‘A Celebration of Harry Potter’ Brings Stars, Sorting Hat, and Wizard Duels to Universal Orlando

| January 24, 2014 | 2 Replies

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Right on the heels of Thursday’s webcast, which brought us some new details about the upcoming Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley expansion, Universal Orlando hosted A Celebration of Harry Potter. The three day event was completely devoted to the magical world of Harry Potter and featured a series of special events, involving both the book series by J.K. Rowling and the popular film franchise.

In attendance for some of the weekend’s events were several of the film’s actors, including James and Oliver Phelps (Fred and George Weasley), Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood), Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom), and Mark Williams (Arthur Weasley.) The stars participated in panel discussions along with some of their fellow crew members from the films.

In addition to the panel discussions, A Celebration of Harry Potter hosted a Harry Potter Expo that offered experiences such as the famous Sorting Hat, a display of costumes from the films, and a Scholastic booth with posters dedicated to the recent reissue of the book series.

Check out our photo and video updates from A Celebration of Harry Potter below! Did you attend any of the weekend’s events? We’d love to hear what you thought of your experience in the comments!

Harry Potter Expo

The Harry Potter Expo was located at Soundstage 33 at Universal Studios and had a lot of interesting booths set up relating to the Harry Potter book and film series, including a selection of costumes and props used in the making of the films. The Gringott’s vault set used in Thursday’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley webcast was also set up and guests could get up close take a look at some of its details. (Note: Unfortunately the goblin is no longer there.)

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The most popular feature of the Expo was definitely the Sorting Hat demonstration, which allowed guests to actually be sorted into a Hogwarts house by a Hogwarts student in a sorting ceremony. Lines were already long early on Friday night and it was a sign that the demo would stay busy all weekend. In addition to the Sorting Hat, guests could also participate in a dueling demonstration, practicing casting spells.

The Expo also offered booths from Scholastic – where guests could meet Kazu Kibuishi, the artist who did the book covers for the recently updated anniversary set. Pottermore.com, the online Harry Potter comunity, and the US Postal Service also had tables set up showcasing their Harry Potter related stamps.

MinaLima, the graphic design team behind the majority of graphic elements seen in the Harry Potter films also had a large presence at the Expo. The artists were present to discuss their work and a large selection of prints and posters were available for purchase. There was a signature A Celebration of Harry Potter print that was available for $69 or $149 for an embossed and signed version.

Harry Potter Tribute

To kickoff A Celebration of Harry Potter, Friday night offered guests the chance to see their favorite stars from the films in the Harry Potter Tribute, an outdoor Q&A session. Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom), James & Oliver Phelps (Fred & George Weasley), Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood), Devon Murray (Seamus Finnigan), and Mark Williams (Arthur Weasley) were all present to discuss their experiences while filming the Harry Potter movies, as well as their thoughts on the existing Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the upcoming Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley. (Note: As media, we were able to attend a smaller Q&A before the main Harry Potter Tribute so some of the photos below are from that session.)

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Each of the stars told personal anecdotes from filming and shared a lot of their own personal favorite moments from their Harry Potter journey. We have videos of each actor’s Q&A so be sure to check them out below.

In addition to the Q&A portion of the Harry Potter Tribute, we also got to learn a bit about the merchandise products that will be offered at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley, in particular, at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. Decoy Detonators, the Umbridge on Unicycle, Nose-biting Teacups, and Skiving Snackboxes, featuring the famous Puking Pastilles, are just a few of the things guests will be able to purchase next summer when the expansion is complete.

My Life on a Film Set: Talent Q&A’s

The second day of A Celebration of Harry Potter began with the first of three Q&A sessions with the films’ stars. Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood), James and Oliver Phelps (Fred and George Weasley), Devon Murray(Seamus Finnigan), and Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom) were all on stage for the forty-five minute panel to answer questions from the audience.

The questions dealt with everything from personal experiences on the film set, the actors’ favorite spells from the Harry Potter series, and their favorite fan moment from all the years of playing the beloved characters. The latter turned out to be one of the more touching moments of the Q&A and showed how down-to-earth the actors were and grateful most of them are for their parts in the series.

Go Behind the Scenes of Pottermore.com

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In a panel that was definitely geared toward the more dedicated Harry Potter fans, Tom Hodgson gave guests a look into the online community Pottermore. Pottermore.com is completely devoted to the book series and offers new information and details from the world of Harry Potter, previously unreleased elsewhere, straight from J.K. Rowling. Hodgson, the Creative Director at Pottermore.com, talked about some of his favorite details from the site and described some of the recently announced features.

Duelling Demonstration & Wand Combat Masterclass

In the most entertaining session of the day, choreographer Paul Harris led the Duelling Demonstration & Wand Combat Masterclass. Harris, who was responsible of several of the wizard duels in the Harry Potter films, described the steps to casting spells with a wand, and allowed the guests in the audience to stand up and practice. Halfway through the panel, eight guests from the audience were brought up on stage to practice and demonstrate their wand-wielding skills.

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In a surprise twist, Mark Williams (Arthur Weasley) joined Paul Harris and the eight guest volunteers on stage to participate in a battle using the spell movements they had just learned. The session was definitely fun to watch and the audience members that were participating were having a great time.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter Set & Prop Design

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On the final day of A Celebration of Harry Potter, Alan Gilmore, Bryn Court, and Eric Baker gave us a look into the process of bringing the wizarding world from film to the theme parks at Universal Orlando. All three men played a part in the sets and props used to create Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the upcoming Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley. James and Oliver Phelps (Fred and George Weasley) joined them onstage to show off a few of the props for the upcoming Diagon Alley expansion.

The designers brought along a few large-scale props that were situated on stage: A set of troll armor will be used to adorn a blacksmith shop in Diagon Alley, a Weasley rocket that will be used in Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, a vanishing cabinet for Knockturn Alley’s Borgin & Bott’s, and finally an actual blackboard from the films that will be placed in the Defense Against The Dark Arts classroom in Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

MinaLima: Graphic Design of the Harry Potter Films

In my opinion, one of the best panels of the weekend was the MinaLima discussion of their work on all of the graphic design elements seen in the Harry Potter films and now the theme parks. Mira Mina and Eduardo Lima, who together make up MinaLima, gave a presentation of some of their favorite projects to work on – including the Marauder’s Map, the Daily Prophet, and the vast collection of student books found at Hogwarts.

After their presentation, Mina and Lima answered audience questions and gave insight to aspiring graphic designers and a look into their creative process. Mina was also surprised with a cake and a standing ovation singalong to celebrate her birthday.


Thanks to everyone for following along with our coverage of A Celebration of Harry Potter! Be sure to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook for a wide variety of Orlando theme park updates – and definitely more from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley!


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Category: Entertainment, Events, Florida Events, Merchandise, News, Photos, Photos / Video, TV / Movies, Universal / Sea World, Universal Orlando Resort

About the Author ()

I'm the Assistant Webmaster and Designer for The DIS and the Associate Producer for The DIS Unplugged podcast. I've lived in Florida for almost three years after graduating from Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania in 2010. I am a former Walt Disney World Cast Member and spent almost four years on Main Street U.S.A.
  • Angela Krosnick

    Shaun awesome job you did! Thanks so much!

    • http://shaunthompson.net/ Shaun Thompson

      Thanks Angela!