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rare female film critic | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Now that the Harry Potter theme park is about to launch, what other stories deserve their own theme park?

If you’re in the U.S., you’ve probably seen the TV ads for Universal Orlando Resort’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which opens on June 18. It sounds pretty cool, as manufactured entertainment experiences go (via People):

As for what Potter fans will encounter when the gates open, a peek into Harry’s World earlier this month revealed what resembles a highly realistic version of the snowcapped village of Hogsmeade, snuggled inside a verdant forest worthy of Hagrid and crowned by the towering parapets of Hogwarts Castle. Resting in the basin below are the winding cobblestone streets of the village, whose stores include Honeydukes Sweet Shop, with its window display of Pewking Pastilles (including sardine flavor), used to induce sickness for skipping classes at Hogwarts Academy.

The Hogwarts Express – steaming but stationary – greets guests at the World’s entrance and serves as part of the boarding area for the Flight of the Hippogriff, a “family” roller-coaster, as opposed to the far more intense, high-speed Dragon Challenge, with its Tri-Wizard Tournament theme.

The main attraction of the World is Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, a ride “that will re-invent the theme-park experience,” insists the park’s creative director Thierry Coup, whose talents also went into Universal’s Shrek 4-D and the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man as well as the revamp of Disney’s Tomorrowland.

Entering through the castle dungeon within the Forbidden Journey’s queue area, Coup tells PEOPLE, guests will meet the four founders of Hogwarts and be greeted by the academy’s headmaster Dumbledore – before being sidetracked from a Dark Arts lecture by truants Harry, Ron and Hermione (as played by Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint), who suggest a Quidditch match instead. From there, a magical bench helps get things going, dragon encounters notwithstanding.

“Even if you haven’t read the books or seen the movies,” says Coup, “you’ll fly – and feel as you’ve never felt before.”

I’ve been to both Universal in Orlando and Disney World — though it was many years ago now — and I have to confess that what they do, they do very well. I respect the cleverness that goes into creating a believable simulation of an experience you couldn’t otherwise have. (The Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas blew my mind in how it made you feel as if you’d actually been beamed aboard the Enterprise-D.)

Now that the Harry Potter theme park is about to launch, what other stories deserve their own theme park?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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