Universal Orlando Celebrates One Million Riders on the Hogwarts Express‏



The new Universal Orlando theme park Diagon Alley has only been open for one month, and already the Harry Potter expansion is celebrating it's first milestone. A new and popular attraction that journeys guests from Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, and vice versa, commemorated its one millionth rider. Congratulations to the lucky witches and wizards who will no doubt remember this special day!

Can you pledge allegiance to a Hogwarts house?

Recently I touched on another sorting hat subject where I expressed doubts of being sorted into Gryffindor. The question I posed was how does a modern-day muggle fit into the criteria of Gryffindor when there are rare many wizarding acts of bravery to perform. My lack of conviction made me question whether I belong in other houses such as Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw (though not Slytherin - sorry!).

Which prompted me to ask another question: can we pledge allegiance to one Hogwarts house?

At eleven years old young Potter and his friends understand that the sorting hat takes their choice into account during their initiation into Hogwarts. Specifically, Potter had the option of being Slytherin but through pleading with the power of that be, he was sorted into Gryffindor instead. Through and through, Potter is a staunch member and representative of this house. Despite his arduous and challenging journey and battle against Lord Voldemort - despite all the crushes, friendships, and deaths,  Potter bleeds red and yellow.

Rarely are there exhibitions of characters that blur the traits between houses - except perhaps Hermione Granger. Deemed the brightest witch of her age, astute and brave, her sorting hat ceremony experienced a hat-stall; a long rumination made by the sorting hat of where to place the prospective student. Granger tied between Gryffindor and Ravenclaw before being selected for the former. This comes as no surprise to readers as Hermione's dramatic display of intelligence may inspire us to question if she would be a better fit for Ravenclaw because of her value for books and cleverness. Often we overlook her fateful decision in the Sorcerer's Stone of choosing friendship and bravery over anything else, but her ability to look ahead and plan out against obstacles sometimes makes us believe otherwise.

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What strikes me in the Harry Potter series is - as said by Professor McGonagall in Sorcerer's Stone - your house becomes your family. As we know from Potter's experience he found his best friends that last a lifetime in Gryffindor, as well as Ravenclaw with Luna Lovegood, and quite a few enemies from the house of Slytherin. Hufflepuff played a relatively small role but had its greatest challenge when Cedric Diggory died in the Triwizard Tournament. However, a majority of his accomplices in life and his education come from his house.

Repeatedly throughout the series characters define themselves and their house but rarely break the barrier, mold, typecast. A major source of evidence with this is how Slytherin was not given a character who shatters the shackles of their houses' "evil" reputation. The journey of Severus Snape acting as a double agent to protect Harry Potter on the behalf of his love for his mother Lily inspires some to re-sort Snape into Gryffindor, but his motives can doubly be argued that they were more for his own gain than the personal protection of Harry. As much as muggle society is divided into cliques from highschool to the workplace, so is the wizarding world divided into the reputation of the houses.

The case may be best made with the Weasleys and the Malfoys. Easily, we remember and know that both families were separated by vast differences dealing with political power, wealth, and beliefs in half-blood acceptance versus pureblood domination. As the central focus for the former family, the Weasleys are befriended and surrounded by other Gryffindors such as members of the Order of the Phoenix. Having a deeply devoted cause for dark magic and loyalty to Lord Voldemort, the Malfoys join forces with other Slytherins. As much as each family is set in their ways of political advocacy in the wizarding wars, we rarely see them interact with members of other houses in a positive or polite matter; often it is when they are at odds in verbal disagreement and physical battle.


As much as I love the Harry Potter series, personalities are more complicated than a four-trait system - which is where sorting becomes complicated. It's fun to identify yourself and your friends into a house, but how well does that system work when people are so much more complicated.

Occasionally, I find myself leaning towards other houses like Hufflepuff due to my likes, dislikes, and personality traits. My mom would have me sorted into Gryffindor while my sister sorts me into Hufflepuff. Intelligence and learning is something that I value highly, as doing well in school was a main source of comfort when friends were hard to come by. Fellow Harry Potter fans that find themselves a mix of two houses sort themselves accordingly; Gryffinpuff, Slytherclaw, Ravendor, Hufflepin - but I find it hard to distinguish myself into one or the other. How well does the sorting hat truly capture a person's personality if said student is a flavor of more than house?

