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12 Legendary Facts About Legends of the Hidden Temple

For Nickelodeon viewers whose tastes leaned more toward the cerebral than the booger-infested obstacle courses of Double Dare, the network had a solution: Legends of the Hidden Temple, the 1993-95 game show for history buffs that still had enough action to fill a Spielberg movie. Through four rounds of physical and intellectual challenges, two-member teams tried to navigate a massive Universal Studios set that looked like a Mayan minefield. Check out some facts on the show’s origins, why it made kids cry, and how it didn’t have the budget to let too many of its youthful contestants win.

1. THE GUARDS TRAUMATIZED CHILDREN.

Legends of the Hidden Temple via Facebook

If a team was able to successfully pass the show’s first three rounds—which included answering trivia on the Steps of Knowledge and crossing a giant moat—they were “rewarded” with an obstacle course inside the Temple that was a confusing mass of puzzles, rooms, and Temple Guards that would pop out to terrify the tired children. One contestant named Keeli told SBNation.com in 2013 that the sight of a Guard bursting from a hidden compartment on set reduced her to tears. “I'm 31 and I can't go to haunted houses,” she said. “I'm deathly afraid of things popping out of closets and doors.” Another contestant got so upset that she puked in the Pit of Despair.

2. PRODUCERS PICKED THE HOST ALMOST AT RANDOM.

Being a game show host takes a very unique skillset—though Nickelodeon and producers didn’t seem to care much about that one way or another. Host Kirk Fogg told Buzzfeed that he was more or less picked at random out of a headshot catalog and asked to audition by reading some play-by-play from a teleprompter. It was his first-ever hosting gig.

3. THERE WAS A MAN INSIDE OLMEC.

Legends of the Hidden Temple via Facebook

One of Temple’s most memorable elements was the giant head of Olmec, a faux-stone carving that would narrate the proceedings and offer underwhelming advice to the contestants. (The head's name was probably a nod to the Olmec, a civilization that predated the Maya and made giant stone heads.) According to Fogg, Dee Bradley Baker, the voice of Olmec, was actually inside of the 6-foot-tall head with a microphone and a script. As he spoke, he’d control the movement of the statue’s mouth with a lever. When he wasn’t talking, Baker would kick back in the head and read a book or jump out and watch the stunts.

4. THE FIRST EPISODE TOOK 18 HOURS TO SHOOT.

In addition to the expected production hang-ups typical of any inaugural episode, Temple had the added stresses of an elaborate set and physical challenges that were difficult to coordinate. Fogg told Albany’s WCDB Radio that their first contest took over 18 hours to shoot. By the time of the Temple Run, the exhausted contestants were sobbing. The show eventually worked out the kinks, getting a shooting day down to a far more manageable 12 hours. (They also had a nurse on set in case any kids keeled over. By all accounts, no children were seriously harmed.)

5. THE DARK FOREST SMELLED TERRIBLE.

Temple Guard and stunt supervisor Michael Lupia told a Legends fan site that his least-favorite room in the Temple was the Dark Forest. In addition to having to wait inside of a fake tree, the limbs cut into his arms and the entire room smelled like “three years’ worth of B.O.” (Foam rubber is not friendly to cast sweat.)

6. THE SILVER MONKEY WAS DECEPTIVELY DIFFICULT.

Many a viewer has screamed at their television watching incompetent adolescents try to assemble the seemingly simple Silver Monkey: There are only three parts. But according to Fogg, the reason contestants had so much trouble with it is because they were trying to do it with the monkey facing away from them, a clock running out, and the threat of Guards always looming. Easier said than done.

7. PRODUCERS COULDN'T LET TOO MANY KIDS WIN.

Fogg told Great Big Story in 2016 there was a good reason only 30-odd teams wound up finishing the final obstacle course out of the show’s 120 episodes: Producers didn’t have the budget to award a grand prize to too many kids. The Temple Run was designed to be incredibly difficult so they wouldn’t exceed their maximum allotment of eight prizes per season. (All of the kids got a pair of sneakers for competing, though.)

8. THE GRAND PRIZE WAS KIND OF MISLEADING.

Out of the limited prizes producers were allowed to give out, a trip to Universal Studios was often featured during the broadcast episode. This made little sense, as the contestants were often from the Orlando area where the show was taped on the Universal Studios lot. The “real” prize, according to one contestant, was a trip to Busch Gardens. Another contestant won a bike, a CD player, and a trip for two to Vermont.

9. THE KIDS WERE PAIRED AT RANDOM.

According to a former contestant named Anthony, the two-person teams were usually the result of kids being herded into a staging area and paired together at random by a production assistant. They’d have a few minutes to strap on their gear and get to know one another before falling into the moat. Not all of them got along, either: Keeli said she feared she'd be bounced from the show during the trivia portion because her partner was "an abject idiot."

10. IT WON A CABLEACE AWARD.

In 1995, the National Academy of Cable Programming honored Temple with their CableACE award for Best Game Show Special or Series. (Owing to the Emmys increasingly recognizing cable programs, the ceremony was discontinued in 1998.)

