Professors strengthen Yale-Indy relationship in DVD

Yale may have been temporarily transformed over the summer to look like the adventurous fantasy world of Indiana Jones. But there are few other connections between the hallowed halls of the University’s Gothic buildings and the fictional action hero.

“Indy” and the University, however, are more closely tied than most Yalies might think.

Extras on the set of “The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones” stroll across campus. With students gone, University buildings lent themselves to film crews this summer.
Lea Yu
Extras on the set of “The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones” stroll across campus. With students gone, University buildings lent themselves to film crews this summer.

Eight Yale professors and alumni are featured on the DVD of the first season of the 1990s television show “The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones,” which will be released Tuesday. In several interviews that appear on the special features section of the DVDs, the Yale luminaries provide commentary on the historical periods and social phenomena featured in various episodes of the Indiana Jones television series — from the First World War to Western forays into 19th-century Africa.

Some students interviewed said although they prefer the movie version of Indiana Jones or know little about the television version, the Yale presence in the old TV series might compel them to rent the DVDs.

“The series is quite extensive,” said Paul Tucker GRD ’79, who appears in one of the documentaries on the DVD. “They basically take this individual, Indy Jones, and plop him down in various parts of the world.”

The documentary in which Tucker was interviewed explores early-20th-century Paris and the avant-garde movement. Tucker said the documentary is intended to supplement an episode of the show set in France.

“The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” was an hour-long Emmy award-winning children’s television series broadcast on ABC from 1992 to 1996. The show, produced by George Lucas — who also produced the Indiana Jones movie series — took advantage of the mass following surrounding Indiana Jones that developed in the 1980s to educate children about history and geography, Lucasfilm representatives said.

“Through the series, [Lucas] wanted people to go back and learn more about the people that they would see on the show,” Lucasfilm Publicity Director Lynne Hale said.

Renamed “The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones” when it was released on video in 1999, the TV series was narrated by an elderly Indiana Jones, who told of his childhood adventures in flashback form. The series was filmed on location all over the world — including in Morocco, Czechoslovakia and India — and depicted the movie hero participating in historical events such as a safari expedition with President Theodore Roosevelt and the First World War Battle of Verdun, which Hale said allowed Lucas to indulge in his own love of history.

“George Lucas has a passion for history,” Hale said. “He thought of this as a way to engage young people in history.”

In the television show, a teenage “Indy” meets historical figures such as Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison and Pablo Picasso. The accompanying documentaries included on the DVD, which feature experts speaking about a particular historical era, are meant to provide more insight into the time periods and individuals depicted in different episodes.

The 94 historical documentaries in the special features section feature eight Yale professors and alumni, who were interviewed on subjects ranging from archaeology to European art to ecology.

Tucker said he thinks the show’s producers recruited members of the Yale community for the DVD because of the University’s prestigious reputation in the academic world.

“I guess I was chosen to speak on the matter because they wanted someone fairly articulate and knowledgeable,” Tucker said. “Yale has turned out a remarkable array of distinguished academics, and that is undoubtedly one of the reasons why they chose so many Yale academics.”

The documentary about Paris also featured prominent professors from SUNY and Trinity College.

David Schneider, the director of the documentary series, could not be reached for comment.

Yale students interviewed said the inclusion of Yale professors is unlikely to affect their interest in purchasing the DVD.

Although he is a fan of the Indiana Jones movies starring Harrison Ford, David DeAngelis ’08 said he has not seen any episodes of the Young Indiana Jones television series — although he vaguely remembers reading Young Indiana Jones novels in elementary school. DeAngelis said he might consider watching the television shows if he found out more about the role that Yale professors played in their production.

“I don’t know if I would buy it, but it sounds really cool,” DeAngelis said.

But some other students said Yale’s connection to the DVD will not factor into their purchasing decisions.

“I would be interested in renting the DVD, but I don’t think that it would be worth buying,” said Ilya Byzov ’09, who said he is an Indiana Jones fan. “I just like the old Indiana Jones series with Harrison Ford.”

The “Adventures of Young Indiana Jones” DVD will be released in three volumes. The second volume is set to appear in stores on Dec. 18, and the third will be released in spring 2008.

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