If we're lucky enough when we are young to be boisterous and proud, our true colors are not afraid to shine through. But as we grow up, we don't remain stagnant. Our beliefs, actions, motives, and sometimes even personality traits can shift, shrink, and magnify. Those who may be introverted when they are younger morph into outgoing and enthusiastic extroverts; some who may be willing to be a follower when they are young can grow into a role as a leader. And yet through all the trials and obstacles that Harry and his friends experience, they all remain idyllic members of their fated house.

In the way that muggles look back on their elementary or high schools by how they were divided or united by groups; popular, jocks, band, artsy, debate, drama, etc. is our sorting something we wholly accept and do not judge? Is it possible to remain a member of one house?

Opening Ceremonies and Quidditch at LeakyCon 2014

A day prior to the Open at the Close event held at Universal Studios, the official festivities of LeakyCon 2014 began at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. An open book for many of its convention goers Thursday allowed convention goers to get a sneak peek of the events and panels to come.

LeakyCon separates itself by other conventions with its dedication to bringing fans together. One of the special ways convention goers can spend time and get to know each other is through meet-ups. These clubhouse-esque meetings were held in the morning where fanboys and girls met their peers and made friends for the duration of the weekend ahead. The uniting of fans was a fun opportunity to become familiar with those we surely would see again over the next four days. 

Possibly the big event of the day's activities was the opening ceremony; a comical show starring a variety of stars and actors that were on hand for panels and autograph signings made up the cast. This year's story themed around 'Alice in Tumblrland' a young girl who follows down the social media rabbit hole to identify herself as a fangirl and save her beloved fandoms that are risk for destruction.

I've included a video below of one significant scene where Alice meets the Eleventh Doctor and 80s time traveler Marty Mcfly (Back to the Future); both time wards who give her valuable advice for moving ahead in her journey. Another significant scene may have also been the grand finale when the villainess Maleficent insults some of our favorite character's terrible demises.

The evening events included a panel of Disney Sing-Along and Wizard Rock concert. But there was another ceremony that I was excited to participate in. A little sporting event known as Quidditch was taking place in the Merchants Alley. The Harry Potter Alliance faced off against LeakyCon in the first ever annual Quidditch Tournament.

Where gamers 'fly' around with broomsticks between their legs, cast bludgers between hoops, and try to capture the golden snitch, seeing the popular contest from the Harry Potter books in person was exciting and much more captivating than I had previously thought. Though I was not quite certain of how the muggle version of this game is played, the boundaries of how the players gain points was quite intricate and easy to catch on.

Following the Quidditch match, it was time for me to head back home where I would begin another exciting day at the convention filled with a questions answers with the Harry Potter cast, wandlore, and John Green goodiness.

LeakyCon Rebrands Itself as GeekyCon


Big news comes to Harry Potter fans as our favorite convention gets an overhaul. LeakyCon started in 2009 as a Potter-central for lovers of J.K. Rowling's series. As the convention has grown, so has its array of panels, guests, and activities becoming more inclusive of other fandoms such as Doctor Who and Supernatural.

In the next year, LeakyCon is going back to its roots and is welcoming a new era of convention-goers for the same proud geeks and fandoms called GeekyCon. Check out the new press release below, and my personal coverage on my first LeakyCon experience to be posted soon!

