Today in Disney History, 1989: Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! Opened at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

by | Aug 25, 2021 | Disney History, Hollywood Studios, WDW Blog

“Snakes? Why’d it have to be snakes?” More than 30 years ago, the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! opened in Disney-MGM Studios (now Hollywood Studios), and it’s been keeping guests on the edge of their seats ever since. But what happens if you “pull the rope”? We’ve got the inside scoop and more on this attraction.

The First of Its Kind

indiana jones grabbing idol off the altar - indiana jones epic stunt spectacular

Photo by Cliff Wang

Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular was the first Indiana Jones-themed attraction to open in any Disney Park. Indiana Jones attractions have since opened in Disneyland (using the same ride vehicle and layout as DINOSAUR in Disney’s Animal Kingdom), Disneyland Paris, and Tokyo DisneySea.

Walt Disney World has another small nod to Indiana Jones at Disney Springs. Located in The Landing neighborhood of Disney Springs, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar is named for Indy’s pilot from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The bar is a fun nod to the film franchise with souvenirs from Lindsey’s travels and small details from Indiana Jones storylines. If you love Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!, be sure to add Jock Lindsey’s to your list!

Missing Opening Day

Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular Sign

Photo by Cliff Wang

Back at Disney-MGM Studios, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! was intended to be ready for the opening day on May 1, 1989; however, the Imagineers who worked on the show, along with George Lucas and then-CEO of the Walt Disney Company, Michael Eisner, did not feel the show was quite there yet.

Instead of following original plans of announcing the attraction’s grand opening to coincide with the opening of the park, Disney worked out the bugs while sharing the show with guests as a “dress rehearsal.” 

The dress rehearsal concept may not seem like an example of “good show” for guests at most Disney Parks, but for Disney-MGM Studios, it actually worked out brilliantly.

Given the theme of the park as giving guests a glimpse into a working film studio, it was considered a success to give an even closer behind-the-scenes look at Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! before it was finalized

Technological Achievements 

Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular jeep blowing up

Photo by Cliff Wang

Walt Disney World has seen its fair share of live performances with amazing sets and stunt performances, but Indiana Jones has a couple of notable distinctions that set this show apart from the rest.

First, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! has more moving parts than any other live show at Walt Disney World. (This has been the case since the show opened, so consider how advanced the technology behind this show must be knowing that it had more moving parts than the now defunct Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show.) 


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The level of detail in the sets to match their counterparts seen in Raiders of the Lost Ark is truly incredible. The total weight of the show’s sets come in at just about 100 tons for each scene, and the famous ball the show’s title character only narrowly escapes is 12 feet in diameter and weighs 440 pounds! 

In following Disney’s trend of getting all the details just right, the golden idol that Indy is after in the first scene of the show is a nearly exact replica of the one used in the film

And the way Indy manages to get through that first scene unharmed? It takes an extremely talented stunt performer to be clear, but each scene of the show has also been expertly programmed with computer software to keep the set’s movements consistent every time so the actors can perfect their performance.

Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! is the first show of its kind to use a computer-based show control system alongside a team of special effects Cast Members who can control certain elements of the show in real time

Interactive Elements

indiana-jones-epic-stunt-spectacular_interactive_billick

Photo by Mike Billick

As far as live stunt shows go, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! offers more opportunities for guests to get involved in the show than one would typically see in a theme park. 

The show’s interactive elements begin in the queue before guests even arrive in the amphitheater: When you come across the sign next to a well reading, “Do Not Pull Rope,” you may be inclined to … pull the rope! If you do, you may hear from the person stuck at the bottom of said well. 

Guests can even get involved in the show’s performance. Audience members (who are 18 or older) can be randomly selected to perform in one of the show’s scenes.

They’ll be dressed up and given a quick training before they perform, and the whole spectacle is sure to make for some of the most memorable experiences from any Disney vacation. 

A Look Back at Disney-MGM Studios

disney-mgm-studios-entrance-indiana-jones_matt-wade

Photo courtesy of Matt Wade

Since the park was renamed Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 2008, we’ve seen a change in the park’s theme and attractions from the classic Hollywood film set experience that guests saw in the Disney-MGM Studios of 1989 through the 1990s. 

While elements of the original concept for the park can still be found (in places like the Chinese Theatre facade and Hollywood Boulevard), no opening day attractions still exist at the park today.

In fact, the only attractions that opened the same year as the park that still exist today are Star Tours (now reimagined as Star Tours: The Adventures Continue) and Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular

If you are feeling nostalgic for the “old days” of Disney-MGM Studios, look no further than Indiana Jones, a show that has seen hardly any changes since its 1989 opening.

The show’s exterior, as seen with the large-scale display of Indy before entering the queue, is always one of the spots in Hollywood Studios that brings me right back to my childhood

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Written by Brittany DiCologero

Written by Brittany DiCologero

Brittany DiCologero is a freelance writer specializing in Walt Disney World history, along with various travel, and lifestyle topics based in New England. She is the author of “Red, White, and Disney: The Myths and Realities of American History at the Walt Disney World Resort,” and “Brittany Earns Her Ears”. When she is not writing, you can find her exploring local museums and historic sites, and binging documentaries on Disney+.

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