11. THERE’S A MOVIE ON THE WAY.

Legends of the Hidden Temple via Facebook

Since Legends was inspired by the action-adventure film genre—producer David Greenfield once said he wanted kids to feel like they were in the middle of an Indiana Jones movie—it was only fitting for it to eventually morph into one. Nickelodeon recently announced that the show would be adapted into a live-action television movie about three kids faced with solving the puzzles of Olmec. The Steps of Knowledge are also expected to appear.

12. OLMEC WAS SOLD OFF TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER.

In 2002, Nickelodeon unloaded many of its props and set from their 1990s heyday to clear out their Universal Studios location. One ex-staffer told author Mathew Klickstein (Slimed! An Oral History of Nickelodeon) that Olmec’s foam rubber head was up for sale. “I wanted to buy it,” he said, “but my wife would’ve killed me.”

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Cell Free Technology
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This Pixel Kit Will Let You Play Tetris With Jellyfish DNA
Cell Free Technology
Cell Free Technology

Forget playing Tetris on your phone. Now you can play it with jellyfish DNA. Bixels is a DIY game kit that lets you code your own games using synthetic biology, lighting up a digital display with the help of DNA.

Its 8-by-8 pixel grid is programmed to turn on with the help of the same protein that makes jellyfish glow, called green fluorescent protein (GFP). But you can program it to do more than just passively shine. You can use your phone and the associated app to excite Bixels' fluorescent proteins and make them glow at different frequencies, producing red, blue, and green colors. Essentially, you can program it like you would any computer, but instead of electronics powering the system, it's DNA.

Two blue boxes hold Bixel pixel grids.

Researchers use green fluorescent protein all the time in lab experiments as an imaging agent to illuminate biological processes for study. With Bixels, all you need is a little programming to turn the colorful lights (tubes filled with GFP) into custom images or interactive games like Tetris or Snake. You can also use it to develop your own scientific experiments. (For experiment ideas, Bixels' creator, the Irish company Cell-Free Technology, suggests the curricula from BioBuilder.)

A screenshot shows a user assembling a Bixel kit on video.

A pixel kit is housed in a cardboard box that looks like a Game Boy.

Bixels is designed to be used by people with all levels of scientific knowledge, helping make the world of biotechnology more accessible to the public. Eventually, Cell-Free Technology wants to create a bio-computer even more advanced than Bixels. "Our ultimate goal is to build a personal bio-computer which, unlike current wearable devices, truly interacts with our bodies," co-founder Helene Steiner said in a press release.

Bixels - Play tetris with DNA from Cell-Free Technology on Vimeo.

You can buy your own Bixel kit on Kickstarter for roughly $118. It's expected to ship in May 2018.

All images courtesy Cell-Free Technology

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Habibou Kouyate, Stringer, Getty Images
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Play a Game to Help Scientists Defeat a Cancer-Causing Toxin
Habibou Kouyate, Stringer, Getty Images
Habibou Kouyate, Stringer, Getty Images

If you're used to fighting virtual zombies or flying spaceships on your computer, a new series of games available on Foldit may sound a little unconventional. The object of the Aflatoxin Challenge is to rearrange protein structures and create new enzymes. But its impact on the real world could make it the most important game you've ever played: The scientists behind it hope it will lead to a new way to fight one of the most ruthless causes of liver cancer.

As Fast Company reports, the citizen science project is a collaboration between Mars, Inc. and U.C. Davis, the University of Washington, the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa, and Thermo Fisher Scientific. The team's online puzzles, which debuted on Foldit earlier this month, invite the public to create a new enzyme capable of finding and destroying carcinogens known as aflatoxins.

Aflatoxins form when certain fungi grow on crops like corn, nuts, and grains. Developing countries often don't have the resources to detect it in food, leaving around 4.5 billion people vulnerable to it. When people do eat food with high aflatoxin levels unknowingly, they can contract liver cancer. Roughly a quarter of all liver cancer cases around the world can be traced back to aflatoxin exposure.

The toxin's connection to agriculture is why the food giant Mars is so interested in fighting it. By working on a way to stop aflatoxins on a molecular level, the company could prevent its spread more efficiently than they would with less direct methods like planting drought-resistant crops or removing mold by hand.

The easiest way for scientists to eradicate an aflatoxin before it causes real harm is by making an enzyme that does the work for them. With the Aflatoxin Challenge, the hope is that by manipulating protein structures, online players will come up with an enzyme that attacks aflatoxins at a susceptible portion of their molecular structure called a lactone ring. Destroying the lactone ring makes aflatoxin much less toxic and essentially safe to eat.

The University of Washington launched Foldit in 2008. Since then, the online puzzle platform has been used to study a wide range of diseases including AIDS and Chikungunya. Everyone is welcome to contribute to the Foldit's new aflatoxin project for the next several weeks or so, after which scientists will synthesize genes based on the most impressive results to be used in future studies.

[h/t Fast Company]

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