'Harry Potter' theme park opens

Universal’s Orlando resort opened its doors June 16 to Hogwarts Castle, and kicked off the days leading up to the big bow of the new “Harry Potter” pic with a red-carpet premiere on the streets of Hogsmeade village, covered in snow. Even J.K. Rowling made a rare appearance, flying in from Scotland.

Guests checked out the Three Broomsticks restaurant, munching on authentic pub grub that’s described in the books before boarding the three rides in the 20-acre themed section of Islands of Adventure. The whole package carries a $300 million pricetag.

Universal Studios topper Ron Meyer and Warner Bros. chief Barry Meyer thanked the creatives behind the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, including art directors and production designers Alan Gilmore and Stuart Craig, and franchise producers David Heyman and David Barron.

But they were sure to single out Rowling.

“Her creativity is the reason we’re all here,” said Meyer.

Daniel Radcliffe and other cast members piled out of the three-story purple Knights Bus from the films, and shortly after John Williams led the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra in a stirring medley of “Harry Potter” music, the boy wizard himself instructed the 800 guests to raise their wands and cast the “Luminous” spell, igniting a fireworks display over Hogwarts.

Those wands, used to illuminate the castle, proved controversial. Guests thought they were keepsakes. But upon entry to the Forbidden Journey ride, the magical sticks were taken away and handed out to other guests and staff. Forbidden, indeed.

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