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Indiana Jones and the Lost Expedition ... Found!

Jim Hill

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Indiana Jones and the Lost Expedition ... Found!

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Given how much "Indiana Jones IV" has been in the news lately (What with George Lucas telling MTV last month that "... hopefully [this film] will come out next year" and Harrison Ford just this past weekend talking about how he hopes that actress Virginia Madsen will become Dr. Jones' next love interest), and given how WDI's new Principal Creative Advisor John Lasseter is reportedly reviewing all of the ride & show concepts that the Imagineers never quite got around to building over the past 20 years ... I thought that now might be a good time to talk about the big one that got away.

You know the one that I'm talking about, folks. It's that attraction that was originally proposed for Disneyland back in the 1980s. The one that hardcore Disney geeks have been obsessing about for years & years now ...


Photo by Nancy Stadler


"But why would Disney geeks continue to obsess about a single attraction that never got built?," you ask. Well ... To be honest, I blame this particular piece of concept art.


Copyright Disney Enterprises LLC

Where -- if you look closely -- you can see that this version of the "Indiana Jones Adventure" would have actually combined the troop carrier attraction that we all know today with a mine car-roller coaster ride. This -- coupled with the fact that the Disneyland Railroad and the Jungle Cruise were also supposed to have traveled through this enormous show building -- would have really made this one hell of a show.

"But how exactly would all of these pieces fit together?," you query. It's funny that you should mention that. For here's an elevated view of the entire site plan for "Indiana Jones and the Lost Expedition."


Photo by Nancy Stadler

As you can see, Disneyland guests would have entered this proposed Adventureland expansion area from the left side of the Swiss Family Treehouse (Now Tarzan's Treehouse). Once they got on line, these theme park visitors would then have to decide which Indiana Jones-based adventure they actually wanted to have.


Photo by Nancy Stadler

If they wanted to go on the jeep expedition (Which would take Disneyland guests deep inside the Jungle Cruise's enormous new river temple. Which -- because of its elaborate golden shrine -- was loaded with boobie traps intended to keep trespassers out), these theme park visitors had to head over to the motor pool.


Photo by Nancy Stadler

On the other hand, if they prefered to experience Adventureland's new ore car attraction (Which would have sent Disneyland guests careening around the edge of a volcanic chasm aboard a rickety old mine car), they would then have to have hiked uphill to the site of the old abandoned mine (I.E. The load / unload station for this indoor roller coaster).


Photo by Nancy Stadler

Meanwhile, folks who were riding aboard Disneyland's Jungle Cruise would have also been able to get a sample of the perils that awaited them inside "Indiana Jones and the Lost Expedition." Given that this reconfigured Adventureland ride would actually have sent boatloads of tourists into the newly built River Temple. Where -- after passing a sacrificial altar -- they would have floated through a flooded cavern and encountered several of the booby traps that Dr. Jones already defeated.


Photo by Nancy Stadler

After exiting the flooded cavern, the Jungle Cruise would have passed under a new tressel bridge for the Disneyland Railroad. Speaking of which ... The theme park's steam trains would also have passed right through this enormous show building. Giving Disneyland visitors a sneak peak at the giant rolling ball sequence from the jeep expedition as well as a brief glimpse of the volcanic cavern that served as the centerpiece for the ore car attraction.


Photo by Nancy Stadler

Pretty impressive, don't you think? This "Indiana Jones and the Lost Expedition" expansion area would have really put Disneyland on the map back in the 1980s, wouldn't it? So why didn't the Imagineers actually go through with construction of this mega-attraction, opting instead to go with the "Indiana Jones Adventure"?

For starters, there was the expense of actually building such a behemoth. And given that Disneyland's "Indiana Jones Adventure" is reported to have cost $100 million all by itself ... Well, you can see how "Indiana Jones and the Lost Expedition" -- with all of its bells & whistles -- would have cost $150-200 million without even breaking a sweat.

Then there was the fact that -- back in the late 1980s -- other parts of this Anaheim theme park were also desperately crying out for new attractions. And I've heard stories from this particular period in Imagineering history that talk about how the teams that were working on "Splash Mountain" and "Indiana Jones and the Lost Expedition" were in desperate competition. Each of them determined to be the first to get the greenlight from Disney Company management.

Which may explain why -- 'way back then -- some wag at WDI created a piece of concept art that actually combined these two proposed Disneyland additions into a single attraction. So picture this gag drawing: Indiana Jones standing at the top of Chickapen Hill, cracking his bullwhip at Brer Fox & Brer Bear. Who (now that they're dressed as wily Arab traders) are trying to recover a precious golden idol from Indy.

"Which golden idol?," you ask. The one shaped like Brer Rabbit.

Anyway ... As you probably already know, "Splash Mountain" eventually won out in the end. That proposed Disneyland attraction was the first to officially get the greenlight to begin construction. Site prep in Bear Country actually began back in late 1987. Though -- thanks to several very costly construction delays -- the flume ride itself didn't open 'til July 17, 1989.

As for Indy ... It would be another six years before an attraction that was themed around Dr. Jones and his adventures would actually make it up out of the ground. And the ride that did open on March 3, 1995 -- while admittedly thrilling -- wasn't nearly as ambitious as "Indiana Jones and the Lost Expedition" was supposed to be.

So now at least all you hardcore Disneyana fans know how all the pieces were supposed to fit together ... But as to the story as to how Disneyland's "Indiana Jones Adventure" attraction was actually developed ... That's probably a story that I should wait to tell. At least until I finish my "Star Tours" or "Remembering Light Magic" series ...

Anyway, I hope you folks enjoyed getting a look at all this great concept art (Special thanks to Shelly Smith for originally making this incredibly rare piece of Imagineering art available for use on JHM and to Nancy Stadler for photoshopping the images as well as drawing all of those dotted lines). Here's hoping that John Lasseter actually gets to take a peek at these images and thinks: "Now that's just the sort of attraction that I'd like to see go into Disneyland someday soon."


Copyright Disney Enterprises LLC

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