So apparently DisneySea offers background story tours of the epic Journey to the Center of the Earth attraction whenever the ride is down for refurbishment. Did you know this? I certainly didn't. But my little jungle cruise telegraph alerted me, and we snatched up some spots on the tour.
This tour isn't announced anywhere, but it has a name (WHO DID THIS). It's called the Magma Sanctum Tour, Magma Sanctum being a reference to the ground level area of the attraction. To get on the tour, all you have to do is show up. You'll know something is up by the fact that there's a 1 hour line despite the ride not actually running. The tour goes on until around 5PM, it lasts about 20-30 minutes.
I should make it clear that this is not a backstage area tour of the attraction. Sadly. Oh how we'd all love a backstage tour of this ride, right? No, this is more of a background story tour. The tour is only available in Japanese (though who knows, the cast member delivering the tour might answer questions in English if they're proficient in English - I didn't think to ask).
If you've ever been on this attraction, you know it has a very detailed queue area. This is the above ground level you're on before you get into the Terravator that takes you down to the base station. Have you ever peered into the prop cages and wanted to know more about what you see? This is the tour for you.
We were greeted by a cast member who introduced herself and taught us a secret greeting shared by all cast members on the Mysterious Island. I'm definitely going to try it out the next time I go, supposedly if I do it right, they'll greet me back in the same way!
After the introduction, we were taken in to the magma sanctum where the atmosphere music was playing softly in the background, setting the tone and keeping up the mystery. We stopped at each prop cage and piece of artwork along the way. The cast member explained the background story, and pointed out little details that you may have missed previously.
I have a confession to make, despite the description on the attraction's presentation page, I had completely forgotten that Center of the Earth is also one of Captain Nemo's projects at DisneySea. It's his research and workspaces you see presented all throughout the magma sanctum. I always figured it was professor Otto Lidenbrock's projects, but I guess I did question the random Nemo references here and there. Glad I got that cleared up. I love how ambitious DisneySea's version of Captain Nemo is.
We were taken to the Terravators, but instead of going down to the base station, we were told that we were free to take pictures. Thinking back, I wish I'd pushed the elevator button (... Terravator button?) to try and call it up! Missed opportunity for sure. You're normally not allowed to take pictures of the Terravators, this tour is the only opportunity to get pictures of them. And since each tour group only consisted of 8 people, you get amazing deserted pictures that really show off the atmosphere and details of the space. It's a low light area, which can be very tricky for photography, but also a fun challenge.
We were taken out through a secret cavern off to the side of the Terravators. The last prop cage had been unlocked, and we were free to enter it to take a closer look at Nemo's research. We were also free to pose for pictures. I bumped into every. single. thing. in. the prop cage. Oops.
There were a pair of boots left outside... I regret not asking whose they were. Something to remember for the next time they offer this tour! I definitely want to go on it again to find new details to photograph.
Overall I was pretty pleased with this tour. I find it strange that they only do it for Journey, I'd love to have a similar style tour for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, or Tower of Terror! Oh, I'd kill for good pictures of details in that hotel lobby... who knows, maybe some day!