SPOTLIGHT : VERY INDIANA : A Stone's Throw--or a Boulder's Roll--From New Orleans Square, the Possibilities Are Very Nearly Endless

Rick VanderKnyff is a member of the Times Orange County Edition staff.

What a difference 28 years makes.

Pirates of the Caribbean, which opened in 1967, starts with a languorous, mood-setting float through a bayou complete with fake fireflies, where the only sounds are the chirping of insects and the slow plucking of a banjo. From there, guests ride through underground treasure chambers and a haunted pirate's lair before meeting a crew of swashbucklers in the audio-animatronic flesh, lustily singing, pillaging and wenching.

Aside from a couple of brief waterfall plunges, the chills are mostly atmospheric. And passengers have time to take them all in--the ride is just under 15 minutes long, a mini-eternity by Disney attraction standards.

From Pirates, it's only a short stroll to the newest measure of state-of-the-art Disney Imagineering.

The Indiana Jones Adventure, due to open March 3, is much more of an in-your-face experience, a jolting 3 1/2-minute journey in which passengers are beset by the kinds of hazards all in a day's work for the movie archeologist: snakes, scorpions, flames, falling rubble, poisonous darts and, of course, a giant rolling boulder.

In some ways, the new ride is Disneyland's first true heir to Pirates, both in scope and in the way it strives to immerse guests in a self-contained world. In approach, however, there are differences galore. In '90s parlance, Pirates is a "passive" attraction--guests sit quietly in their boats and watch.

The scenes unfold as they would in a musical--no accident, according to Tony Baxter, who led the design team on the Indiana Jones Adventure. In 1967, the movie musical was still a viable force, and it was natural for Pirates to take cues from the form.

Audiences in the '90s aren't content to just watch, said Baxter during a recent preview tour of the new ride. Disney's biggest opening in years--and, at least in terms of size, its biggest attraction--the ride based on the George Lucas-produced film trilogy puts the latest Disney technology to work making guests feel as though they've stepped into a remote corner of 1935 India.

In the biggest innovation, designers have factored in an almost endless series of variations, so that the journey is slightly different every time a guest steps aboard an ersatz-vintage troop transport for a hazardous trip through the ruins of the Temple of the Forbidden Eye.

The transports take slightly different paths through the ruins or may "break down" in different areas--the Rat Cave, perhaps, or the Bug Room. Hazards can also vary, from exploding fireballs to the fall of cadaverous mummies.

Visitors still don't have true control over the outcome of events--it's not truly interactive. But designers hope that by throwing the element of chance into the attractions, visitors would be inspired to return again and again.

Also, unlike most of the mayhem in Pirates, passengers in the Indiana Jones Adventure are made to feel as if they are directly imperiled by all of the goings-on--right down to the finale, where the cars are nearly squashed (seemingly) by the infamous rolling boulder from the opening of the movie "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

All of this requires a technological complexity not possible before. The computer aboard each vehicle is more sophisticated than the single computer that runs all of Space Mountain, Baxter said.

Because of variables built into the ride, each vehicle must be able to communicate with, and keep track of, all the other transports on the route (up to 15 at a time).

Although the transports are electric, they make the sound of gasoline engines. And while the ride's track is relatively smooth, complex hydraulics make the vehicles buck and rattle violently, turning the attraction into what Baxter calls an "off-road adventure."

Also, the recent Disney design trend to make long waits in line more enjoyable reaches a new peak with the Indiana Jones Adventure (and a good thing, too--waits during the March 3 opening will be an estimated two to three hours).

The entrance for the attraction in Adventureland has been wedged between the revamped Jungle Cruise and the Swiss Family Treehouse.

From there, guests walk one-eighth of a mile back to where the ride proper has been built on what was a piece of the parking lot.

The start of the line is marked by a vintage truck (the actual one used in filming the climactic chase scene in "Raiders") and quickly moves into a four-story temple structure.

Here, visitors get their first look at a depiction of Mara, the goddess to whom the Temple of the Forbidden Eye is dedicated.

As guests wind through the re-creation of a '30s-era archeological dig, they will be tempted into setting a series of incidents into motion.

Move a bamboo pole in one place, and a spike-studded ceiling begins to descend, a la "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," the second film in the trilogy. Pull on a rope in another section and hear a dig worker fall off somewhere below. Guests can try to decipher warnings written in an entirely new alphabet designed by Disney.

Nearer the queue's destination, guests will view a '30s-style newsreel that lays out the story behind the ride. John Rhys-Davies, who played Indy's friend Sallah in "Raiders," appears in the film, and Dr. Jones himself is shown from behind, or with his trademark hat pulled low over his eyes.

Anyone who enters the recently discovered temple, the newsreel tells visitors, is promised one of three gifts--eternal youth, riches or the ability to see the future.

Ah, but there's a catch--anyone who looks into the eye of the goddess Mara risks a terrible, though undefined, fate.

It's exotic hooey, of course, but all in keeping with the B-movie patina of the Indiana Jones films.

Finally on the ride vehicles, guests will be launched in a direction promising one of the three gifts--but the adventure quickly goes off track, and the frights begin. Avoiding a look into Mara's eyes, alas, is much trickier than it sounds.

