This article examines the visitor experience of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (WWOHP) theme park at Universal Studios Orlando. The park is hugely popular and has been embraced by the series’ devoted but critical fanbase. Prior research on theme parks has generally focused on critiques of their form, leading to a limited understanding of their appeal. This article asks how fan-visitors interpret this simulated environment, and what leads them to embrace it. It does this with an ethnographic approach, utilizing in-depth interviews with 15 visitors combined with participant observation. We show how WWOHP is understood by its visitors as an adaptation of the series into physical space, via the medium of the theme park, and how the visitor’s experience is shaped through use of ironic imagination. In doing so, we present a new understanding of the immersive media experience of theme parks.

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International Journal of Cultural Studies
Arts & Culture Studies

Waysdorf, A., & Reijnders, S. (2016). Immersion, authenticity and the theme park as social space: Experiencing the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 21(2), 173–188. doi:10.1177/1367877916674751