LEAKYCON REBRANDS ITSELF AS “GEEKYCON” AS ANNUAL FANDOM CONVENTION COMES TO A CLOSE IN ORLANDO AMID SOLD-OUT CROWD
Sci-fi/fantasy film, television and young adult book convention will return
to Orlando as GeekyCon July 30-Aug. 2 2015
ORLANDO, Aug. 3, 2014 – Geeks around the world will now have their very own annual convention as LeakyCon, the leading sci-fi/fantasy film, television and book convention, rebranded itself as GeekyCon during at the close of its 2014 show in Orlando. The 2015 show, now called GeekyCon, will return to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando July 30-Aug. 2 with advance tickets going on sale Aug. 9.
Since its inception in 2009, the event has given attendees an opportunity to meet celebrities from their favorite movies and television shows and authors of bestselling young adult books, in addition to attending a wide array of special events, panel discussions, Q&A sessions, workshops, live performances, music concerts and a marketplace with a variety of vendors. The 2014 convention, which was attended by close to 5,000 people, featured a special private event at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando.
“GeekyCon will continue in the tradition of LeakyCon and be a celebration of fandom,” said Melissa Anelli, co-executive director of Mischief Management, which operates the event. “GeekyCon brings notable guests and compelling programming together with fans to create a positive and uplifting environment where attendees can enjoy themselves and each other.”
Mischief Management will return LeakyCon to its roots as a smaller, Harry Potter-only event held in different locations around the world. LeakyCon 2015 is being planned for the second half of the year with dates and location to be announced in the coming months.
Stephanie Dornhelm, co-executive director of Mischief Management, added, “our events are about bringing people together and offering exciting, stimulating and thought-provoking content, and letting attendees interact with the people who create that content.”
GeekyCon is one of the largest and most recognized annual fandom conventions in the world and is attended every year by thousands of fantasy film and television fans as well as book enthusiasts. The event was started in 2009 as LeakyCon, a conference for Harry Potter fans and has since grown to include fans of some of the most popular films and television shows such as “Doctor Who,” “Game of Thrones,” “The Hunger Games,” “Supernatural,” “The Hobbit,” and many others. The event also offers fans a literary track that draws some of the biggest authors in the young adult genre, as well as programming with personalities from YouTube and top Web shows. Past events have been held in Boston, Orlando, Chicago, Portland and London. More information is available at www.GeekyCon.com.

Open at the Close kicks off LeakyCon 2014

July 30th marked the very first day of the LeakyCon convention. In Orlando, Florida thousands of fans from all walks of life and fandoms united to geek out over Doctor Who, Supernatural, Glee, and of course - the famous boy wizard himself, Harry Potter. Opening the four day weekend of panels, signings, and wizard rock was the exclusive event held Universal Studios Orlando. Called Open at the Close, fans who purchased an extra option ticket were given private access to the new Universal theme park Diagon Alley, with unlimited traveling to Hogsmeade. I happen to one of the very lucky 1,500 to attend!

Was this event going to be magical for everyone? Dare I say, the outcome was touch and go for many fans. When the Open at the Close tickets went on sale earlier this summer, one of the perks to the event was to ride the extraordinarly popular Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts attraction. The ride is a new multi-dimensional rollercoaster that takes witches and wizards to their vaults at Gringotts and meet some unexpected death eaters along the way. It's an attraction that has gained more than several hours to stand in line in order to experience.

Unfortunately, and unexpectedly, we received news prior to the even that the ride was going to be closed for maintenance. We were instead allowed access to the attraction's lobby. Though this wasn't one of the questions that I had in mind before the event, people wandered if there was enough to do within the time allotted to explore Diagon Alley.
Absolutely - I think every square inch of the theme park had it's photo taken by me. Every few minutes I had to stop and admire the spectacular opportunity it was to hang out with fellow Harry Potter fans and explore Diagon Alley.

The Gringott's Bank queue is extraordinary. The first time you walk through the brick wall barrier between the muggle world and Diagon Alley, is something you'll never forget. If you ever imagined standing in front of Weasley Wizard Wheezes or Gringotts Bank, the theme park is as if you are standing right in the middle of the film and your imagination. One of my personal favorite scenes from the last film Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 takes place in Gringotts - when Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, Harry Potter, and Griphook try to break into the bank to get to Bellatrix Lestrange's vault. Stepping inside through the queue of Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts puts you right inside the films. And, for it to be enjoyed by taking as many pictures and videos as we wanted - I could've stayed there all night!

