The Iconic Archaeologist: Five(ish) Fun Facts About Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

June 19, 2023

Written by: Jim Smith

One of the greatest heroes of American cinema is about to make his triumphant return to the big screen. Indiana Jones – our favorite adventurous archaeologist – hits theaters nationwide on June 30th with his fifth film Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. With Hollywood legend Harrison Ford reprising the role he made famous, the buzz around the upcoming film is at a fever pitch.

As we anxiously count down the days until that iconic fedora graces the big screen, let’s “dig” into a few fun facts about Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark – the film that started it all. 1981’s highest grossing film at the box office was also animated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. What’s more? In 1999, Raiders of the Lost Ark (as the film was originally titled) was added to the National Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress, for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” How’s that for accolades?

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What’s in a Name?

The moniker “Indiana Jones” is famous in American adventure films. His actual name is Dr. Henry Walton Jones, Jr. It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it?

But where did the name Indiana actually come from? It was the name of story creator George Lucas’ dog. The big shaggy Alaskan Malamute had previously served as the inspiration for Chewbacca’s look in Lucas’ epic 1977 film Star Wars, and Lucas’ wife Marcia suggested the name Indiana could be a fun name for the character.

Back to Chewie: Indiana (Lucas’ dog) was a gentle giant, who also had an endearing tendency to ride in the front passenger seat of Lucas’ car. As Lucas himself explained, “A Malamute is a very large dog, like a hundred and thirty pounds and bigger than a human being and very long-haired. Having her with me all the time inspired me to give Han Solo a sidekick who was like a big, furry dog.” This story makes dog lovers like me grin from ear to ear!

Storywise, we find out how Indy got his name in part three of the Indiana Jones franchise – 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Indy’s father (Henry Jones, Sr., played to perfection by Sean Connery) reveals to his son that his name is actually Henry, further admitting that “we named the dog Indiana.” Let’s call this a happy accident!

The Look of Adventure

Harrison Ford embodies the character of Indiana Jones, but the famous outfit defines the hero’s look. Costume designer Deborah Nadoolman based Indy’s outfit – the flying jacket and fedora – on Charlton Heston’s outfit in Secret of the Incas (1954).

Image: Disney

Indy’s jacket is inspired by the leather jackets of the 1930s that preceded the advent of the famous A-2 jacket worn by American fighter and bomber pilots in World War II. Nadoolman artificially aged the jacket using Harrison Ford’s pocket knife and a wire brush.

Indy’s fedora hat came from the famous Herbert Johnson hat shop in Saville Row, London. In order to age the hat, Nadoolman grabbed and twisted it, then she and Harrison Ford both sat on it, until it looked like “a very lived-in, and well-loved” hat.

Crack! Indiana Jones’ kangaroo-hide bullwhip is based on common adventure serials (most notably the Zorro films). The original bullwhips were the personal property of stunt coordinator Glenn Randall and allegedly they were around 8 feet in length. 

So where can you find Indy’s original iconic outfit now? His jacket and hat are on display at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. However, you’re out of luck if you want to see the whip – it was sold for $43,000 at Christie’s auction house in London in December 1999.

The Boulder

The shot of Indiana Jones desperately trying to outrun that perfectly round rolling boulder is one of the epic moments in movie history. During filming, the scene was shot twice, each from five different angles. Doing the math, Harrison Ford had to outrun that boulder ten times. During one of the takes, Ford stumbled while running. The stumble looked quite authentic, and that moment in the scene was left in the final film cut.

As for the boulder itself – it was made of fiberglass, and as such was fairly light considering its size. When rolling down the ramp (and towards Ford) the boulder didn’t exactly sound ominous. In order to get just the right sound, the film’s sound designer Ben Burtt and his team tried pushing boulders down a hill, but the sounds they were getting weren’t working. Later, as they were leaving the set in a Honda Civic and coasting down a gravel hill, Burtt noticed that the sound of the grinding gravel was exactly the sound they needed. Burtt grabbed a microphone and held it near one of the car’s rear tires to record the sound effect. It’s the magic of the movies!

“Shoot the Sucker”

While Raiders is a fun film, it’s not a particularly funny film. But in between the action, adventure, and chase scenes, the film did manage to achieve a couple good laughs. One of these moments came about quite by accident.

