Friday, June 18, 2010

Off To Hogwarts

Magnet # 272: Universal Studios Florida

Material: Metal

Purchased By: Me

Crowds of excited children and parents are flocking from all around the world to Universal Studios in Florida for today's grand opening of the World of Harry Potter theme park. In fact, Harry Potter portrayer Daniel Radcliffe has been in Orlando for this event, along with other cast members. But there has been some controversy tied to the opening, mostly because some visitors have been having fun in the park since May 28. You see, Universal Studios has been selling vacation packages as far back as February that included visits to the World of Harry Potter starting at the end of May and they honored them, thrilling some, while leaving others out in the cold, so to speak. And they had also said that the park would open in Spring of 2010, and when that failed to happen, it disappointed many a household and derailed vacation plans. Some are still miffed by these discrepancies, but fortunately for Universal Studios, there are many more who are thrilled at the prospect of experiencing the World of Harry Potter firsthand.

The concept of a Harry Potter-themed attraction dates back all the way to the late 1990s, when Universal Studios first considered a stage show featuring Harry and his friends defeating Voldemort. However, they were told that the rights had been acquired by another entity, which was assumed to be Disney. Yet that park never came to be, and it's believed that Disney was not willing to accommodate writer and creator J.K. Rowling's vision for the park. Soon, Universal Studios was able to gain the rights and in 2007 began creation of a 20-acre park. The park consists of many of the magical places featured in the books, like Hagrid's Hut, Ollivander's Wand Shop, and part of Hogwarts Castle. There are three rides in all, one of which used to be another attraction called Dueling Dragons, but has been converted with a Harry Potter theme. And visitors can even try two of the drinks mentioned in the books, butterbeer and pumpkin juice. Sounds like a fun trip, and there's even a gift shop - Filch's Emporium of Confiscated Goods.

Will I go to the World of Harry Potter myself? I imagine I will someday, and perhaps finally see Universal Studio's Marvel's Super Hero Island while I'm at it. But I think I will wait for the crowds to die down somewhat, as I'm not fond of the mobs of people that are no doubt in the park today. And it might be nice to go in the off-season as well. But I can't help but think of an old college friend of mine today, and how excited he would have been over this development. At an early age, he rose high in the Presbyterian church, but he loved comics and theme parks and ended up leaving his career to pursue those interests. When I met him, he had dreams of creating a Muppet theme park for Disney, and he also loved Harry Potter, even using the books as inspiration for his art projects sometimes. But he sadly passed away a few years back at the fairly young age of 40. I think he would have been thrilled at the opportunity to see Hogwarts for himself, and he would have loved to be involved with the park's creation. Unfortunately, that couldn't happen. But if I do venture down to the World of Harry Potter theme park, I'll be sure to ride one for Kirk. I think that will make him proud.

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