Cosplay group with local roots celebrates Indiana Jones saga
“Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark” premiered on June 12, 1981. Forty-two years later, the fifth installment of the “Indiana Jones” franchise is set to host its premiere at the end of the month.
Forty-two years of an archeologist going on the adventures of a lifetime went beyond a cinematic universe. It has brought smiles, laughter, hope, tears and community to those who needed it most. Bryan Long, one of the members of the California Jones cosplay group who have been invited to the “Indiana Jones and The Dial of Destiny” premiere, describes this magic as, “the power of the hat.”
The California Jones cosplay group is just as their name implies, a dedicated community of California residents who enjoy cosplaying characters from the Indiana Jones universe.
One of the founding members, and a West Ranch High School graduate, Morgan Lauff said that the group had sparked from a meetup to practice whip cracking.
“The more that we networked, the more I started to realize that there are a lot of Indiana Jones cosplayers that live out in California, in Southern California in particular,” said Lauff.
In 2021, the group’s Facebook presence was born.
Over the weekends, group members got together to crack whips, share cosplay costume tips, take pictures and create connections that started out by bonding over a deeply rooted love for Indiana Jones.
“I think it was just nice to have a community of people who could understand this obsession, like collecting the gear, dressing as Harrison Ford,” said member Nathan Smith-Finley. “But overall, it was just kind of like, there’s this general camaraderie.”
Indiana Jones brought them together, but every group member had their own reason for being there.
“Everybody has a different story for why they got into doing this, right, but the amazing thing about the community is everybody is here for the same reason,” said member Pete Cacioppo. “You have that instant camaraderie. It’s really easy to make new friends and have the family continue to grow.”
Long, Lauff, Smith-Finley and Cacioppo shared that the members of the group are from all ages, levels of fandom and had their own way of finding the group.
One member simply had a singular T-shirt when they wanted to join. They were welcomed in.
People at Disneyland complimented the group and expressed interest in joining. They were welcomed in.
Someone had no cosplay experience, but was ready to embark on a new adventure. They were welcomed in.
There is no ticket needed for this group.
“It doesn’t really matter what you have, Indiana Jones is right here, it’s in the heart,” said Long.
“It’s an outlet for people,” said Cacioppo. “Whether they’ve been bullied in school or whether they’ve struggled with people in their family or people in their life, they find us and they realize like this is exactly what I needed in my life in terms of having people I could be comfortable reaching out to who would support me. Whether it’s, ‘I want to celebrate a moment of joy with them,’ or it’s, ‘I’m struggling right now and I could really use the support of the group.’”
When the boots are laced up and the iconic fedora is placed on their heads, as Long describes, “the power of the hat” takes over, creating an instant response for anyone who has seen the films.
“It’s embedded in all of us,” said Long. “When we all get together even just three or four of us, it’s magical. It’s an experience that not only do we have the reason (for) doing this, because it gives back to the people, it makes their day, it changes their attitude, it puts a little pep in their step and that does wonders for me personally.”
The California Jones cosplay group will be expanding its appearances from WonderCon and Comic-Con to attending the red-carpet premiere of “Indiana Jones and The Dial of Destiny” at the El Capitan Theater on June 30, thanks to member Eugene Shin and an invitation from Lucasfilm.
“The fact that this now has brought us to one of the most penultimate moments of a lifetime is beyond satisfying and feels like an amazing sense of validation,” said Smith-Finley.