Remember “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles”? No, not the opening sequence of “The Last Crusade” starring River Phoenix as a teenage version of Harrison Ford’s iconic archeologist. We’re talking about the short-lived ’90s series starring Sean Patrick Flanery as the title character. The two-season curiosity has been mostly left behind in its decade, but now Disney has acknowledged it — and is putting it on Disney+, no less.
The news was announced out of The Walt Disney Company’s Upfronts Presentation on Tuesday afternoon. The show will be available to stream on Disney+ starting May 31, in anticipation of the release of “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” in theaters next month. In addition, all four of the initial “Indiana Jones” movies — “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “The Temple of Doom,” “The Last Crusade,” and “The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” — will also be added to the streamer, after inexplicably being left off since its launch in 2019.
Although mostly forgotten today, “Young Indiana Jones” had serious pedigree behind it, and a very complicated release history. It originally premiered on ABC as “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles,” and ran for 28 episodes from March 1992 to June 1993. Four made for TV films were released between 1994 and 1996, and the series was later edited to 22 TV films under the title “The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones” in 1999; based on Disney’s titling, it’s likely the latter cuts are the ones being put on the service.
As for what the show was about, it was essentially “Forrest Gump” or “Midnight in Paris” but set in the 1910s and based around young Indiana Jones (played by Flanery as a teen and Corey Carrier as a younger child) traveling the world and getting into adventures. In the process, the young hero constantly ran into real-life historical figures, the likes of which include Leo Tolstoy, John Ford, Sigmund Freud, T.E. Lawrence, Al Capone, Louis Armstrong, Winston Churchill, and many, many more. The series also featured George Hall, as an elderly Indy in flashforwards, although Ford made an appearance in one episode set in 1950.
Ford wasn’t the only member of the original films involved in the series; George Lucas created and executive produced, in addition to providing the stories for most episodes. “Young Indiana Jones” also attracted many prominent directors and writers to work on it, including Joe Johnston, Terry Jones, Nicholas Roeg, Mike Newell, and even Carrie Fisher, who wrote an episode where Indy had a romance with French dancer/spy Mata Hari.
The show’s Disney+ debut marks the first time that the series has made the leap to streaming, after decades of being tough to track down. VHS editions of several episodes were released in 1999, but not the entire series. The last time the series was made available for home viewing was in 2008, when it was released on DVD to tie-in with the release of “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” The DVDs also included an insane 94 historical documentaries created by Lucasfilm, telling the real-life stories of the historical figures seen in the show. (Rick McCallum, who produced the series, then became the main producer other than Lucas on the “Star Wars” prequel films, before leaving Lucasfilm before Disney’s acquisition in 2012.)
There had been some question about whether this series, given its lack of accessibility for decades, was even still regarded by Lucasfilm (let alone Disney) as being Indy’s official backstory. If it was, indeed, still canon. Simply because Disney might have wanted to tell its own separate story about Indy’s youth at some point. But putting the series on Disney+ feels like an endorsement that this is Indy’s official history and won’t be rewritten anytime soon.
Although Flanery is (presumably) not making a cameo in “Dial of Destiny,” the fifth film in the beloved series will feature a young Indiana Jones of sorts, in the form of a digitally de-aged Harrison Ford. The film, which sees James Mangold take over directing duties from Steven Spielberg, also stars Phoebe Waller-Bridge, John Rhys-Davies, Mads Mikkelsen, Boyd Holbrook, Thomas Kretschmann, Toby Jones, and Antonio Banderas. The movie will release in theaters June 30.