In the chase scene in Cairo, where Indy is desperately trying to rescue Marion from Belloq’s goons, the harried hero encounters a flamboyant swordsman intent on challenging him to a sword fighting duel. In the scene, Indy was scripted to engage in a long choreographed fight, ultimately using his whip to best his attacker.

Image: Disney

However, at the time the scene was filmed, much of the film’s on-scene crew – including Harrison Ford himself – had become extremely sick with dysentery. The physical toil of filming a long, drawn-out fight scene felt too taxing. Ford suggested that Indy just “shoot the sucker” instead. Director Steven Spielberg immediately agreed, and the resulting scene has become more memorable than any fight scene could have been.

“Why’d It Have To Be Snakes?”

Indiana Jones is famous for ophidiophobia – his fear of snakes. So I’d be remiss if I didn’t dedicate some time to these slithery, slippery creatures. Curiously enough, Harrison Ford himself is not particularly afraid of snakes!

So you know that underground vault containing a miniature diorama of the ancient city of Tanis? That snake-infested vault is known as the Well of Souls. In order to stock the Well of Souls with its slithery residents to set the scene, the film producers procured upwards of 3,000 snakes. When all 3,000 snakes were placed in the vault, it was immediately apparent that 3,000 was far too few. So another 7,000 “snakes” were added to the vault. Some of these were not snakes, but legless lizards (they contain earholes, which snakes lack). In addition, Spielberg added many pieces of hose cut into lengths to resemble even more snakes.

Image: Disney

To achieve the sound of thousands of snakes slithering, sound designer Burtt stuck his fingers into a cheese casserole. This was augmented by applying wet sponges to the grip tape on a skateboard. Doesn’t that sound pleasant?

Of course, another priceless (and quite terrifying) moment occurs when Indy falls into the Well of Souls, coming face-to-face with a very agitated cobra. Being the only venomous snake in the shooting scene, the filmmakers took the very wise precaution of installing a sheet of glass in between Ford and the cobra. It’s a good thing too, as the cobra did indeed spray venom at Ford, which harmlessly hit the glass.

Image: Disney

One more snake-related tidbit. We first learn of Indy’s fear of snakes when he hops in the passenger seat of his pilot-for-hire’s river plane. Who is that goofy pilot who has to abandon his Amazonian fishing experience to fly Indy to safety? His name is Jock Lyndsey. Does that name sound familiar? There’s an entire bar/lounge named after Jock and themed to his time-frozen story. It’s called Jock Lyndsey’s Hangar Bar, and you’ll find it at Disney Springs in Walt Disney World.

Trivia Tidbit: While 10,000 snakes may steal the scene in the Well of Souls, two other memorable characters have also been hanging out there for quite some time. R2-D2 and C-3PO – those two famous droids from the Star Wars saga – are memorialized in hieroglyphic-looking sketches on the wall of the chamber.

Where To Find Indiana Jones in Disney Parks

In addition to Jock Lyndsey’s Hangar Bar in Disney Springs, fans of Indiana Jones can enjoy re-creations of a few of his iconic scenes from Raiders in the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. You can watch the boulder roll, hold your breath while Indy swipes that famous “golden idol” from the tomb, and even see that fistfight by the propeller plane that ends…poorly. And you might even get picked to be in the show (as I once was, here in this photo)!

Image: Jim Smith – Facts and Figment

Near the exit of the show, fans will find a limited time Indiana Jones experience called the Den of Destiny, featuring items from the new film and a selection of exotic drinks to put you in an adventurous mood.

Over in Disneyland’s Adventureland, you can ride alongside Indy in the Indiana Jones Adventure (Temple of the Forbidden Eye). This is considered by many to be the best attraction in Disneyland.

Are you interested in visiting Walt Disney World or Disneyland? Let Facts and Figment Vacation Planning (that’s me!) help you get there. Just fill out an interest form, or shoot me an email or message on social. However you choose, I’ll be happy to help. 

Unsurprisingly, my five fun facts multiplied into quite a few more.  But that’s what happens when you dig for treasure. I hope you found a few gems in this cinematic excavation. Which Indiana Jones film is your favorite? Let me know with a message on social: Instagram Facebook X


IMDB: Raiders of the Lost Ark

Raiders Of The Lost Ark: Why Indiana Jones Shoots The Swordsman, Jordan Williams, ScreenRant, 7/3/2021

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