Harry Potter theme park to open next year

How many books get their own theme park? Well, there is an Asterix theme park north of Paris and at least one Bible-based extravaganza. Now, to that short list, add Harry Potter. Universal Orlando Resorts and Warner Brothers have announced that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter will open in Orlando in spring of 2010.

The group – which has worked in consultation with Potter author J.K. Rowling – is calling the park a "totally immersive environment."  Visitors will step into the town of Hogsmeade, complete with train station and fabled locomotive, all standing in the shadow, of course, of Hogwarts Castle.

There will be no shortage of retail opportunities. Stores will include Zonko's, Honeydukes, and a wand shop full of deliberately dusty wand boxes where interested visitors can be matched with a wand of their own. Those ready for a meal can sup on "traditional British fare" and Butterbeer (Harry's favorite drink) at the Three Broomsticks pub (described as "an open, medieval structure.") Those with weary legs can rest in the Owlery, an open space where owls roost, and anyone wanting to send a postcard can do it from the adjoining Owl Post.

Oh, and if you're into Quidditch you can participate in a simulated Triwizard Tournament – and pick up some Quidditch equipment.

You get the idea.

Fans (and shoppers) are expected to flock to Orlando from destinations all around the planet.

The park – designed in conjunction with the creative team who worked on the Potter movies – is perhaps more directly a spinoff of the films than of the books. But without the books there would have been no films and behind the entire project stands the imagination of J.K. Rowling.

The ongoing commercialization of the books will undoubtedly make some readers (and many others) squirm. But in a day and age when book publishing seems continually on the ropes, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter might also be seen as a tribute to the power of the literary imagination to create its own space – and an impressive space, at that – in the global economy.

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