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A look back at A Celebration of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando – photos/videos

by Banks Lee

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Harry Potter fans from all over gathered at Universal Orlando Jan. 24-26, 2014 for a special celebration featuring stars from the films, Q&A’s, presentations, and more. We were there all three days and have our recap below.

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An expo was held all three days of the Celebration inside a soundstage at Universal Studios Florida. Due to space limitations, guests were being let in in small groups, causing the line to reach up to a four hour wait at times.

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Outside the expo entrance was a screen-used Weasley family flying car.

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Artist Kazu Kibuishi was on hand to sign copies of the Harry Potter books with his newly released cover designs.

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MinaLima designed all of the art, logos, posters, etc. for the films and had many original props on display at the expo.

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Special merchandise was available for the Celebration.

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Screen-used props from the Harry Potter films, provided by the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter.

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Panorama of the expo floor. There was also an area to be sorted into one of the Hogwarts houses, a Pottermore area, US Postal Service selling the newly released Potter stamps, and a replica set of the interior of the Gringotts Bank.

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Matthew Lewis (Nevile Longbottom) and Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood) discuss Potter during a media Q&A session.

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Oliver and James Phelps (George and Fred Weasley) talking to the media during a special Q&A session.

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A special Harry Potter tribute was held Friday night at the Music Plaza Stage featuring the stars and some designers. Here’s Devon Murray (Seamus Finnigan).

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During the Tribute, several pieces of merchandise were announced that guests will be able to buy in Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes when the Diagon Alley expansion opens this summer.

See the full Tribute presentation below:

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The remainder of the presentations during the Celebration took place inside the Toon Lagoon amphitheater at Islands of Adventure.

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Paul Harris, wand combat choreographer for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, held a wand combat masterclass to teach guests what went into choreographing the dueling scenes in the films.

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Guests were invited to use their own wands and learn the basic offensive and defensive choreography of wand combat.

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Mark Williams (Arthur Weasley) made a surprise appearance to duel with randomly selected audience members on stage.

See the full wand combat presentation below:

Wand combat masterclass with Harry Potter choreographer and Mr. Weasley

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Harry Potter art director Alan Gilmore, film sculptor Bryn Court, and Wizarding World of Harry Potter senior prop master Eric Davis held a presentation to talk about bringing the films to life at Universal. The Phelps twins made a special appearance to showcase a prop from Diagon Alley and how Universal worked hard to match the film prop (right) with what will end up in the expanded area (left).

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A few props coming soon to the parks were on display during the presentation, including a troll suit of armor, Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom blackboard, Vanishing Cabinet and Weasley’s rocket. The blackboard was used in the films and will replace the one in the Forbidden Journey queue, which wasn’t.

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Closer look at the detail that went into recreating the Vanishing Cabinet.

See the full theme park design presentation below:

Building The Wizarding World of Harry Potter discussion at Universal - New Diagon Alley props shown

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Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima from MinaLima Design discussed creating all of the art, designs, etc. for all eight Harry Potter films.

See the full graphic design presentation below:

Harry Potter graphic designers talk about designing film used books, posters, signs and products

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Before the cast Q&A presentation, the stars would walk out for a brief moment to wave everyone in line before the theater opened.

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After the final Q&A on Sunday the stars stayed for a quick minute to sign a few things for some lucky guests.

See the full Q&A presentation with the stars of the Harry Potter films below:

Q&A with the stars of the Harry Potter films at Universal Orlando Celebration

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During the Celebration weekend, guests with early access were among the first to try a new type of Butterbeer drink, Warm Butterbeer. No word on when/if Universal makes this a permanent offering to guests.

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Universal also debuted a new element to the construction walls at the Diagon Alley expansion in Studios, allowing guests to take a peek inside at the construction for the London facade.

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A special after-hours party was held inside the Wizarding World for guests who purchased a special hotel package for the Celebration. Lines were almost non-existent during the party, allowing for some rare photos inside an empty Forbidden Journey queue.

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Be sure to watch the Jan. 30, 2014 episode of Orlando Attractions Magazine: The Show for a report from “A Celebration of Harry Potter.”

You can see many more photos from the three day event in our photo gallery below:
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3 comments

Noelle January 27, 2014 - 1:58 pm

I think your article is very misleading when it comes to the actors’ participation. I was a vacation package attendee for all three days of the event. When the actors “came out to greet everyone in line,” it was for a total of about 5 minutes where they were walked behind a gate by security, briefly waved, and then were escorted back inside. As far as them signing things after the Q&A’s, that only happened after the final panel on Sunday and it was a mob scene. People pushing and shoving to try and get anywhere near them. Again, they stayed for about 5 minutes, went down the front row once and then left. The few people who managed to get an autograph were very lucky indeed. A lot of people left very disappointed. I spoke to several other guests who felt Universal should have included some sort of autograph sessions or meet and greet situation into the weekend at scheduled times conducted in an orderly fashion. Many more people would have gotten the chance to say a quick hello and the mosh pit scenario would have been avoided. Also, the line for the Expo was ridiculous. They should have had it in a bigger venue that could have accomodated more guests. Once you got in there, the wait really wasn’t worth it considering what was inside. Just my two cents, but I think some parts of this weekend were done very well and some were a huge mess.

Reply
Banks Lee January 27, 2014 - 5:01 pm

I’m sorry to hear that, Noelle. Went back and tried to re-word it as best as possible. Obviously with this being the first time Universal has done this there were bound to be some hiccups and things to work out. I would hope if this were to become an annual event that they would listen to guests’ feedback and fix what may have gone wrong this year. Thank you for your feedback.

Reply
Noelle January 28, 2014 - 1:35 am

Thank you very much for taking the time to read my message and amend your article. I also hope Universal listens to any and all feedback from the weekend and uses it to create better organized events in the future.

Reply

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