J.K. Rowling pens a new 'Harry Potter' story and 'Potter' theme park opens

J.K. Rowling recently released a short story about the futures of such characters as Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger, while the new section of Universal Studios titled The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley just opened to the public. J.K. Rowling also recently published the mystery 'The Silkworm' under the pen name Robert Galbraith.

John Raoux/AP
J.K. Rowling's 'Harry Potter' world is the basis for the new section of the Universal Studios Florida theme park titled The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley. The new area includes a dragon which sits on top of Gringotts Bank and appears to breathe fire.

The “Harry Potter” fan base is buzzing over a new short story about the boy wizard released by “Potter” author J.K. Rowling and the opening of the new section of theme park devoted to Harry’s world.

Rowling recently published a short story about Harry and his friends on the Pottermore website (where fans can play as if they were students at magical school Hogwarts and buy “Potter” e-books). The piece is written as if it was penned by journalist Rita Skeeter and reports on the Quidditch World Cup that takes place almost 20 years after the events of the final “Potter” book. 

Skeeter writes that Harry is working as an Auror, those who combat evil wizards and witches, while his best friend, Ron Weasley, is running the Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes joke store that was founded by his older brothers Fred and George. Meanwhile, Harry’s friend and Ron’s wife, Hermione, is working as the Deputy Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. 

Other characters are described, though most of the details of their lives are known to diehard fans. For example, the trio’s friend Neville Longbottom is working as the Herbology professor at Hogwarts and is married to fellow former Hogwarts student Hannah Abbott, while their friend Luna Lovegood is raising a family with a man named Rolf Scamander, who is the grandson of scientist Newt Scamander. (Newt will be the subject of the upcoming movie “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” the screenplay of which is being written by Rowling.)

Fans probably shouldn’t worry about catty comments such as “Are cracks beginning to show in a union that the Potters are determined to promote as happy?” slipped into the story by Rita: Readers know that Rita’s stories are often sensational and rarely accurate. 

Meanwhile, the new section of “Potter” real estate had its grand opening July 8 at Universal Studios Florida. Universal Studios Islands of Adventure was already home to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which included a replica of Hogwarts and the village nearby, Hogsmeade. The new part of the park, called The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley, can be found in the Universal Studios Florida section of the Universal area and re-creates the Diagon Alley shopping area from Rowling’s books.

The new Diagon Alley section seems to be receiving good reviews from visitors so far, with Hypable writer Andrew Sims calling the new area a “strong sequel” to the first “Potter” area.” 

“It lived up to expectations,” he wrote. “The Diagon Alley expansion is an immersive, thrilling land, and I’m not using those words lightly.” He called the new ride, titled “Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts,” “really impressive…. Gringotts is a tamer ride than [other ‘Potter’ ride] the Forbidden Journey. It felt like the ride is intended to be more family-oriented – but not in a childish type of way. There are several very exciting action sequences…. But besides a handful of fast-paced moments, don’t expect this to feel like a coaster…. It was really fun, but we have to admit we were expecting something more intense.”

Sims also praised the Hogwarts Express, which takes visitors from one “Potter” park to another and includes digital screens on the windows.

“This experience will probably be one of the most exciting parts for longtime Harry Potter fans,” he wrote. “Seeing the train in motion and alive with sounds and effects as you watch it waiting for you in the station is remarkable.”

Meanwhile, Theme Park insider Robert Niles wrote that “Universal Studios Florida's Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley resets the standard for theme park environments, creating a wildly engaging setting that rewards visitors willing to delve into the abundant detail to be found in the new land.” He called the “Gringotts” ride “thrilling,” though he noted some technical problems that occurred while he was there. He particularly praised the appearance of actors Helena Bonham-Carter and Ralph Fiennes, who portrayed villains Bellatrix Lestrange and Lord Voldemort in the movies and filmed new material for the ride.

“[They are] two superb professionals who have crafted utterly captivating villains,” he wrote. “To see these two at work in these characters again would by itself be a joy. But larger than life and in sharp three-dimensional projection? I could watch them here all day.”

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