Lucasfilm had been making movies for nearly two decades before it started work in live-action series television. The first show to be made was Maniac Mansion (1990), a co-production with Atlantis Films in Canada. But the first to be made solely by Lucasfilm was The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, which first aired in 1992.
Part historical romance, part youthful adventure, Young Indy was inspired in part by George Lucas’ passion for history and education. After completing Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), he decided to take the big screen archaeologist back to his childhood and send him on televised adventures. From the age of nine to his young adulthood, Indy would cross paths with famous historical figures and participate in significant events that would shape world history. The aim was to inspire a curiosity about the past within young people.
After more than a year of intensive research and script development, cameras first rolled on Young Indy 30 years ago today on May 13, 1991. Both onscreen and off, it was the start of a great adventure. Before the series wrapped, Young Indy would shoot in some two-dozen countries across Europe, Asia, Africa, the Pacific, and North America, enlisting local cast and crew from each destination, making it a truly international endeavor.
Ironically, a series that would visit more countries than perhaps any other to date began production in a sound stage. Crew arrived at J Stage at Shepperton Studios southeast of London at 8:30 that morning, and the cast half an hour later. Appropriately, the day’s set-ups were from the first episode to be aired.
Joining his parents and tutor, nine-year-old Indy (Corey Carrier) embarks on a worldwide tour while his father gives lectures and conducts research. This first scene depicts the passengers at dinner on their voyage from England to Alexandria, Egypt, where Indy would meet T.E. Lawrence (future “Lawrence of Arabia”) and Howard Carter (future discoverer of King Tutankhamun’s tomb).
On set, a special “dance floor” was used to simulate the intense rocking of the ship and the resulting seasickness among the diners. For most it’s too much to bear after Indy begins sharing grisly details about Egyptian mummies. The only one left at the scene’s finale is the steady and confident Henry Jones, Sr. (Lloyd Owen). It was a fitting scene to begin with: a sprinkling of knowledge mixed with tongue-in-cheek humor, key ingredients to a one-of-a-kind production.
Three decades on, Lucasfilm raises its own glass to The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and its dedicated cast and crew, who crisscrossed the globe on a year-round schedule and had almost as many adventures as Indy himself.