Tuesday, February 28, 1995 Page A3

© 1995 San Francisco Chronicle

Disneyland Bets on Indiana Jones Rescue

Steve Rubenstein, Chronicle Staff Writer

Anaheim

Deep in the jungles of bankrupt Orange County, Disneyland has just plunked $100 million on the lastest in rubber snakes, human skulls and things that go bump, bump, bump.

There are no fewer than 2,000 skulls and 2,129 snakes in the new Indiana Jones Adventure ride, which opens Friday. There are also 16 cars that bounce and twist through the thrill ride and a line that's expected to be three hours long.

If the new attraction is a hit, it will make the Disney people, who have been living through a financial Indiana Jones ride of their own lately, as happy as Happy.

GETTING BACK TO FANTASY LAND

Of late, Disney has chewed much of the poisoned apple. One top Disney executive, Frank Wells, was killed in a helicopter crash and another, Jeffrey Katzenberg, quit in a much-publicized falling out with chairman Michael Eisner. There was also the Northridge quake a year ago to chase away visitors.

With the new ride, Disney has gone back to doing what it does best, bringing roller coasters, talking robots, mechanical monsters and expensive cheap thrills to Southern California.

The Disney number-crunchers figure that more people will wait more hours to ride the new Indiana Jones Adventure than any amusement park ride in history.

At a preopening party, where crowd management was tested and timed, the line spanned the expanse of human experience -- stretching through caves, across rope bridges, in and out of stone temples, and past the pirate ride.

"I'm afraid we're going to have three- hour waits," Eisner said yesterday, smiling at the prospect.

Eisner, who rode yesterday with George Lucas, the creator of the Indiana Jones movies, was not so shaken up by the experience to forget his terminology.

"There is no bankruptcy in Orange County, only an `economic situation,' " Eisner said.

Though business observers believe that Disneyland's crowd counts are off by 10 percent, Eisner said there has been no decline in attendance, only an "incremental" change in the number of guests.

Disneyland has watched while the competition spent big on new rides. Universal Studios spent seven figures on its Back to the Future ride, Six Flags Magic Mountain erected another roller coaster or three, and Knott's Berry Farm found $10 million to build something called the Mystery Lodge.

CUTTING-EDGE DISNEY

But the Indiana Jones ride, which took nine years to dream up and 18 months to build, must be regarded as the state of the art in such endeavors. Visitors board 12 passenger Jeeps that bound down a half-mile track past bubbly fire pits, giant rolling boulders, mummies, snakes, poison darts and through the Gates of Doom. [error: Indy holds back the Gates of Doom and tells us to turn left.]

The Disney people say many of the effects are computer-generated at random, with no trips exactly alike.

There are no fewer than five "chicken exits" for the faint of heart. There is a warning sign at the front entrance that runs four paragraphs, the longest in Disneyland.

"What is that that will make you wait three hours and not feel like a fool?" said Tony Baxter, one of the designers of the new ride, asking the question that goes to the heart of the Disneyland experience.

The answer came from the mouth of one of the first 10-year-old kids who survived. "That was real bad," said Daniel Bernard of Los Angeles, meaningreal good. "The bugs were the best, and the big ball that rolls on your head was great. Everything was great. Just don't eat anything right before you go on."

Back to the journal.
San Francisco Chronicle source.