A Celebration of Harry Potter — three full days dedicated to all things Potter at Universal Studios Orlando — is the only place you can see Luna Lovegood walking happily alongside Draco Malfoy, and Professor Sprout chatting up Professor Snape.
The festivities, now in their third year, drew thousands of fans from all over the globe this past weekend.
Although the focus was on various events around the park and the expo space, Universal quietly opened a new shop within Diagon Alley. Guests might have noticed a new colorful storefront behind the Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes Emporium. According to one of the wizards on staff, Sugarplum’s Sweet Shop opened one week before the celebration weekend. The candy shop complements Honeydukes, which is located within Hogsmeade inside Islands of Adventure.
The theme park, along with its partner, Warner Bros., invited talent from the films to participate in the events of the weekend. Fans were treated to Q&A sessions featuring Evana Lynch (Luna Lovegood), Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom), Katie Leung (Cho Chang), Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley), and Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley).
During the opening-night announcement Friday, guests gathered at the open soundstage in Universal Studios and stood tightly crowded while awaiting a few magical revelations. But before anything could be said, the night began with a brief video of Professor Snape’s best moments and ended with a simple thank-you to legendary actor Alan Rickman, who recently passed away. A few fans in the front corral raised their wands in memoriam.
The short video wasn’t the only tribute to Rickman over the weekend. Thanks to Harry Potter news site MuggleNet, guests were invited to gather by the Knight Bus (just outside the Diagon Alley entrance) Saturday afternoon and raise their wands together in silence. Much like the moment in the Deathly Hallows when witches and wizards lit the tips of their wands and raised them to honor the fallen Dumbledore, fans honored Rickman. It was a sight to be seen: a sea of bodies, mostly cloaked in black with bits of red and gold sprinkled throughout, all silent, brought together by the memory of one man.
The young stars from the series also spoke fondly of Rickman during a media Q&A session. One reporter asked the cast to recall a memory with the late actor. Since Rickman’s passing was barely two weeks ago, the question elicited a bit of a tense response from the actors on the panel. Grint and Lewis specifically looked uncomfortable.
“I was completely devastated, absolutely gutted,” Grint mumbled. “Such an amazing man. I have so many amazing memories of him onset. I remember once in one of the early films, I drew a picture of him,” he said with a laugh, “and it wasn’t the most flattering portrait, and I can remember him breathing down my neck watching me do it. I was absolutely terrified... he was just the sweetest guy, very special, and I was very sad to see him go.”
New Times asked their thoughts regarding the upcoming stage production Cursed Child and the new movie starring Eddie Redmayne, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
“I went down for a set visit [on Fantastic Beasts] a couple weeks ago,” said Lewis, adding, “I have no idea what’s known and what I can say or what I can’t, so i’m going to say absolutely nothing.
“Having known absolutely nothing before going to visit, I was absolutely blown away by what they have in store for everyone. And I can say now that I’m incredibly excited about seeing [the movie]. I think it’s going to really impress a lot of people, and I’m looking forward to see what Eddie Redmayne brings to the character and to the series — I’m sure he’s not going to disappoint.”
Adding to her costar’s sentiments, Wright explained that the most exciting thing for her will be to see the movie for the first time without knowing any of the behind-the-scenes work that went into it. “I always loved watching the Harry Potter scenes that I wasn’t in for the first time, so it’s going to be like that but an entire movie... it sounds amazing, so yeah, I’m as excited as any other fan.”
Among the news over the weekend: The Harry Potter exhibition will travel to Brussels, and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter will open in Hollywood, California, in April.
Within the expo space inside an empty sound studio hidden in a corner of Universal, Pottermore had a booth set up. The display was simply a large world map with small red drawings spread throughout. The staff on hand encouraged guests to download the Blippar app, hold their phones to the map, and prepare to be amazed.
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J.K. Rowling has finally released new information about four new wizarding schools located around the world. We already know about Hogwarts in the United Kingdom, Beauxbatons in the Pyrenees, and Durmstrang in Northern Europe. It seems witches and wizards are receiving training in these other schools as well: Castelobruxo in Brazil, Mahoutokoro in Japan, Uagadou in Africa, and Ilvermorny in North America.
The website also re-released the sorting hat experience.
Although A Celebration of Harry Potter 2017 has not yet been announced, judging by the success this year — as well as all the Harry Potter-related milestones happening in 2016 — we’re sure Universal and Warner Bros. will have plenty to celebrate next January.