Universal Studios and Leaky Con truly knew how to take care of us. Our dinner was complimentary as was all the non-alcoholic beverages and ice cream. Drink all of the free Butterbeer we could ever dream of! Gobble down all of the free Strawberry and Peanut Butter ice cream we could imagine. All of the shops and dining were open for our browsing, picture taking, and enjoyment.

And, also there was the entertainment. At dinner time, (midnight or so) we were treated to some very awesome performances. Our first show was performed by the Wizarding Academy of Dramatic Arts troupe. From the Tales of Beedle the Bard, we watched a beautiful puppetry-fable inspired by the animated sequence from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Then, Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees knew how to croon her way into our hearts - we were treated to several of her hit jazzy songs including “A Cauldron Full Of Hot, Strong Love" and “You Charmed The Heart Right Out Of Me.” The entertainment was the extra magical ingredient as I sat to eat my dinner, give my camera rest from all the picture-taking, and enjoy the moment.


Included in the event was unlimited access to ride the Hogwarts Express train from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade. The attraction is perhaps one of my favorites - if not my personal favorite - of both theme parks. Being able to walk through Kings Cross Station and onto the gorgeous train that journeys all of our favorite Harry Potter characters to Hogwarts is something out of a fairytale.

Let me say - that I spent so much time exploring Diagon Alley, I almost missed out on getting to Hogsmeade before the event ended. Thankfully, I still had enough time to explore all of the shops open to us - Honeydukes, Ollivanders, Dervish and Banges.

None of this would've been possible without all of the hard witches and wizards stationed through Diagon Alley and Hogmeade, and LeakyCon teaming up with Universal Studios to hold this event. I'm sure there is more of awesome memories to come this weekend, and Open at the Close kicking of LeakyCon 2014 was spectacular.

Something I'll never forget happened. Without the constriction of heat or crowds, I was able to stand in front of Hogwarts all lit up and bask in the moment. Sitting and drinking my pumpkin juice, it was hard to believe that I was there. How many times fans - including me - imagine to experience something like this? Every witch and wizard I spoke to was kind and friendly (except for Dark Wizards occupying Knockturn Alley). Every hour was an experience of purely geeking out and relishing in the Harry Potter magic. Hogwarts welcomed me home.

LeakyCon hits Orlando and Potter Talk

San Diego Comic Con might be one of the biggest conventions in the world for comic book readers, superhero fans, and big Hollywood series like The Avengers and Superman. For Harry Potter fans, our favorite and number one convention is Leaky Con - a multi-day gathering of fans and fandom sharing their love of Harry Potter, young adult books, Doctor Who, and every other fandom on the planet. And, Potter Talk will be there to cover this extraordinary event!

This is my first official time attending Leaky Con - to be honest, I couldn't be more excited! Who wouldn't be? Five days of sharing in the common love and adoration for fandoms between geeks. My first day will be attending the exclusive event at Universal Studios Orlando to explore the Harry Potter lands Hogsmeade and the all-new Diagon Alley. From July 30th to August 3rd, this blog will be a little idle attending panels with the stars of the Harry Potter films, graphic designers from the franchise production Mina Lima and so much more. Afterwards please expect a full update of pictures, videos, and what is sure to be a rewarding and fun experience at Leaky Con - here I come!

Deathly Hallows Epilogue Rambles (Part 1)


The saddest thing to me about the epilogue of Harry Potter is that society still reeks of Slytherin intolerance. Albus Severus Potter has obviously been conditioned by society or his friends that the darkest and unstable house is the one that housed Voldemort.

But Slytherin didn't create Voldemort; he was a product of lacking a soul, his ambition to conquer - you could say, his ironclad determination to hurt others like he had been shunned, outcast and institutionalized since birth. All evil, no matter how strong it is, has an origin - and no one can know about his past because it died with him.

We have to look at the unity of houses when students grow up; most commonly it's going to be with their peers from Hogwarts. The Potters are well-aligned with the Weasleys, the Longbottom(s), the Tonks; except for the Lovegoods. How much diversity exists within the family's immediate social circle unless one of the other children is sorted into another house?

