In preparation for the opening of Diagon Alley, Universal Studios had a Celebration of Harry Potter weekend from the 24th – 26th this month and had a wide range of the cast there to help everyone celebrate!
Admission to the event was open to everyone with valid theme park admission, so it wasn’t a hard ticket event like a Halloween Party or something like that.
I couldn’t get the time off for all of it, so I was only able to attend the kickoff and one of the days (thankfully the one with the duelling classes), but I was determined to make the most of it!
We arrived for the kickoff fairly early and my friend bought her Ravenclaw robes when we got to the park. Best decision ever. The robes retail at around $100 but they’re so well made and are weighted so well they look like they’re straight out of the movie.
We camped out on the Universal Studios side in the music plaza for about 6 hours to wait for the presentation; there was going to be interviews with James and Oliver Phelps (Fred and George, respectively), Evanna Lynch (Luna), Mark Williams (Mr Weasley) and Matthew Lewis (Neville) as well as Kazu Kibuishi who designed the new Harry Potter book covers for the US releases.
While we were waiting, we made friends with fellow Potterheads, and had a grand ol’ time complaining about the cold (why yes, it does get cold in Florida) and eagerly awaiting the festivities. And messing with Team Members.
The next day I was available to go was the Sunday, so Bec, Lizzie and I headed out, wands at the ready for the wand combat masterclass! This time it was at the Toon Lagoon amphitheater, on the Islands of Adventure side.
Paul Harris, the only wand combat choreographer in the world, was going to share how he developed the style of wand combat that he did for The Order of the Phoenix and then teach us some moves. He originated as a dance teacher, so there’s a lot of dance influence in his work for the films.
The combat class was awesome; he talked about the influence of dance on the moves, then about how he had to work with what was previously established in the other films (ie. the dueling class in the Chamber of Secrets) and then he invited a special guest, Mark Williams out to help demonstrate a fight scene! Everyone in the audience and on stage had their wands at the ready and we managed to look like a half-passable Dumbledore’s Army as we performed our attacks.
Next in the same amphitheater was the set and prop design interview with Alan Gilmore and Eric Baker who helped develop the props for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and how they bought the films to reality. They described how difficult it was to make something that was used once or twice on set into a prop that could be used, looked at and touched by thousands of guests every day while holding its own. They also gave us a sneak peak at the props that are going to be used in Diagon Alley, including a vanishing cabinet in Knockturn Alley!
This weekend was super fun, and while I understand that perhaps all the actors can’t come out every year, if this years’ event was anything to go by, making this an annual event would be so so lucrative for Universal Studios. Disney has a Star Wars event every year and it manages to be a success year after year. And while Harry Potter has a more specific fanbase, I find, I think there’s certainly enough of that fanbase in the area to make this a significant success, particularly with the Diagon Alley expansion coming soon!
So, here’s to (hopefully) finding this on our calendars in 2015!