MuggleNet 2020 Year in Review

It’s a year that nobody could have predicted, but 2020 is coming to an end. Let’s take a look back at some of the top stories from this year.

It was an exciting start to the year for the cast of the German production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, who got their first look at the Mehr! Theater am Großmarkt after its magical makeover. Also having a great start to the year was Universal Orlando Resort, which received two 2020 Theme Park Insider Awards for its Potter parks. Elsewhere, Jude Law spoke about the privilege he feels in being able to bring the character of Albus Dumbledore to life, and Emma Watson, along with Dame Emma Thompson and British Potter audiobook narrator Stephen Fry, signed an open letter urging world leaders to take action against poverty, inequality, and climate change.

February brought with it a lot of Cursed Child news. Tokyo, Japan, was announced as the next location for a production of the play, the Broadway production revealed its Year 3 cast, and Melbourne announced its Year 2 cast. Bloomsbury’s 2020 publishing plans contained some surprises for Potter fans, with an illustrated Quidditch Through the Ages and a special edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone designed by MinaLima. Fans of the Fantastic Beasts movies were thrilled to learn that Callum Turner would be returning to the role of Theseus Scamander in the third movie, and everyone was relieved to find out that Dame Julie Walters had been given the all-clear from her stage III bowel cancer diagnosis.

March saw the temporary closure of Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter, Universal Studios Hollywood, and Universal Orlando Resort in response to the global coronavirus pandemic. Productions of Cursed Child were also affected, with Broadway, Germany, Melbourne, San Francisco, and West End productions all suspending performances, and filming for Fantastic Beasts 3 put on hiatus. While the global pandemic dominated headlines both in March and throughout the rest of the year, there were some reasons to be cheerful.

To help fans get through the lockdown in April, Wizarding World Digital launched Harry Potter at Home. The wider Wizarding World community also stepped up, with the buses from Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter redeployed to transport hospital workers to and from their shifts. Famous faces from the Wizarding World took part in the BBC’s The Big Night In, which raised money for those most affected by the pandemic, and Daniel Radcliffe made everyone smile when he showed off his Jurassic Park LEGO set that he had built during the lockdown.

Radcliffe reappeared on our screens in May, when he kicked off Harry Potter at Home’s read-through of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone with Chapter 1: “The Boy Who Lived.” Also in May, Tom Felton joined the video-sharing website Cameo, and newly revealed permits sparked further speculation on the rumored Fantastic Beasts-themed land in the upcoming Epic Universe theme park. 

June saw further suspensions of performances for Cursed Child productions, this time in New York City. The Harry Potter Alliance moved its annual Granger Leadership Academy online in response to the coronavirus cases in the United States, while Universal Orlando Resort announced its plans for reopening during the pandemic. Away from coronavirus-related news, Daniel Radcliffe issued a statement via the Trevor Project that “transgender women are women” in response to comments made by J.K. Rowling. 

In July, Harry Potter at Home wrapped up its reread of Philosopher’s Stone/Sorcerer’s Stone with the final chapter read by fans and their families. Speaking of Harry’s first year at Hogwarts, the British Book Awards gave Philosopher’s Stone the 30from30 award, recognizing it as the best book over the past 30 years. Emma Watson partnered with author Reni Eddo-Lodge to rename London Underground stations in recognition of women and non-binary people. Universal Studios announced that its new resort in Beijing would begin trial operations as early as the first half of 2021, and the San Francisco production of Cursed Child extended its suspension of performances until the new year.

August brought with it an extended suspension of the West End production of Cursed Child, which also closed its doors to fans until 2021. The pandemic also affected the construction of Epic Universe in Florida, which was put on hold indefinitely. Fans were urged not to visit King’s Cross station this year and instead were invited to join a virtual Back to Hogwarts livestream featuring stars from the Wizarding World. In China, movie theaters eased restrictions and screened a 4K 3D remastered version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone across the country, which carried the film’s total box office earnings past the $1 billion mark

September saw filming resume for the third installment of Fantastic Beasts after production was stopped due to the pandemic. Bloomsbury set the Guinness World Record for the most people to board their broomsticks online simultaneously, and the Studio Tour announced the launch of bottled butterbeer. There was also good news for gamers with the announcement that the eagerly anticipated role-playing game Hogwarts Legacy would be released in 2021. The month ended with the revealing of a statue of Harry Potter taking flight on his Nimbus 2000 as part of Leicester Square’s “Scenes in the Square” trail.

As October began, so did the announcements! MuggleNet announced a series of Instagram takeovers by fandom communities every Sunday for the remainder of the year. MinaLima announced that it would be continuing its illustrated Potter books series with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and after a lengthy delay, London’s Natural History Museum announced the opening date of the Fantastic Beasts: The Wonder of Nature exhibition. The biggest news of the month came from Tom Felton, who announced a virtual “Nineteen Years Later” reunion with cast and crew from the first Harry Potter film.

The biggest news of the year, however, arguably came in November, when Johnny Depp announced his departure from the Fantastic Beasts franchise and MuggleNet broke the news that Mads Mikkelsen would be replacing him in the role of Gellert Grindelwald. November also saw Rupert Grint join Instagram (earning a Guinness World Record in the process) and the Studio Tour close once again due to further coronavirus lockdowns in the United Kingdom. 

As 2020 drew to a close, MuggleNet got to explore magical creatures and the real-world beasts that inspired them in a preview of the Fantastic Beasts: The Wonder of Nature exhibition. December also brought us Daniel Radcliffe vs. the Hot Ones hot wings challenge and the Harry Potter Alliance’s annual Accio Books! campaign, which reminded us of the power of fandom and our ability to spread magic in the Muggle world.

Do you have a Wizarding World highlight from 2020? What are you looking forward to in 2021?

 

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Lucy O'Shea

I was given a copy of Philosopher's Stone in 2001, and instantly, I was hooked. Since then, my passion for Potter has been equaled only by my passion for fair access to education (and watching motorsport). A spell I wish could exist in the Muggle world is the summoning charm because this Hufflepuff is not a "particularly good finder"!

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