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TOURISM : Disney's Debut of Indiana Jones Sure to Be an Adventure

February 07, 1995|Chris Woodyard, Times staff writer

Paul Pressler faces his first true test as Disneyland's new president later this month--and it won't be finding a new attraction to replace the dramatically downsized $3-billion Disneyland Resort expansion.

Instead, it will be overseeing the debut of the most highly touted new ride at the Magic Kingdom in years--the Indiana Jones Adventure.

Opening a new ride shouldn't seem all that difficult. Usually, it's a matter of simply assuming control from Disney's design engineers. But this is no ordinary ride.

The Indiana Jones Adventure, based on the movie trilogy starring Harrison Ford, involves new technology: visitors sit in a ride simulator that thrashes back and forth atop a wheeled platform that can stop, start and even go in reverse.

Sound complicated? The ride broke down three times during a press preview Saturday. The first occasion was just a minute after Pressler and a much-ballyhooed family named Jones from Indianapolis--get it?--had successfully completed a ride through. Each of the breakdowns required sending workers into the bowels of the adventure ride to walk out stranded passengers and leave behind the faux military-style jungle vehicles that carry them through the Temple of the Forbidden Eye. Workers blamed a computer glitch.

The estimated $100-million ride has been rumored to be subject to breakdowns and last weekend's demonstration did nothing to quash them. A ride stoppage at a crucial moment of the opening festivities later this month could prove most embarrassing to Pressler and Disney Chairman Michael Eisner, who have hyped this ride heavily--it was the centerpiece of the Super Bowl halftime.

Crews are still working around the clock to fix the problems and work out last-minute lighting and sound details. Tony Baxter, a vice president of Walt Disney Imagineering in Glendale, which designed the ride, said the ride is 90% complete. But, it's that last 10% that can kill you.

Glitches aside, the Indiana Jones ride will be the roughest and scariest attraction in the park. I don't mean scary in the Disney sense, like a trip through the Haunted Mansion or that locomotive headlight that hurtles toward riders in Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. I mean real scary. At one point, a huge mechanical cobra strikes at the careening vehicle.

But at the press preview Saturday, everyone seemed to love it. And the artistic detail in the ride, creating a decrepit old sanctuary in Adventureland, is truly amazing. During one breakdown, visitors could notice fake moss stuck between the rocks in a wall that normally would barely be visible if the ride were actually moving. Even the inside of the elevators for disabled passengers are themed: the doors are made to look like huge rusted iron plates.

Now, if they can only get the ride to work properly.

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