Two decades after concluding its run on Nickelodeon, Legends of the Hidden Temple is still a reliable fixture in any contemporary 20- or 30-something’s rolodex of pop culture references. How a show that only enjoyed a two-year lifespan on broadcast television has maintained such a stronghold on its once young viewers rings clear when you listen to old stars Kirk Fogg and Dee Bradley Baker talk about how much it meant to them.
“This show is unique as a game show [because it] presents a world that you want to be a part of,” said Dee Bradley Baker, who long ago won our hearts as the booming voice of Olmec, at New York Comic Con. “Any kid could have a shot at trying or doing it.”
Fogg especially exudes emotional investment when he defends the valor and integrity of the many kids who toured the course back in Orlando. “Anybody felt like they could do the show,” he said. “It took a weird combination of brains and brawn to make it through the temple.”
And, as Fogg asserts, making it through the temple wasn’t as easy as it looked, certain components especially. When asked by a fan why so many children struggled with the ostensibly simple Silver Monkey task, Fogg exclaimed, “It was hard!” He added, “By the time you got down there, you were really out of gas.”
Baker agreed: “It could be upside down and you couldn’t tell it was upside down.” Of course, the Silver Monkey was hardly the only challenging component of the game. Baker said, “Can you imagine waking up knowing that a half naked man with feathers is going to attack you at some point in your house?”
Fogg, however, identified a separate obstacle that he’d rank as the toughest: “The one with that log,” he said. “You had to hold onto that log and they spun it. No way to stay on that log. I think people went off instantly on that log. ‘Two seconds—you’re the winner!’”
It wasn’t only the contestants who struggled with the temple grounds. Fogg took it upon himself to try out every variation of the game, often at his producers’ chagrin. “Every season before we’d begin, we’d have this prep, and I’d say, ‘I want to run this temple,’” Fogg said. “They’d say, ‘We’re behind [schedule],’ and I’d say, ‘No. I want to.’” And apparently, he always got his wish. “I made it through every time. Under three minutes!”
Of course, Fogg’s duties as host were likewise no picnic. “The show was so hard to do,” he said. “It looked complicated, I’m sure, but it was a massive set. There were so many pieces to the puzzle, so to speak. It was a super, super hard show to host.”
Still, it was Fogg’s relationship with the kids that kept him invested. “We had no problem kids on that show,” he said, a sentiment he echoed about his three young costars in the Legends of the Hiddle Temple Nickelodeon movie, who accompanied him and Baker onstage at NYCC. “I felt like I was back in the ‘90s. The same energy. The same personalities.”
Not only does a reboot of Legends feel particularly apropos of this thriving era of ‘90s nostalgia, but a TV movie—releasing on Nick this November—seems like the most suitable new form for the adventure-themed game show.
“The game show, unlike maybe any game show, actually has a story,” Fogg said. “There’s a really cool world. There are interesting characters.” Such is what makes it perfect fodder for a bona fide adventure flick.
“Perhaps above all else,” Dee Bradley Baker added, likening the series and film to Indiana Jones, “the game show has life or death stakes.”
Fogg and Baker will be right alongside young stars Isabela Moner, Colin Critchley, and Jet Jurgensmeyer in the Legends film adaptation, and with plenty to do. Baker said of his old small screen partner, “He’s actually playing Kirk Fogg! But he’s got this nice little story arc.”
Fogg added, “I had to figure out how to play Kirk Fogg, don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t easy.”
As for Baker, the routine is different this time around. Now that he’s voicing a CGI character rather than a practical puppet, he’s no longer stuck inside a gigantic stone head cranking a lever to work its mouth. “By the end of [the series] I had this really buff right arm,” he said. “I twas in a dark little cave with a monitor… It was very nice back there. I’d read books.” Granted, his alone time gradually dissipated as the series carried on. Baker said, “Once we got into the first season, they realized they wanted Olmec to say more. They started gradually shifting more duties to Olmec: the asking of the questions, the greeting of the legend.” And, of course, “Let’s rock!”
And while Fogg espoused nothing but love for every kid he crossed paths with on the Legends set, especially the youngsters—“The 14-year-olds were always really uncomfortable,” he said. “The little kids were like, ‘Hi! How are ya?!’”
Perhaps most importantly, he had no choice but to pick a side once and for all: the Silver Snakes. “They were a little bit down and dirty,” Fogg said. “They were gritty. They were willing to do the hard work. After work they’d always have pizza stains on their shirts.” Apparently, pizza stains are the key to the Legends of the Hidden Temple host’s heart.