Friday, February 03, 2017

A Celebration of Harry Potter 2017 Celebrates The Magic

A Celebration of Harry Potter Expo
Universal Orlando's annual celebration of Harry Potter continues to bring the magic to fans of the phenomenal series. For an entire weekend at Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventures, wizards and witches celebrate the books and films with panels, cast q&as and exclusive exhibits featuring Scholastic, Pottermore, MinaLima and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – to name a few.

It was once again my absolute pleasure to be able to experience the event in person. I was only able to attend for one out of the three-day weekend, so the schedule was pretty tight. While celebrity panels were held at Universal Orlando’s sister park Islands of Adventure, I chose to stay closer to the main exhibits. This year Universal converted two of their soundstages into expos which contained props and displays by partners of the Harry Potter franchise.

My gut intuition guided me to go to the most popular expo first that’s been open the past few years. Inside, Scholastic, Warner Bros Studio Tour, the Harry Potter exhibition, and MinaLima (graphic designers for the eight films) all had events for fans to visit.

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them Costumes
Every year the expo opens with amazing costumes from the films and theme parks. With Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them released in the fall, costumes of the main cast were on display – Jacob Kowalski, Queenie Goldstein, Newt Scamander and Tina Goldstein. Each one was absolutely gorgeous, and the quality of each one was undeniable. Seeing Tina’s costume, in particular, ‘cause her look was my favorite, made me want to style my clothes after hers even more.

Mary GrandPre Harry Potter Illustration
Scholastic A Celebration of Harry Potter
Scholastic has been one of my favorite spaces to visit the past few years. Fans share what Harry Potter means to them on a floor-to-ceiling cloth wall. Messages from fans young and older include how the series inspired young kids to read, favorite characters who inspire them and loving memories they’ve had throughout the years.

This year, there was some artwork that really caught my eye. Harry Potter was drawn by none other than the illustrator of the series’ original book covers Mary Grand Pre. She was at the event in person to attend panels and autograph sessions.Other fans left their mark too with an adorable Dumbledore and Draco Malfoy.

Leading up to A Celebration of Harry Potter, the Warner Bros. Studio Tour excited fans on social media with #FollowTheSpiders. Throughout the Universal Orlando park, signage with spiders led guests to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour walk-through. The popular display is a mini-example of what the tour is like at Leavesden Studios in London with wand-makers and make-up artists showing the process of their work during filming. At the end, fans had their picture taken with a mystery character from the movies. Last year, when I attended, I got my picture taken with a death eater. This year, fans had their pictures taken with Aragog leading to the monumental announcement that fans can walk through the Forbidden Forest at the Warner Bros Studios Tour starting this Spring.

Harry Potter: The Exhibition Quidditch
James and Oliver Phelps Quidditch
The Harry Potter Exhibition is different every single year, and it’s wonderful to see what they come up with. Fans could get their pictures taken with Quidditch gear and finally catch that golden snitch! Individual stands were also set-up with the Quidditch hoop and we could score with Quaffles all day long. James and Oliver Phelps, who played Fred and George Weasley, originally announced A Celebration of Harry Potter back in 2010, and have attended the event nearly every year since. The brothers had other engagements this year, but they sent along a sign Quaffle which fans could enter sweepstakes to win.

MinaLima Graphic Design Harry Potter films
MinaLima Graphic Design Harry Potter films
MinaLima Graphic Design Harry Potter films
MinaLima Graphic Design Harry Potter films
Another exhibition was the House of MinaLima – the talented graphic designers who created nearly everything you can think of in the movies: The Quibbler, wanted posters, The Daily Prophet, the Howler, Maurader’s Map, Dolores Umbridge’s proclamations, book covers - the list GOES ON AND ON. The duo brings all of their creations to life with posters framed on the walls, plastered against the floor, and dangling from the ceiling. If fans visit or reside in London, MinaLima has an official location where fans can purchase their work in person too. You don’t want to miss it, if you have a chance!

Ford Anglia Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets props
After this, I headed over to the other expo. With the two separate soundstages of exhibits and panels all day long at both theme parks, it’s hard not to imagine that this will turn into something much longer than a weekend. There’s so much to see and do!

