Orlando was overtaken by witches and wizards during "A Celebration of Harry Potter" at Universal Studios. For the second consecutive year, the theme park put together an expo space dedicated to all things Potter and invited talent from the movies to share the excitement with fans.
For the layperson who isn't a fanatic, Fred and George Weasley (actors James and Oliver Phelps), Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch), and Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) were there for the weekend.
It was three days full of magical mania that was enough to leave guests both Pottered out and fully satisfied.
After walking through the pseudo-streets of a cardboard New York City and hanging a left underneath the wailing roller coaster, there was the entrance -- lit up like an old Hollywood movie theater -- to "A Celebration of Harry Potter Expo."
The first thing attendees saw when they entered were the robes of the four founders of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. After the oohs and ahhs and total geeking out, the next step was walking through the doorway and into another realm.
Everywhere you looked was something that made your inner child leap (and made many real children giddy with excitement).
Props from the film series were encased in glass boxes spread around the expo floor to be ogled by passersby. Harry's robe from The Chamber of Secrets was dead center, followed by the classic Ford Anglia from the same film. Another eye-catching prop box was the set of the Horcruxes, complete with the decapitated head of Nagini the snake.
Aside from the props, there were plenty of photo ops, including a gif booth. Powered by Pottermore, the booth created a moving picture (just like the pictures in the Wizarding World) where guests could stand in front of their houses and later share their #HousePride on social media. Even old-school wizards are embracing the 21st Century.
Although the expo had plenty to offer, the most exciting events happened in the open music stage at Universal and the amphitheater at Islands of Adventure.
The weekend celebration was the first time in nearly five years that Gambon had returned to the parks; however, Lynch and the Phelps twins have been at nearly every Harry Potter-related event put on by Universal Studios Orlando. Asked why they keep coming back, Lynch answered best when she said, "I'm not able to detach myself from this world, so whenever I'm asked to come back, I can't say no."
James backed Lynch up and said he enjoys visiting the parks and stepping into the Wizarding World anew. "We have a lot of fun visiting. If we didn't enjoy ourselves, we wouldn't come back."
At the two open stages, the talent gathered for fans and took audience questions. Aside from the twins, looney Lovegood, and the greatest wizard of all time, Universal invited back this year two other familiar faces from 2014's event: illustrator Kazu Kibuishi and the world's only wand combat choreographer, Paul Harris.
Kibuishi, who illustrated new covers for the 15th anniversary of the series, brought his personal drawing tablet and hooked it up to a large screen during his Q&A session. While fans asked what it was like reimaging a world that was already so established in J.K. Rowling's books, the illustrator doodled on his pad, and by the end of the session he had an almost complete picture of Harry entering the Quidditch field.
The most touching comment Kibuishi made was when he described how he accepted the task of creating the seven new book covers: He saw it as an opportunity to reach a new generation of Harry Potter readers.
One thing is certain: Harry Potter fans don't need a reason to celebrate their most treasured book and film series, but whenever Universal Orlando wants to give them an excuse to bust out the Hogwarts robes, it's always appreciated.
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