple, a swirling three-story vortex, the mosaic face of the Crystal Skull blasting energy from its eye (eh hem), a surprising smoke ring encounter to replace the never-quite-clear rat effect, and an Indian cobra for a South American python, and you get the picture. Naturally, Temple of the Crystal Skull also enhances the ride with Tokyo’s seemingly bottomless budget, meaning that the few pieces of California’s ride that amount to painted flats are replaced here with fully-carved, deeply-detailed sets. What else is new?

You can view a point-of-view video of Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull here. Pay careful attention to where Tokyo's ride builds upon its Californian sister, and where a few extra years of research and development paid off with new effects...

While Temple of the Crystal Skull doubtlessly benefitted from the six years of innovation after the original Forbidden Eye ride opened, we still have to give California’s ride the edge. From its brilliant placement and placemaking to the jaw-dropping mythology of Mara and the three Gifts, there’s just something phenomenal about the original and the truly epic scale of the ride so brilliantly hidden from view.

"Indiana Jones Adventure - Temple de l'œil interdit"

Location: Disneyland Paris
Status:
Never-built

Given that Tony Baxter – the Imagineer responsible for Disneyland’s Indiana Jones Adventure – was made the creative lead of Disneyland Paris, it’s no surprise that Tony planned for his magnum opus to make its way to the Parisian park. Land was officially set aside for its inclusion in the park’s Adventureland (which is located in the spot traditionally occupied by Frontierland in the U.S. parks) with official sketches confirming the placement as perfectly planned.

Click and expand for a larger and more detailed view. Image: Disney

But once it was clear that Disneyland Paris wouldn’t meet its financial targets, any hopes of such an elaborate and expensive ride being handed to the fiscally frozen park were over. Instead, designers decided to pull out their ace-in-the-hole and build the ride they’d planned to hold off until a Phase II expansion – the Lost Legend: Space Mountain – De la Terre à la Lune. They correctly assumed that the French park needed an infusion of thrills to lure young Europeans to the resort.

Image: Disney

And since the park’s one-of-a-kind, fantasy-infused Space Mountain would take three years or more to construct, they hurriedly okayed a more bare-bones roller coaster for Adventureland: Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril.

A fairly standard steel roller coaster (notable for being the first coaster in Disney’s portfolio to include an inversion – in this case, a single vertical loop), Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril isn’t exactly an Imagineering masterpiece… but it did help draw new eyes toward the park and serve to whet visitors’ appetites until Space Mountain would open in 1995.

Images: Disney

The space once set aside for Indiana Jones Adventure is still available in Paris, and naturally fans the world over root for the resort to finally get the adventurous E-Ticket that’s been on the docket for twenty-five years… We’ll see…

Countdown to Extinction

Location: Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Opened: 1998

Another of those projects lost in the post-Paris wave of cancellations struck at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. In order to ensure that the new animal-focused park they were designing wouldn’t be confused for a zoo (and could justify charging many times more than even the best zoo would), Disney Imagineers cooked up two original concepts – a Possibilityland: Beastly Kingdom of mythological creatures, and a Dinoland built around an active excavation site.

The latter is particularly interesting, because the Dinoland designers had in mind had almost nothing in common with the land built today. It featured two E-Ticket attractions: a rumbling roller coaster through the land’s active excavation pits...

Image: Disney

...and a family-friendly, leisurely dark ride back in time to see dinosaurs in their natural habitats.

In the post-Paris crunch, Eisner decreed that only one of the two ambitious lands could exist: either Beastly Kingdom or Dinoland. Thinking quickly, the team responsible for Dinoland allegedly offered that they could save big bucks by fusing the thrilling, pulse-pounding roller coaster with the time-traveling dark ride, meaning their Dinoland needed only one attraction.

Better yet, they could save even more money by literally re-using the EMV technology and even track layout of the new Indiana Jones Adventure, cutting costly research and development dollars in favor of simply cloning the ride hardware. (It also didn’t hurt that Jurassic Park had just become an international blockbuster, and that dinosaur merchandise is pretty much a guaranteed payday.)

Image: Disney

Concept art like the piece above even shows that – originally – Imagineers had planned for a much more elaborate version of the ride that borrowed Indy's key visuals. (The more budget-friendly version of the ride that opened alongside Disney's Animal Kingdom relies heavily on darkness and painted flats, meaning most guests – even those who have ridden both – don't realize it's a near-identical clone of Indy. The "suspension bridge" scene? It's your encounter with the sauropod whose... head... is emenating from a glittering starfield... on a sheet of black fabric... anyway...)