History hasn't taught the post second wizarding war children anything different. The next generation knows about Harry versus Voldemort only if they talk about it with their parents, or by what society shows them. So what is Harry signficantly telling Albus when he says you can choose Gryffindor if it will make you happy, peaceful, content with who you are. Not Slytherin housed one of the bravest men that he knew (this is up for debate with your own views of Severus) and leave it that. Unless Hermione is inspiring her children to go on a House Equality rampage, most of society is still breeding the same anti-this, pro-that messaging.

What makes Gryffindors brave in our muggle world?

Gryffindors are known to be brave at heart, says the Sorting Hat. The Golden Trio was placed into this house as well as many other characters: misft-turned-hero Neville Longbottom, all four of the Mauraders (Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, James Potter and Voldemort follower Peter Pettigrew), Lily Potter, the entire Weasley family, Albus Dumbledore - and shall we conclude that the list goes and on. So us fellow Gryffindor have a lot to live up to.

In our muggle world though, how do we remain brave at heart when wizarding evil doesn't lurk around every corner?

Some say that to be brave you must face your fears - well, this works when your biggest fears is stronger than your determination is to overthrow the most evil villain to ever almost rule the wizarding world. There weren't many quiet acts of heroism throughout the series. When we closer examine the characters and their individual fears - let's take the golden trio and Neville for example - they don't really have those moments of dealing with their everyday creatures, situations, or people that fills them with panic or terror:
  • Harry's biggest fear is fear itself, which varies depending on the threat that presents itself. Some say his biggest fear was death, however that can be counteracted by the fact that he uses Voldemort's name freely throughout the series (never wailing on whether that is used to track him or not), and physically diving into situations without much pause.
  • Hermione's biggest fear is a failed test, however, she never actually receives less than top marks - or use than that - write a poorly executed essay on the behalf of Ron.
  • Ron's phobia of spiders is never truly solved or eased - he never comes face to face with another eight legged freak after narrowly escaping The Forbidden Forest.
  • Neville had to imagine Professor Snape as his grandmother in year three during the Boggarts class by Professor Lupin. The almost-chosen-one never has a confrontation with the teacher standing up to himself or someone else (the often belittled Granger, for one) within class.
Though the characters never had the absence of fears, they weren't really presented with opportunities to face those specific fears above throughout the series. 

This is not to say that during the long hard-fought battle against Lord Voldemort was easy as pie. Sure the characters faced anxieties and worries of their loved ones dying or coming gravely injured - Ron leaves Harry and Hermione temporarily (at the slight influence of wearing one of the Horcruxes) after all. However, in the effort to save those we love from pain through an outside source, or to chase adventure, our bravery tends to fall on the line of reckless, going with our gut feelings, and not thinking things through. That often has consequences to yourself or others in the real world.

Often as a Gryffindor, standing up for myself or others is are not loud declarations. I like to go on adventures or deviate from a plan, but it sometimes takes me a while to warm up to the idea. Proceeding with caution and planning ahead to figure things out eventually, but slowly, takes a backseat to accepting that all hell is going to break loose anyways.

My biggest form of "bravery" is probably being in proud of my personality and my empathy. I like what I like, hate what I hate, and stand to reason to back up whatever I enjoy. I've always stood out from the pack from my peers in terms of my interests or hobbies, and have veered away from locking out my passions to appease society's standards. Empathy in not so many ways is more of an internal call of action, rather again like most Gryffindor's one that is proudly displayed. I try not to cast judgement on others and remind myself that to walk in other people's shoes because I do not know their story. My way of defending others: signing petitions, signal boosting posts on tumblr, donating money or time to charitable causes. Either characteristics are hardly loud, outspoken, or to be remembered in the name of heroics.

What is right isn't always what is easy. Risk is involved; being bold. Do we go after the big thrilling escapades to get the thrill of Harry Potter character - like skydiving, race track driving? Do we go into a line of occupation that as unequivocally daring such as stuntman coordinator or firefighter? Or can being brave including the small stuff too - like lending a roar for those voices may not be loud enough to defend themselves or facing our everyday fears no matter what they may be? Does being considered brave always have to be a "theatrical" display?

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