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By Mitch Stacy, Associated Press

The ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is the heart of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a new environment at Universal Orlando Resort in Florida that will bring the world of Harry Potter novels and movies to life. The new ride combines a new storyline with spectacular new technology so effectively that guests will be immersed in the experience. Film stars Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson and others shot a piece of film just for the ride. (Associated Press)

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry will open to Muggles for the first time June 18. The Three Broomsticks Inn, Honeydukes sweets and all the other quirky shops in Hogsmeade village will open then, too.

That’s the day the non-wizarding public will be allowed to step into Universal’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the much-anticipated new attraction that brings to life the weird, wonderful realm of the famous boy wizard.

All those Potterphiles who’ve been waiting for the day they could peer into the Gryffindor House common room, soar on Harry’s broomstick or quaff a butter beer in the Hog’s Head pub will not be disappointed.

The theme park attraction was created with the close collaboration of the set designers from the Potter movies, as well as with input from author J.K. Rowling, who first conjured the world in her imagination.

The scope and attention to detail are stunning, from the bizarre bric-a-brac displayed in headmaster Albus Dumbledore’s office, to the boxes of magic wands stacked in the window at Ollivander’s wand shop. (Located in Diagon Alley in the books, the shop was moved to Hogsmeade in Florida, with Rowling’s OK.)

“This is so authentic to what I experienced on the films that I find it hard to tell them apart,” said Alan Gilmore, who helped design sets for three of the Harry Potter movies before joining the attraction’s creative team. “I’m a stickler for detail, and I really haven’t let go of these guys until it was perfect.”

Not only that, but team members working on the park made a series of trips to Scotland to consult with the hands-on Rowling. She signed off on everything, from what would be displayed in the Hogsmeade shop windows to the recipes for the butter beer and pumpkin juice served in the restaurant at the Three Broomsticks and the Hog’s Head. Both libations, are absolutely delicious.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is within Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park, so there’s no extra charge to step from The Lost Continent section right onto the cobblestones of Hogsmeade village, with its steep, snow-covered roofs, grimy crooked chimneys and menacing doorways. The Hogwarts Express locomotive belches steam at the train station nearby. Fans of the movies will recognize this place right away.

The ancient, foreboding castle that is Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry looms over the village, drawing visitors inside to the centerpiece of the attraction, a ride combining 360-degree filming techniques and sophisticated robotics to create the illusion of a magic flight with Harry and his wizarding pals Ron and Hermione.

Believe it or not, standing in line for the ride — called Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey — is half the fun. The queue snakes through the castle’s dungeon, up to the greenhouse (complete with potted mandrakes) and through a corridor to the soaring portrait gallery, where the quirky characters from Hogwarts’ past talk to each other and move from painting to painting.

From there, visitors move into Dumbledore’s office, where the headmaster welcomes Muggles — non-wizarding folks — to the castle for the first time. Dumbledore is on screen, but the illusion magically puts him right him right there in the room.

Next it’s the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, where Harry, Ron and Hermione — the movie actors appearing on-screen — intercept the group and invite everyone along for an adventure with them. The Gryffindor House common room is one of the last stops before the ride, which includes an encounter with the Whomping Willow, a narrow escape from a dragon attack and a Quidditch match.

The queue and ride are supposed to be an hour-long experience, but long lines may extend the wait time.

In addition to the Forbidden Journey ride, two outdoor roller coasters at the 20-acre Harry Potter attraction are there for adrenaline junkies who need a fix. Of course, the shops in Hogsmeade will provide ample retail opportunities for witches and wizards of all ages.

Universal announced the June 18 grand opening date, but the attraction will be open beginning May 28 for park guests who buy a special Harry Potter travel package. Some of those early dates may already be sold out. Those packages are still available via Universal’s Web site, (www.universalorlando.com/harrypotter).

By MIKE SCHNEIDER (AP) – 34 minutes ago

ORLANDO, Fla. — Relatives of a SeaWorld trainer dragged into the water by a killer whale last month will suffer severe harm if video of her death is made public, their attorney told a judge Wednesday.

Dawn Brancheau, 40, died Feb. 24 when the whale named Tilikum grabbed her by ponytail and thrashed her around after a show. The whale has also been involved in two other deaths, one of a trainer at a Canadian park and another of a man who snuck past security and was found draped over the whale’s body at SeaWorld.

Jon Mills, an attorney for Brancheau’s family members, said in court that their right to privacy outweighs the public’s right to view the video captured by SeaWorld cameras. At a hearing that lasted less than hour, he asked the judge to permanently stop the video from being released.

“There is no constitutional right to voyeurism and there is a constitutional right to privacy,” Mills said.

Circuit Judge Lawrence Kirkwood did not immediately rule on the request for the permanent injunction. He had issued a temporary injunction last week to prevent the release of the video, which was turned over to law enforcement.

Unless Kirkwood intervenes, the material will become public under Florida law once the Orange County Sheriff’s Office concludes its investigation.

Rachel Fugate, an attorney representing news organizations, said she didn’t object to an extension of the injunction so all sides could reach a resolution.

She said there were precedents in recent Florida history that allowed news organizations to view images but not make copies for public dissemination. Members of the public, for example, were allowed to view photos of the mutilated bodies of five college students slain in Gainesville in 1990, but not copy them.

Grieving relatives have succeeded in keeping such images from being made public in other cases — Dale Earnhardt’s widow successfully fought in Florida to prevent the release of autopsy photos of the race car driver, who died in a 2001 crash.

Source NBC MIAMI:

Family Wants Tape of Whale Killing Withheld

SeaWorld and trainer’s relatives don’t want footage of death released

By BRIAN HAMACHER
Updated 10:45 AM EST, Tue, Mar 9, 2010

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Dawn LoVerde Brancheau seaworld killer whale

The family of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau is fighting to keep the video of her horrific death last month at the hands of Tilikum the killer whale from seeing the light of day.

Brancheau’s family along with the Orlando attraction are meeting with lawyers to block the release of the park’s tapes of the Feb. 24 killing, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Brancheau, 40, was dragged underwater and drowned by the 12,000-pound Tilikum shortly after a show and in front of several park guests who were still in the audience.

“Use of this video will do nothing more than further sensationalize a tragic event and traumatize our family,” Brancheau family spokesman Charles LoVerde said in a statement. “Some members of the news media have shown restraint and sensitivity during this difficult time, but many others have not. The conduct of some members of the press has been disgraceful. Our family has a right to heal in private, and we once again appeal to the media to recognize the terrible pain we are experiencing and give us a small measure of respect and privacy.”

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The tapes were handed over to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, but will become public once their investigation is concluded.

Meanwhile, the park is still trying to figure out what to do with Tilikum.

The 6-ton whale has spent the two weeks since the tragedy in a tank, not participating in shows, with no trainers joining him in the water.

SeaWorld said this morning that they’re reconsidering whether to return him to its live shows, reversing an earlier statement that said he would be performing again, according to the Sentinel.

The park is waiting on a safety review before it resumes in-water whale training.

First Published: Mar 9, 2010 10:33 AM EST