Image: Disney

Obviously, Eisner selected this pared-down Dinoland to open with Animal Kingdom, so just three years after Indiana Jones Adventure’s debut, the Lost Legend: Countdown to Extinction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom cleverly re-used the ride system and even track layout to create a time-traveling adventure. The ride was re-named DINOSAUR a few years after opening to connect it to Disney’s 2000 film of the same name. 

The "Troop Transports" from the Temple of the Forbidden Eye were reconfigured into "Time Rovers;" the ascent toward Mara is a slow incline through a "Time Tunnel;" the mudslide behind Mara's face became a loss of traction beneath a swooping pteradactyl; the boulder finale transformed into a (frustratingly hokey) static carnotaurus mannequin advancing toward guests.

Image: Disney

We gave that antagonistic carnotaurus character an "honorable mention" position on our must-read Countdown: The World's Best Animationics simply because of the ride's uneven tone and not-quite-finished look and feel. Of those who have ridden both, few would dare argue that DINOSAUR holds a candle to Temple of the Forbidden Eye, even if it’s a fun romp. You can see DINOSAUR in action here via our friends at SoCal Attractions 360 and their unbeatable low-light videography. Do you see how it lines up to Indy, beat-for-beat?

In fact, many Walt Disney World fans openly acknowledge the pain they feel knowing that – with a simple redress – they, too, could have a ride as epic, oversized, cinematic, and adventurous as Indiana Jones Adventure… Which might bring us to this last and most interesting rumor…

“Temple of the Copper Python”

Location: Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Status:
???

Despite Disney’s continuous reminder during Animal Kingdom’s introductory years that the park is “Nahtazū,” it does have some pretty compelling parallels. Especially in its first decade, the park featured a meager ride line-up excusable precisely because animals were meant to be the main attraction… The “natural” looking, seemingly-barrier-free habitats that the park’s animal collection call home are increasingly common in modern zoos… And most tellingly, Animal Kingdom is divided into “continents” just as so many zoos are (though, obviously, Disney’s versions are more authentically dressed than most zoos’ light theming of such areas.)

There are a few continents missing, though.

One of the most blatant? South America.

Image: Disney

Years ago, we were one of the first to speculate that it almost seemed too easy to imagine Dinoland becoming a South America region of the park, especially since a redress (however extensive) of DINOSAUR would give this South American land the Indiana Jones Adventure E-Ticket that Disney fans have been jonesing for for years. Now, rumors grow increasingly loud that Disney (who now owns Indiana Jones through their $4 billion outright purchase of Lucasfilm in 2012) is eager to activate around their newly acquired adventure hero as never before, and that ­– as we armchair-Imagineered – there might be actual evidence to suggest that it’s possible.

Image: Lucasfilm

Could DINOSAUR become a South American “Temple of the Copper Python” or other animal-infused equivalent, borrowing the Peruvian accents already designed for Tokyo DisneySea’s South American-set version of the ride? It’s just a guess, but apparently we’ve barked up the right tree before… As whispers of this potential rebirth continue, we’ll keep you up to date…

Meanwhile, don't discount Disney's Hollywood Studios, where some say plans for an Indiana Jones themed land are taking shape to join Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge... Wishful thinking for fans of Florida's studio park? Given its radical rebirth, it's hard to say. Perhaps only time will tell...

Forbidden

When passing through Adventureland, it's not uncommon to see young children with eyes fixed firmly on the ground. That's because they, too, have heard of the lost god Mara and the death that awaits those who so much as peek at his decaying, dark gaze. Like legends of old, the story of the Temple of the Forbidden Eye carries on between generations, and stands as one of the most compelling original acts ever devised by Walt Disney Imagineering.

That's what makes Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye a true poster child of the modern E-Ticket; a living, breathing embodiment of the pinnacle of Modern Marvels. It's an (increasingly rare) cinematic headliner without a screen in sight, brought to life through good, old-fashioned atmosphere, astounding practical effects, and a simple story that's one of the most daringly dark in Disney's playbook.

Haunting, action-packed, oversized, and explosive, what awaits within the Temple of the Forbidden Eye will forever remain an icon of Disney Imagineering... If there's one thing to be learned from our descent into the hellish underworld of Mara's catacombs, it's the parting words displayed upon our unlikely exit:

Image: Disney

Real rewards await those who choose wisely.

If you enjoyed our detailed expedition into the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, be sure to make the jump to our In-Depth Collections page, featuring dozens of deep dives into other Modern Marvels, as well as Lost Legends, Disaster Files, and never-built Possibilitylands just waiting for exploration. Then, use the comments below to share your stories and thoughts on Indiana Jones Adventure.

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