Legends of the Hidden Temple epitomized what it meant to be a "'90s kid" game show – the kitschy props, the vague themes, the action-packed physical challenges and smoke machines. Though it only ran two short years, the series gained such a strong following that it still lives on today. Not only did the series launch a thousand nostalgic Halloween costumes, but Nickelodeon released a Legends of the Hidden Temple movie in 2016.
For a quirky show that only ran between 1993 and 1995, Legends sure had some lasting power which is, in no small part, attributed to its culture of losing. Avid fans of the series can probably recall the unyielding frustration of watching another kid fail at the deceivingly complicated Shrine of the Silver Monkey. It should be no surprise that Legends of the Hidden Temple was secretly hard. Nickelodeon game shows are known for their zany physical challenges (lest we forget the Guts' famous Aggro Crag), but Legends may have actually been the most difficult. It was certainly the most terrifying.
It's not often that we get a glimpse behind the scenes on kids' game shows, but former Legends contestants have opened up about being tormented by jump scares after navigating through the show's nearly impossible obstacle course. These weird facts about Legends of the Hidden Temple paint a picture where kids are set up to lose, and we can't help but watch.
Only 32 Teams Ever Beat The Temple Run (For Good Reason)
In 120 episodes of the series, just 32 teams actually won the Temple Run round. This round was impossibly complicated for kids aged 12 to 14 -- all odds were stacked against them.
The temple contained more than a dozen rooms filled with puzzles, switchbacks, and tricks. By the time a team stepped on the iconic course, they had already endured a 12-hour session of answering trivia questions and competing physical challenges. At this point, even an adult would be exhausted and feeling pretty drained. On top of this, they had to memorize Olec's instructions, which was nearly impossible.
The talking head was frequently vague and former contestants have reported that after a while it "sounded like the teacher from Charlie Brown." Though the kids got to walk through the temple prior to competing, it was hard to remember everything they had to do. Then, there were also the temple guards.
Kids Were Genuinely So Scared By The Temple Guards They Kept Messing Up
Legends of the Hidden Temple wasn't supposed to be nearly as hard as it actually was. The Shrine of the Hidden Monkey was made up of just three simple parts. So why couldn't kids get literally anything right? Apparently, the temple guards were so terrifying, kids were too flustered to think straight.
In an interview with AV Club, even executive producer Scott Snow admitted that kids were too flustered to perform well.
" …Kids would get in the temple, and they’re so afraid of the temple guards coming out and jumping on them that they’re not thinking," he said. "When we rehearsed them, we let them go through the temple, and we told them the temple guards weren’t there. They were just so petrified that they couldn’t think about anything."
And then there's the time host Kirk Fogg loves to recount, about the time one poor contestant puked in the Pit of Despair. Former contestant Keeli stands strong in her conviction that the guards "are the scariest thing imaginable. Nothing is scarier and I will stand by that statement until the day I die."
The Temple Was Riddled With Faulty Equipment
One of the best kept secrets of Legends is that it was totally low-budget. The writers had numerous on-screen roles (some doubled as temple guards) and many of the props were DIY (Olec's eyes were made from soldered Radio Shack lights). This led to a course that was riddled with glitches. In some instances, bucket lifts would be missing. In others, doors wouldn't properly open. Each time there was equipment glitch, the team would have to start the Temple Run again.
Thankfully, this gave kids extra practice at the most difficult part of the game.
The Course Was So Difficult Producers Would Actually Yell Directions At Contestants So They Could Win
Because the temple guards were so frightening and the course was so complicated, kids were continuously losing. Not to mention that if a player didn't have enough pendants, running into a randomly-placed temple guard meant an instant loss. Producers needed wins, so they would stand off-camera and yell directions.
"We were standing on the ground in front of the temple, which is just this open wall, basically, a fourth wall, yelling at them how to do it: 'Go left, go right, go up, go down, push the wall!' Because we wanted to give prizes away," executive producer Scott Snow told AV Club. "It was never that we weren’t trying to hit a number, or we didn’t have enough money. The prizes weren’t that expensive."
In fact, College Humor interviewed Legends host Kirk Fogg in 2007, and asked why the prize included a trip to Universal Studios Florida, when that's literally where the show was being filmed already. Fogg declared that was the producers' problem, not his. But it goes to show that Legends of the Hidden Temple wasn't shelling out the big bucks for the kids.