The great thing about the Journey to the Center of the Earth refurb is that you could take a "queue tour" with a Cast Member explaining the details of the queue exhibitions and theming in character! It was so cool!!!
And I would never have known about it if it wasn't for Ichigopara! THANK YOU!!!
I just checked the schedule for temporary closures on the website and unfortunately JttCotE reopens 6/24 (Wednesday), so if you didn't do the queue tour already and you're not going in the pouring rain today, you're running out of time.
The good news, though, is that Raging Spirits is closed from 8/25~9/3 and 20K Leagues from 9/8~9/19, so hopefully those will have the queue tour, too!
StormRider is closed 9/4~9/7, and that would be a nice tour, though I doubt they'll do it... I hope I'm wrong! Although the queue tour was exclusively in Japanese, it was a very cool experience. That said, it is definitely enhanced by knowing at least some Japanese (Our CM used lots of hand gestures and pointing. She tried explaining in simple Japanese when I looked confused...she made this effort even though we were with a "translator"^^ and without being asked.) or having a Japanese speaker who doesn't mind translating with you. The CM for our tour even waited patiently as one member of our group translated important points into English. Sometimes she even waited as a signal to him, like, "Hey, aren't you gonna translate that? It's a really cool detail!" like they were working together. Very very cool.
Unfortunately, idiot that I am, I had forgotten the battery for my camera on that day... I can't post photos, but I was amazed by the detail of the CMs knowledge of the attraction. I just kept thinking, "This is not her usual job. But she's doing this so casually and so thoroughly, as if it's always part of the attraction." We learned that although the drill parts no longer spin (because the tunnels are finished, I think^^), the wheels on the huge drilling machine that extends out in the central plaza are spinning backwards because it's being pulled out now that it's finished its work.^^
We learned about all the ducts and vents pumping breathable air into our subterranean cavern. And that the exhibits in the queue are in glass cases because the air pressure inside is regulated to match the deep underground pressure (not to protect from overzealous Guests^^). You can even see the gloves used to reach into the glass to study insects and hear the air condensers working!
The CM told us about Nemo's research into the sonic frequencies of crystals and studying the insects whose bodies light up to try to harness their power to provide light/electricity for the Research Station itself. We almost got to see Nemo, too...he had just walked away from a cigar and a snack before we got to his office. This is one queue detail that is wonderfully enhanced by the tour! Now, whenever I queue for JttCotE, I will feel like I "just missed" Captain Nemo! Something about his cigar and food, too, reminded me of chocolate chip cookies left out for Santa on Christmas Eve and really enhanced the magic of this area for me!^^
She also informed us that the Terravators were built because Nemo had discovered a natural tunnel in the caverns and expanded it. We even got to see plans for a bird-shaped flying machine that Nemo's been working on! He's already installed a landing pad for it out in the central plaza - just look for the big "N." I don't think this means an actual attraction is coming anytime soon, but I loved the depth of the tour story.^^ At the end of the tour, we were given the very rare opportunity to actually touch things inside one of the cases! That was fantastic! My stupid camera battery!!!
Finally though, I think the most surprising and subtle detail was explained not by the CM, but by our incredible "translator," an ex-CM in our group. He pointed out that the steam around the attraction, and all around Mysterious Island, is actually warm. I always thought it was just smoke from a fog machine, but this detail really brought home the Imagineers' obsession with detail at Tokyo DisneySea. It actually occurred to someone that some Guests might try to touch it, and if they did, it should be heated. Whoa.^^
PS: For fun, I'm adding a poll, too! What Queue Tours would you most like to see? I'm only putting TDS because, although there's great theming, I don't really think most of the TDL attractions have queues that actually immerse me in another place the way TDS attractions do...maybe it's just my memory, though...I don't go to TDL often.^^ The only queues I can even kind of remember are the three Mountains and Hunny Hunt. Oh, and Monsters, Inc. And this time, multiple choices are allowed, so pick all your favorites. Lemme know if I forgot a great queue somewhere.^^