The second expo was much less crowded than the first. I wondered if fans knew that it was there, despite all of the signs and team members showing telling fans it was open. The soundstage included Audible by Pottermore, Lego: Dimensions, Fantastic Beasts virtual reality by Warner Bros and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child walk-through.

Hermione Granger Chamber of Secrets props
Two more props were on display – the Ford Anglia from Chamber of Secrets has so much character. It’s not just a regular vehicle. The front bender looks like a smiling face with the car's curved lines and huge front headlights. It's much more enchanting than a typical Muggle automobile.

There was no way of taking a picture of this Hermione Granger without it just looking creepy. This was the stand-in Ron and Harry visits in the hospital wing when Hermione is petrified by the basilisk in Chamber of Secrets. It looked so much like her, you could almost think Emma Watson would just leap out of the bed.

Audible Recall A Celebration of Harry Potter
Audible made its debut at the 'convention'. Fans competed against each other in a round of trivia. Each player listened to random 15-20 second clips of Jim Dale narrating the Harry Potter series, and they had to guess which book it came from. Every player was given a coaster for participating with the scoreboard leader winning a prize pack. I, honestly, could’ve spent all day here. It was so much fun, Audible easily made me a fan. I came in second place on the scoreboard and won a Half-Blood Prince coaster.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child display
The Harry Potter and the Cursed Child walk-through invited fans to look at props from the play. We were instructed to Keep The Secrets and could take pictures but they couldn’t be posted online. Sadly, I’m sworn to secrecy to not to show ‘em – but I will say the walls were decorated with pictures and interviews from the set, lighting, and costume designer.

The props included Scorpius and Albus’ wands, and sconces. It was interesting to see them in person, and I wonder if these wands, or the Fantastic Beasts wands, will one day be available to buy...

The Fantastic Beasts virtual reality exhibit by Warner Bros. was closed by the time I visited it. The queue was very long, and with the Q&A session approaching, the experience had to be cut off.

Since I’m not a big video gamer, I decided to give Lego: Dimensions a chance. Fans played movie, tv, and Harry Potter characters in various lands like Star Wars, Batman’s lair, and Hogwarts. I played Hermione Granger, which is a new unlocked exclusive character, and explored Hogwarts with Voldemort, Batman, and Ethan Hunt. I was a complete newbie to playing, but after some time became quite used to it. The high-definition design of Hogwarts was amazing, and exploring the school grounds both on foot and the Ford Anglia was so much immersive - it felt like you were actually there. It didn’t take me long to walk away and want a game for myself.
A Celebration of Harry Potter Cast Q&A Matthew Lewis Warwick Davis
A Celebration of Harry Potter Cast Q&A Tom Felton Jason Isaacs
A Celebration of Harry Potter Cast Q&A Matthew Lewis Warwick Davis
After that, it was time for the Q&A session with the cast. This year, Warwick Davis (Professor Flitwick, Griphook, etc.) Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), and Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy) were in attendance. Lewis has attended the Celebration a few times, while the rest were first-timers.

Warwick Davis is always the most positive force at every convention I’ve seen him. He opened the panel with teaching everyone in a lesson of Wingardium Leviosa.

Fans from the audience asked questions to the cast – some of them ranged of fans hitting on Tom Felton asking if he was available, on how Issacs chooses antagonist characters to play, and what the casts’ favorite costumes were. Felton was available, Issacs likes to choose characters who are the furthest away from his personal self, and the group agreed Neville’s sweater at the end of Deathly Hallows Part 2 and Severus Snape's' robes were a definite favorite.

The atmosphere and vibe from the cast were reserved and sprinkled with fun stories from filming. The group also talked about pranks played on set and mentioned the famous one with the fart machine Michael Gambon used against Daniel Radcliffe in Prisoner of Azkaban. Issacs admitted to changing Feltons’ smartphone password, but it backfired when the younger actor couldn’t get into his phone while traveling.

This was my weekend at the A Celebration of Harry Potter 2017! I can’t believe this has been my third time attending in a row. Besides the wonderful panels and exhibits I experienced, there were a few pieces of exclusive merchandise I snagged too. Another post will be coming up soon for that. I can’t wait to see what the next event has in store and keeps the magic alive.

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