A new season of a Disney TV show that takes viewers behind the scenes of Disneyland attractions reveals how Walt Disney Imagineering pulled off the iconic rolling boulder scene in the Indiana Jones Adventure attraction at the Anaheim theme park.
The second season of “Behind the Attraction” debuts Nov. 1 on the Disney+ streaming service with episodes dedicated to Indiana Jones Adventure, Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Disney nighttime spectaculars and Disneyland food.
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Imagineering hosted a media preview of season two of “Behind the Attraction” at the Glendale headquarters of Disney’s secretive creative arm with a panel discussion featuring the creative team behind the documentary series.
If you’ve gotten this far, then you probably want to know the secret behind the boulder scene. If not, consider this your spoiler alert.
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The Adventureland thrill ride takes daring passengers in a rugged troop transport over rough terrain as they race through a cursed temple filled with slithering snakes, screaming mummies and collapsing bridges.
The iconic scene takes place when the ride vehicle suddenly stalls beneath Indy clinging to a rope as a massive boulder starts rolling toward us only to have the riders escape just in time to avoid certain doom.
But here’s the secret most riders don’t realize about the climactic boulder scene: You’re not moving, the room is.
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Disney Legend and Imagineer Tony Baxter showed off a scale model of the motion-base dark ride and explained how the boulder illusion worked during the Indiana Jones Adventure episode of “Behind the Attraction.”
“As you come in, we back the room up which makes it seem like you’re going fast,” Baxter said during the “Behind the Attraction” episode. “When you get even with Indiana Jones, we reverse the room. That gives you the sense that you backed up.”
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Using a scale model of the ride, Baxter demonstrated how the attraction’s rockwork walls moved in concert with the overhead rolling boulder to create the illusion that the ride vehicle is moving while sitting stationary.
“When I move the room back and forth, you can also see that activates the ball to turn in consensus,” Baxter said on “Behind the Attraction.”
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In addition to the scale model of the Indy ride, the “Behind the Attraction” episode included illustrative graphics that showed how Imagineers pulled off the moving room trick in 1995.
“It was so easy that as you can see here in the model, it’s still revolving and this model is like 25 years old,” Baxter said on the episode. “So that part of this tech is pretty darn good.”
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The moving room effect allowed Imagineering to deliver one more thrill – a plunge into darkness just beneath the boulder into an unseen chasm that riders believe they just backed up over.
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