With the last installment of the Harry Potter series only weeks from publication--and the final film slated for release in 2008--fans are starting to wonder what they're going to do with their lives without their yearly dosage of Harry, Hermione and Hogwarts. Perhaps aimed at filling this anticipated void, or perhaps simply to extend the brand's profit margins well into the next decade, Warner Brothers Entertainment and Universal Orlando Resort have announced plans for a Harry Potter/Hogwarts theme park. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, described in the hyper-enthusiastic press release as "the world's first immersive Harry Potter themed environment," will be a "theme park within a theme park" (Universal’s oft forgotten Islands of Adventure) and is set to open in Orlando (Florida) in 2009. According to the Reuters article, the project has J.K. Rowling's stamp of approval, who stated, "The plans I have seen look incredibly exciting and I don't think fans of the books or films will be disappointed." Here's a description of the theme park, taken directly from the WB press release:
Inspired by J.K. Rowling’s compelling stories and characters – and faithful to the visual landscapes of the films – “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” will provide a one-of-a-kind opportunity to experience the magical world of Harry and his friends. The fully immersive, themed land will enable guests to visit some of the most iconic locations found in the books and the films including the village of Hogsmeade, the mysterious Forbidden Forest, and even Hogwarts castle itself.
Expected to open in late 2009, the new environment will feature immersive rides and interactive attractions, as well as experiential shops and restaurants that will enable guests to sample fare from the wizarding world’s best known establishments. Also debuting will be a state-of-the-art attraction that will bring the magic, characters and stories of Harry Potter to life in an exciting way that guests have never before experienced.
Thanks to KidScreen's Emily Claire Afan for breaking this story.
********Updated September 15, 2009!!!!!************
Today, Universal Orlando Resort and Warner Bros. Consumer Products finally revealed the first-ever details about the upcoming Harry Potter theme part, which they have confirmed will be called The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. They also announced that the park will open in spring 2010. As reported by Nikki Finke on Deadline Hollywood:
Inspired by J.K. Rowling’s compelling stories and characters – and faithful to the visual landscapes of the films – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal’s Islands of Adventure will provide visitors with a one-of-a-kind experience complete with multiple attractions, shops and a signature eating establishment. This completely immersive environment will transcend generations and bring the wonder and magic of the amazingly detailed Harry Potter books and films to life.
The Harry Potter films’ production designer, Stuart Craig and art director, Alan Gilmore, in cooperation with a corps of artisans from Universal Creative are working daily to construct the most authentic Harry Potter experience possible. Guests will be able to sip Butterbeer in Three Broomsticks, buy Extendable Ears at Zonko’s and experience a state-of-the-art attraction that brings the stories of Harry Potter to life in a way never before imagined.
I expect that much more info (and pics) will be available soon, but in the meantime the press release includes a pretty detailed run-down of what will be included in the experience, including an immense Hogwarts castle, a full "re"production of Hogsmeade, an "Owlery", lots and lots of shops (hmmmm) , along with the usual roller coasters and other theme park rides. Notice how much of the press release is focused on the various merchandise that will be available for purchase.
It really is incredible, and it will be fascinating to see how it does. In the meantime, the last step in the total commercialization of Harry Potter is only months away. I really hope that Janet Wasko writes some sort of analysis or commentary. There are SO many issues around this development, not only in terms of the commercialization of the Harry Potter narrative, but also in relation to theme parks and control more generally.