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Harry Potter theme park to appear in Florida

Universal Orlando Resort is opening a Harry Potter theme park in Florida revealing many of the iconic locations in the books and movies that endeared the boy magician to millions.

"The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" is set to open at Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park in late 2009, complete with the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the Forbidden Forest and Hogsmeade village.

"The plans I've seen look incredibly exciting, and I don't think fans of the books or films will be disappointed," said author J.K. Rowling, who has been working with a creative team to make sure the park resembles the books and films.

More than a dozen artists lead by Stuart Craig, the production designer of the movies, have set up house in the studio where the movies are being filmed to make sure every detail is considered, said Scott Trowbridge of Universal.

"We're really going to the people who know this world best to ensure that level of authenticity," he said.

The park will let visitors view the famed locations in Rowling's magical world, like Dumbledore's office in Hogwarts and the shops in Hogsmeade. Some locations may be in upcoming books, Trowbridge said.

Tom Williams, chairman of Universal Parks and Resorts, would not release the amount the company is spending on the project, but said it would be "enough to exceed the expectations of millions of Harry Potter fans around the world."

"This will make us a must-see component of somebody's Orlando theme park vacation," Williams said in an interview.

Many tourists outside the theme park said the experience would boost its appeal to a younger audience.

"I'd go to Universal before I would Disney World to go on a Harry Potter ride," said 15-year-old Alex Moran, who was visiting Orlando from Pleasant Hill, Missouri.

Trowbridge said while there would not be any character lookalikes at the park, fans wanting to see Harry Potter and his magical friends wouldn't leave disappointed.

"This is Harry's world," said Trowbridge. "Most every fan wants to have an encounter with the star of the show."

Harry Potter fans may be motivated to now visit the Universal park, but many of those tourists will also visit Walt Disney World, said Gene Jeffers, executive director of TEA, a theme park industry group based in Burbank, California.

About 11 million people visited Universal last year, compared to 45 million for Disney's four parks last year, he said.

The Harry Potter book series has been translated into 65 languages with more than 325 million copies sold in over 200 territories around the world.

The fifth film in the series, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," will be released in theaters July 11 by Warner Bros. The seventh and final book of the series will be released July 21.

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