Ride vehicles enter through one of three doors, chosen by the vehicle's on-board computer. From there, although everyone follows the same basic track, slight detours are possible, as well as stalls in some of the more "hazardous" areas of the ride--with names such as the Tunnel of Torment, Gates of Doom, Cavern of Bubbling Death, Mummy Chamber, Snake Temple and Dart Corridor.

All of which can be pretty frightening for kids as well as adults. Disneyland has upped its minimum height for the ride to 48 inches, from the 40 inches it uses for Star Tours and Big Thunder Mountain.

According to a Disneyland spokesman, that means most 8-year-olds will be able to take the ride, along with some 6- and 7-year-olds. Parents of children who are easily frightened may want to hold off longer.

Lucas himself was involved in the creation of the Indiana Jones Adventure, although more as an adviser than in a design capacity.

The Disneyland-Lucas partnership was launched in 1986 with "Captain Eo," the 3-D film starring Michael Jackson, and was cemented in 1987 with Star Tours, a motion-simulation attraction that borrows some elements from Lucas' "Star Wars" films.

Disney promotions folks have released an abundance of statistics on the new ride--for instance, the rolling boulder used in the finale is 16 feet in diameter, and there are 168,000 square feet of hand-carved surfaces throughout the attraction. But, predictably, there's no official word on a final price tag.

By the way, there's talk that a fourth Indiana Jones film will be released in 1996.

And as for Disneyland, the next major project on the drawing board will involve Tomorrowland. Details are sketchy, but a park spokesman called it a "major overhaul," with only Space Mountain and Star Tours considered off-limits.

The project is tentatively scheduled to be completed in 1997 or '98.

* What: The Indiana Jones Adventure.

* When: Opens to the public March 3. Disneyland hours are: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to midnight Saturday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.

* Where: Disneyland, 1313 Harbor Blvd., Anaheim.

* Whereabouts: Santa Ana (5) Freeway to the Katella Avenue exit. Take Katella west, then go right (north) on Harbor Boulevard. Entrance to Disneyland will be on your left.

* Wherewithal: Admission to the park (unlimited access to rides and attractions) is $25 to $33. Parking is $6 to $9.

* Where to call: (714) 999-4565.

Inside the Ride

As Disneyland prepares for the public debut of the Indiana Jones Adventure, here are some fast facts about the attraction:

TEMPLE CHAMBERS: "Chamber of Destiny," "Hall of Promise," "Tunnel of Torment," "Gates of Doom," "Cavern of Bubbling Death," "Mummy Chamber," "Bug Room," "Snake Temple," "Rat Cave," "Dart Corridor," "Rolling Boulder Finale."

SOUNDTRACK: A fully synchronized on-board sound system gives each rider full stereo sound, with cued special effects added. The original John Williams score was recorded by a 90-piece orchestra.

RIDE TECHNOLOGY: Uses a state-of-the-art enhanced motion system that was developed and patented by Walt Disney Imagineering. The Enhanced Motion Vehicle allows riders to experience a random, multiple-programmed show.

UNIQUE FEATURES

* With the offering of three separate gifts by the temple deity, this attraction represents the first time that guests will have variations in their show experience. Depending on the gift selected by Mara, each vehicle will take a very different path within the temple.

* Each on-board ride-control system contains myriad programmed cues. The adventure will never be the same twice, with nearly 160,000 possible combinations of show programming.

* Building on the variable programming and random selection of possible show experiences, the vehicles trigger programmed attraction responses including fireballs, a giant cobra, mummies and creepy crawlies.

VEHICLES: 16 vehicles of 12 seats each, constructed as military troop transports, with a maximum of 15 cycling through the attraction at one time.

LENGTH OF PRESENTATION: Three minutes, 20 seconds with a new adventure dispatched every 18 seconds.

CAPACITY: 2,400 temple visitors each hour.

TEMPLE FACTS AND STATS

* Groundbreaking was in August, 1993.

* More than 400 Imagineers worked on the design and construction, with a core team of nearly 100.

* There are 2,500 linear feet of temple corridor for vehicles to explore.

* Each of the 16 troop transport vehicles weighs 12,800 pounds, without guests.

* There are more than 168,000 square feet of hand-carved surfaces and 55 hand-painted murals.

* More than 2,000 replicated human skulls are used inside the temple chambers.

* In the "Observatory of the Future," your vehicle will pass beneath a field of 5,000 fiber optic stars.

* Wind speeds inside the Mummy Chamber reach up to 60 m.p.h. as guests try to escape the wrath of Mara.

* More than 1,300 props are used to highlight the story of Indiana Jones, including the troop transport displayed in the base camp, which was used for the chase scene in the movie "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

* More than 600 strobes are used to simulate lightning in the "Tunnel of Torment."

* 60 pounds of rubble can fall inside the temple every 18 seconds.

* The building for the adventure is more than 2.2-million cubic feet--large enough to hold 12 MD80 passenger aircraft.

* It takes 14 employees to operate the attraction.

* The exterior temple structure, visible from the Jungle Cruise and the Indiana Jones base camp, towers four stories above the excavation site.

* The rolling boulder used in the finale measures 16 feet in diameter.

* The attraction contains more than 2,129 sculpted, carved, painted or living representations of snakes.

Source: Disneyland.

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