Below you will find a brief history of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles which became The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones. For a full detailed explanation of the series and its development, please check out the following resources:
In 1988, while filming Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, George Lucas had a great idea… share the story of Indy’s past with the world. The idea came from story development where Lucas had to consider Indy’s past for the movie plots and from the actors constantly asking about Indy’s prior experiences. There was also a large fan base that wanted to know more about their favorite archaeologist. As a result, Lucas included the brief opening scene featuring River Phoenix as Young Indy in The Last Crusade. After the film, Lucas turned to television to serve as the platform for sharing Indy’s diverse past. Weekly episodes, he thought, were the key to divulging Indy’s background, understanding that numerous one hour episodes could cover more ground than a single film.
Lucas, always the historian, decided to use Young Indy as a vehicle to teach people (specifically kids) about early 20th Century history. Later, George Lucas even compared Young Indy to Forrest Gump, indicating that Indy traveled around and happened upon historical people and events.
Sean Patrick Flanery
Ruth de Sosa
|Henry "Indiana" Jones, Jr. (Nine Years Old)
Henry "Indiana" Jones, Jr. (Sixteen Years Old)
Henry "Indiana" Jones, Jr. (Fifty Years Old)
Henry "Indiana" Jones, Jr. (Ninety-three Years Old)
Henry Jones, Sr.
Max von Sydow
The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles debuted on ABC March 4, 1992 to critical acclaim.
Each episode opened with a bookend set in modern-day (1993) and featured a 93 year old Indiana Jones (played by George Hall) reminiscing about an event from his past. An encounter with another person usually triggered these stories. For example, in the original pilot two teenagers are in a museum and run into old Indiana. The kids refer to the artifacts as “junk” sparking Indy into a tirade that results in him starting the story of the episode. From there the story shifts to the past where a nine year old or teenage Indy lives out the historically-based plot, meeting influential and historically significant people along the way. Each episode ended with a brief conclusion to the opening bookend.
The episodes were filmed on locations all over the world, adding a strong sense of realism and dedication to historical accuracy. In all, 35 countries were used in filming, including Italy, England, France, Czechoslovakia, India, Russia, and China. The show also featured a topnotch writing staff, which included Frank Darabont, Rosemary Ann Sisson, Gavin Scott, Jonathan Hensleigh, Matthew Jacobs, and Carrie Fisher.
Between 1992 and 1994, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles was nominated for twenty-three Emmys, ultimately winning ten. Actors and writers were also nominated for and won several awards for their contributions to the series. The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles also featured pioneering digital effects that helped pave the way for many of the special effects common in television and film today. In fact, Young Indy was the first television show to use digital processing.
By its third season, Young Indy was beginning to lose its strong fan base and ABC decided to cancel the show. Despite its critical acclaim, Indy fans never caught on to the show because it lacked the classic Indy feel and was inconsistent with the timeline of the stories.
The name Indiana Jones is synonymous with adventure, action, gun fights, and whip cracking. Young Indy, being catered for television, education, and a younger audience, was simply missing the hardcore action of the Indiana Jones films. Fans just couldn’t cope with Indiana Jones being a sometimes naive kid.
The show was also not filmed and presented in any specific order. It was hard for viewers to keep up with Indy as he travelled across the globe one week as a nine year old and then the next as a seventeen year old. Mood of the episodes was also inconsistent, one week would be a humorous frolic and the next Indy would witness mass slaughter on the Western Front. Many people argue that Young Indy could have gone the distance had there been more consistency in the story line.
During the show’s time, Lucas did make effort to repair these problems by focusing more on the older, teenage Indy. Despite these final changes, Young Indy was doomed from the beginning. Its inconsistent story line and lack of middle-aged Indy action pushed audiences away. Still though, the show lives on as an entertaining and accurate historical narrative of the early 20th Century.
At the time of Young Indy’s cancellation there were, of course, episodes that had been planned for future production. Some of these episodes were produced as made for TV movies in association with the former Family Channel (i.e. Attack of the Hawkmen), however the rest of the planned episodes exist now only as ideas. Had the series continued it is certain that we would have seen Indy meet other historical figures, but we may have also been introduced to Indy’s fictional mentor Abner Ravenwood or his archrival Rene Belloq.
Below is a list published by LucasFilm that outlines proposed episodes that were never produced.
-Princeton, May 1905
-Geneva, May 1909
-Jerusalem, June 1909
-Stockholm, December 1909
-Tokyo, April 1910
-La Havre, June 1916
-Bombay, April 1919
-Moscow, July 1918
-Buenos Aires, June 1919
-Havana, December 1919
-Honduras, December 1920
-Alaska, June 1921
-Brazil, December 1921
In 1999, a new Indiana Jones VHS trilogy set was released. To accompany this new set, Lucas decided to market several of the Young Indy episodes on VHS as well. The series was renamed The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones, the original bookends were removed, and each episode was re-titled and paired with another episode to form one cohesive hour and a half film. Lucas did this to make the series more chronological. To make transitions between episodes smoother, many new scenes were shot using the original cast (some of whom had grown considerably older looking).
Not all Young Indy episodes were released on VHS. In 2000, due to the rising demand for DVD format and dwindling sales, Lucas halted VHS production on further Young Indy films. As early as 2001, plans were already being discussed to put Young Indy on DVD, but just how it would be done would be decided later.
George Lucas always intended for Young Indy to serve as an educational tool. With the freedom of DVD to include hours of bonus features, it was decided to include relevant documentaries with each Young Indy episode. Lucas formed JAK Films to create these documentaries and hired Emmy-Award winning film maker, David Schneider to head up this daunting task. Five years and 94 documentaries later, Young Indy was released in three DVD sets beginning in October, 2007.
From the beginnings of the original show, George Lucas intended Young Indy to be a valuable learning tool. In fact, a teacher’s lesson kit was produced and distributed in 1992 to supplement the series.
Today, with the series finally in a cohesive chronological order, Young Indiana Jones serves as a perfect vehicle for revealing early 20th Century history to students. Following Indy as he travels across the globe gets students excited and involved as the stories unfold. If you’re still not convinced consider the 94 documentaries that now accompany the series. Each one ranges from 20-30 minutes in length, perfect for classroom use. Produced by Emmy-Award winning filmmaker, David Schneider, each documentary is skillfully edited to be highly informative while avoiding the boredom that plagues many documentaries.
To learn more about the educational benefits of Young Indy, please read our article The Case for Young Indy.