Coaster Kingdom

Indiana Jones Temple of Peril: Backwards! (Disneyland Paris)

Although Disneyland Paris was hardly swamped initially with visitors and the media coverage surrounding it hardly benevolent, anything that got the park into the press was good, whether it was complimentary or not was merely academic. In the long term, this tentative start benefited the park with a spate of investment around the mid 1990s which did enough to bring in enough visitors to disband the press and leave them to cover more worthy news stories.

One thing that was learnt from the dubious start Disneyland Paris had was that the French are really not into shows and spectacles in the way that America were. The French visited for the rides, and the only coaster at the park, Thunder Mountain, was subject to audaciously long queues even in off-peak periods.

A quick fix was sought, and in less than a year, the quick fix opened, ironically, to longer queues than Thunder Mountain. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril was the first Disney coaster to invert riders head-over-heals, and as an experiment, it led the way for other coasters to follow.

Although the name isnít synonymous with many Disney attractions, it was Intamin that were approached to supply the ride. Intamin developed the ride from the Pinfari Zyklon, a small single looping coaster with tight-banked turns and sharp drops.

Due to the thoughtlessness of the designers, the low capacity and very nature of the ride attracted unbearable queues, and a few years later, the eight seater trains were re-designed so as to hold 50% more people, another was added, and to attract the queues back, the trains were flipped around so that they ran the entire circuit backwards.

The ride resides in the sundry Adventureland, home of Pirates of the Caribbean and the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House. It is actually quite a way out the back of the park, and right on the outskirts.

As you approach the ride in a path shrouded in lush, tropical flora, the decaying temple around which the cars hurtle around the scaffolding surrounding the crumbling structure.

The queue starts away from the temple to your right. The entrance is rather inconspicuous and at the outset takes you into the undergrowth. The temple was at the centre of an archaeological dig by Jones. It now stands abandoned, for unknown reasons, and as a haunting reminder of this, the queue takes you past the adventurersí campsite with an abandoned jeep and canvas tent.

As the queue now bears to the left, the temple now stands before you. The large sandstone style construction is falling into a state of disrepair, the aging structure surrounded in ropes, scaffold and the track rising and falling around it. Huge stone steps start your accent up the temple before you turn to the left and past a crumbling archway.

Every few minutes, conversation is broken by the thunder of a train swelling into a roar as the two-car train hurtles around the archway, fully inverting in front of irresolute riders. As the train disappears, the archway concealing the 360-degree loop is all that remains to remind you of the forthcoming terrors that lay in wait.

The pathway soon takes you over the small station, before a staircase takes you onto the station platform. The best place to ride is undoubtedly the end that looks like the front. This is the back of the train and offers great visuals and the faster ride.

The platform is tiny and can only take a minimal amount of people. Picking and choosing where you wish to sit is quite awkward and not worth the effort.

The trains are really ugly. They look like wooden boxes and are probably the most awkward to get into. The high sides and deep-down nature of the trains mean you have to virtually take a running jump. Once you countermand the subconscious urge to face the direction of travel, you turn 180 degrees to board, slither into your seat, and pull down the restraints before the train is dispatched, backwards.

Visuals are limited only to the back of the car in front unless you are in the front of a car, and legroom is very limited. The train is tyre-driven backwards around a clockwise 180-degree turn that will smoothly feed you onto the lift-hill.

The lift hill is actually quite fun, and now that you are going backwards, it affords you reasonable views of the park wherever youíre sitting. The temple structure is to your left and as you begin to look down on the more sizeable parts of this structure, the train uprights and accelerates into a sharp turn.

As the train straightens out, it curls over the top of a sharp drop accelerating as it does before rising up on the opposite side of the temple before traversing another sharp turn.

Another drop into the structure of the temple comes more predictably with the binding rise and turn following it. As the theme continues, it becomes more and more of an effort to keep the head free from being knocked by the poorly engineered track-work that the train runs on.

An abrupt turn and drop throw you deeper into the edifice before your head begins to be pulled forward, the incline gets steeper, and steeper as you begin to see the ground appear and disappear in a flash, the train tightly wraps around a compact vertical loop as the sky darts past in a moment before youíre up righted and thrown into what I would say is the worst part of the ride.

The track following the loop is taken at high speed and is a nauseating culmination of intensely unpleasant banked helixes and turns. As you spiral round and round, you begin feeling heady, not only because of these brutally unpleasant turns, but also because you have been bashed so much up until this point.

Your wish comes true and you clatter into the final brake run. A slow advance towards the station ends with the bars rising and you leaving feeling rather dizzy and disorientated.

This is probably the only ride I can think of at Disneyland Paris that has blatant disregard for a story line or plot. It is rare you go on a ride at Disney and donít actually feel that you are a part of the adventure. On Indiana Jones, you feel that you are riding a coaster around a temple and you donít understand why.

Even if a ride doesnít tell a story, the theming should make up for it. Indiana Jones is unable to achieve this either. Whilst the theming is not appalling, Disneyland Paris have set a standard and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril doesnít come anywhere near carrying this metaphorical baton of consistency.

The ride too is hardly inspiring. The coaster it is based on is not Italyís finest export it has to be said, and it is a bit strange, therefore, that Disney approached Intamin to copy the ride. Although it is slightly more professional (for want of a better word), it is still rough, lacking, and now the trains run backwards, it can be quite painful if you are new to the ride and donít know what is coming next.

The capacity issue has improved now that each car holds six (a train, twelve) and that the ride now operates Fast Pass, the Disney scheme that allows you to return to the ride at a designated time.

For the amount of hype Disneyland Paris apply to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril, it really fails as a ride, as a major attraction (which, at the moment it is), it fails and as an entertaining and rousing ride, it fails.  

The ride was incredibly rushed from drawing board to opening, and it shows, blatantly.

1/5 Marcus Sheen