Since Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012, a serious amount of speculation has been hashed – over what to do with Indiana Jones. Unlike Star Wars, which has an entire universe of characters and stories to work with lasting ad infinitum, Lucas and Steven Spielberg’s homage to classic pulp adventure is based around, well, one man. In theory, that’s a lot harder to make last for 40-plus years.
Before the dust settled on The Force Awakens, the inevitable prospect of a fifth outing for Henry Jones, Jr. seemed like it could possibly go the reboot route, leaving the aging Harrison Ford behind for a younger and more nimble up-and-comer to take over Indy’s whip and fedora. Another sequel is the most obvious (and fastest to mint) way for Disney to make good on the property it picked up, and one that’s necessary to get the bad taste of out fans’ mouths after the generally tepid disaster of Crystal Skull; but Ford’s not getting any younger.
Thankfully, longtime producer Frank Marshall said they wouldn’t turn Indy into 007, a sentiment which Spielberg then echoed after a new sequel was green-lit earlier this year, saying Ford would be the only Indiana Jones.
Ford himself has a history of excitedly saying he’s eager to play Indy again, and while it’s unclear where a film series might go after 2019 (short of continuing the serial with a new protégé), approaching Indy’s fifth outing in any other way would’ve been a huge slap in the face to the character’s legacy.
Still, the question remains: what to do with the series?
A solution that could yield a major hit, and one that’s staring Disney in the face, is making a cartoon. And Patrick Shoenmaker, an incredibly talented artist who’s dealt with Lucasfilm before, is working to achieve that potential reality.
Before Disney’s acquisition, Lucasfilm commissioned Shoenmaker to make some official Indiana Jones artwork, first for a trading card set from Topps to release alongside Crystal Skull in 2008, later for a Raiders-inspired print in 2012. For Shoenmaker, the logical evolution was obvious: convince the studio to let him do Indy’s animated adventures as a real show.
As such, he’s been working on a pitch to sell them on the idea for the past several years – and really, his incredible results speak for themselves; the stylized look he captures is perfect for a pulp throwback like Indy, much more so than a modern CG show like Star Wars Rebels could ever be.
With the success of an animated show, Disney could ease up on Ford’s cinematic presence, and the fifth will likely be his last. I’ve even got a recommendation for the perfect Ford soundalike: David Esch, who provided the pipes for both Han Solo and Indy in the 2002 Star Wars: Galactic Battleground and 2003 games Indiana Jones and the Emperors Tomb, respectively. If the series became a hit, and there’s no reason it wouldn’t, it could spawn more games, too – another arena where Indy’s presence is sorely missed.
Though it’s not known why Shoenmaker wasn’t able to convince Lucasfilm to give him the green light back in 2012 – presumably because the impending sale of the company could have been throwing the brakes on any new developments – he has been working steadily on the project “for fun” on his own.
The latest word from Shoenmaker is from last year, but judging Disney’s skittishness in talking about Indiana Jones before getting the release of Episode VII out of the way, the time could be coming up soon when an animated series could be more than just dream for fans.
If the box office for Crystal Skull, as bad as it was, is anything to go by, fans are hungry for more far-flung capers with Indy; the success of Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series and the response to the bit of first concept art from Disney’s own globetrotting Ducktales 2017 reboot also would indicate the desire for more thrilling genre tales is pretty high. A cartoon series for Dr. Jones is a no-brainer – Disney only needs to reach out and seize the opportunity. We should all hope it does.