The whip cracks out in front of him, trying to keep the bad guys at bay. Unfortunately, his efforts are futile, as they continue to advance. It looks like all may be lost, until he glances above him. The rafters attached to the buildings sure don’t look sturdy, but they could provide a quick escape.
He quickly jumps onto a piece of wood, scrambling up it, and out of harm’s way. But just when he thought he was safe, another henchman pops up from behind, startling him. He throws a wild punch. Luckily, it connects, and the henchman sails over the side of the railing, falling down to the ground below.
“AND CUT!” cries out from somewhere to the right. The scene is over. The director and crew rush over to make sure everyone is okay. But of course they are…they’re professionals.
If you’ve been to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you’ve probably seen the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, an amazing show that reveals the art of stunt work five times daily. Being a huge fan of the movies, I make an effort to see it every time I visit Walt Disney World.
Today we talk to Jason, who gets thrown around a bit in the show!
JEFF: How did you get started in the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular?
JASON: Believe it or not, this is kind of my retirement plan!
JEFF: Retirement plan?! Your idea of retirement is a little different than mine.
JASON: Yeah, you’re telling me. But it’s true. I was a stunt man for the movies for a good portion of my life. Maybe this will come as a surprise to you – or maybe not, since you’re a movie guy – but the shelf life of a stunt man isn’t all that long. Sure, you get a few rare ones who are in the business for their entire lives, no matter how long (or unfortunately, how short) they are.
But most of us are only in the business for some years before it’s time to move on. Our bodies can only handle so much, and you don’t want to push them too far.
JEFF: But you’re still doing stunts!
JASON: Yeah, but they’re not nearly as intense as the ones I’d be doing if I were still working in the movies. That’s not to say that the stunts in the show aren’t good – we’ve got some great guys working, and some really good stunts in it!
But I liken it to an exercise routine. In the movies, it’s different every day. You do the same stunt once, maybe twice, and then you’re done with it. Each day is something new, so you never really know what is going to get thrown at you.
For the Indy show, the entire thing is scripted out, beat by beat, so there really are no surprises. It is what it is, and when you know the entire thing by heart, like I do, it’s more of a cardio workout than it is stunts. Of course, I’m still as vigilant and extra careful as ever, but I have more fun with it now.
JEFF: What do you do on the show?
JASON: Oh, a little bit of this, a little bit of that. I wasn’t one for acting, so I don’t do any of the speaking roles. Mostly, I’m one of the Nazis. We don’t come right out and say it in the show, but we’re definitely Nazis. It’s just not Disney or family friendly to throw that word around. It’s assumed that people have seen the movies, and know who we are.
I’m usually one of the guys running around, getting beat up by Indy. I had to fill in for the mechanic role a few times, which was a little variety, and fun. That guy is pretty huge, and I’m not nearly as tall as him, so they have these sort of platform shoes for people to wear to boost their height. It’s fun to recreate one of the more iconic moments from the movie.
JEFF: Do you have a favorite stunt you like to perform?
JASON: No favorites, per say, but I do like the free fall from the top of the building. It’s blissful, in its own way, for those few seconds when you’re hanging in the air. It’s a dangerous stunt, don’t get me wrong, but it’s also a lot of fun.
JEFF: I heard a little bit about the control system for the stunts that you guys use. Some of the stunt guys actually set it off?
JASON: Yeah, that’s true, a little bit. I’m not a techno guy, but the show was one of the first in the industry to use this new type of control system. It’s this complex computer thing that is way above my head, but essentially, it lets you control the actions and sequences in real time.
In stunt work, we want everything planned down to the second, but of course, that’s not always the case, so we can’t have it all time out. Someone may miss their mark by half a second, and mess up the rest of the show. So we have little markers that we hit to make things happen when WE’RE ready to have them happen. Some of the other stuff is triggered by the guy in the control booth, who you see in the middle of the theater.
It’s a neat system, a neat idea, and I wish I could tell you more beyond that, but honestly I don’t know how that thing works. I’m just the guy who gets thrown off buildings for a living!
JEFF: Any interesting tidbits to share about the show?
JASON: I’m not too sure, honestly. What do you want to know? There really aren’t many ‘fun’ stories to share. At least, none I can share here! (laughs).
I can throw out some quick facts for you about the show. Let’s see. The giant boulder weighs about 450 pounds. There never really is a danger in it running over a person, though, as long as they’re running in the track. They can drop down at any time into the recessed running area, and the ball will roll right over them, safely. But still it can be pretty scary.
Also, that idol was made from one of the originals from the movie. I thought that was neat. I want to take it home with me one day.
JEFF: Any parting words for the people who’ve seen the show?
JASON: Yeah, don’t try it at home, kids! (laughs) Seriously, I hear more stories from people who say their kids got hurt trying to recreate something from the show. We’re professionals, and we’re trained. I hate to hear a kid got a broken limb trying to emulate something we did!
If you’re really interested in learning more about stuntmen and stuntwomen, read Vic Armstrong’s new book, The True Adventures of the World’s Greatest Stuntman. It’s a great insight into the work we do, and he’s got some fantastic stories. He doesn’t pull any punches, and lets you know the real deal.
A big thank you to Jason for taking the time out of his busy schedule of getting thrown off buildings by Indiana Jones to chat with me.
And be sure to check back every week to read more directly From The Mouth Of The Mouse!
If you are, or know, a Cast Member who would like to share some of their stories and possibly be featured right here on MiceChat, please email me at [email protected]. I’d love to hear from you!
You can read older columns of From The Mouth Of The Mouse here!
Jeff can help you plan your perfect Disney vacation with Fairy Godmother Travel! Call him at 732-278-7404 or email him at [email protected] for a free, no-obligation quote for Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, Aulani or Adventures By Disney.
Jeff also writes a MiceChat column titled The 626. We invite you to check it out!
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