This annual three-day celebration was the Harry Potter fandom’s official event at Universal Orlando Resort from 2014 to 2018. Fans were given an opportunity to honor their love for all things wizarding world related. During the celebration, guests experienced film talent Q&A sessions, special panels, demonstrations, an expo, and more surprises every year. To attend, people purchased either a multi-day park-to-park ticket or a Celebration Vacation Package, which included exciting extras such as the exclusive evening event within the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley. Universal decided not to hold A Celebration of Harry Potter in 2019, although not many details are available as to why the company decided to cancel one of its most popular events. Only a short statement from Universal was released:
Universal Orlando Resort is working on exciting new experiences for guests to continue to celebrate the Wizarding World next year. These include the all-new thrill ride coming to [t]he Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade and additional fan experiences that have yet to be announced. While our focus on these fan experiences means we will not be hosting A Celebration of Harry Potter in 2019, we and other Universal theme parks will always be looking for opportunities to host special Wizarding World experiences.
During 2017, Universal Orlando announced five Potter celebrity guests to attend the 2018 event. Celebration veterans James and Oliver Phelps (Fred and George Weasley) and Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley) would be joined by newcomers Stanislav Yanevski (Viktor Krum) and Natalia Tena (Nymphadora Tonks).
The weekend officially started with an opening ceremony, where thousands of fans gathered to greet the talent and partners of A Celebration of Harry Potter. Representatives of Pottermore, Harry Potter: The Exhibition, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in New York introduced what they had in store for fans in 2018. Scholastic's Brian Selznick (illustrator of the American 20th-anniversary editions of Harry Potter), special effects designer John Richardson, wand choreographer Paul Harris, and videos from Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them VR Experience urged fans to visit their panels and booths to get a first-hand experience of the magic behind Harry Potter.
Beginning Friday, MuggleNet was treated to a private Q&A with the film talent in attendance: Stanislav Yanevski (Viktor Krum), Natalia Tena (Nymphadora Tonks), Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley), and James and Oliver Phelps (Fred and George Weasley)!
The opening ceremony concluded with a breathtaking performance from the Harry Potter Film Concert Series. The Orlando Philharmonic brought iconic clips from the first and second Harry Potter films to life as they demonstrated the power of music in a scene, as well as its absence. The brief concert culminated perfectly with a beautiful fireworks display.
Immediately following, we were among the first to experience the brand-new "Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle" light show! In this show, all the Hogwarts Houses took center stage in a showstopping, beautiful spectacle.
Exclusive first look at a new Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle at Universal Orlando Resort! https://t.co/PqPsVQQ0il
— ᴍᴜɢɢʟᴇɴᴇᴛ ʟɪᴠᴇ (@MuggleNetLive) 27. januar 2018
Saturday and Sunday, visitors had the opportunity to visit the booths in the Expo and getting some exclusive looks at the newest projects in the wizarding world.
At the Audible booth, we tapped into our competitive sides with several rounds of Audible Recall. Audible had a special Quidditch round to celebrate the announcement of Andrew Lincoln to narrate the audiobook of Quidditch Through the Ages. Check out our full coverage and review.
MuggleNet was able to take a close-up look at beautiful, original costumes from Cursed Child, Potter, and Fantastic Beasts films at the Cursed Child and Harry Potter: The Exhibition booths!
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Over at the Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery booth, MuggleNet got an exclusive interview with the team behind the game and was also able to try out a demo (see below)!
We then stepped into London for a moment, visiting an exhibit from Warner Bros. Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter.
As if that weren't enough excitement for one day, we met with Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima at the House of MinaLima booth and were given an amazing opportunity to have a short interview with the brilliant minds behind the designs in Potter and Beasts.
At the evening tribute on Saturday, we got a surprise message from the cast of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, which was followed by flashes of footage from the upcoming film! Check out the footage taken at the event here!
There were fun panels galore, including a wand combat panel taught by Paul Harris! After teaching a set of defensive wand movements, he invited the audience to test their skills against Death Eaters!
Wands at the ready! https://t.co/x6EbFPkJ8x
— ᴍᴜɢɢʟᴇɴᴇᴛ ʟɪᴠᴇ (@MuggleNetLive) 27. januar 2018
Death Eaters arrive https://t.co/cddCefp6bY
— ᴍᴜɢɢʟᴇɴᴇᴛ ʟɪᴠᴇ (@MuggleNetLive) 27. januar 2018
Special guests for this year's celebration were Jason Isaacs, Tom Felton, Warwick Davis, and Matthew Lewis. Furthermore, MinaLima and Audible were in attendance with booths.
Activities at the celebration included panels with the actors, wand combat skill classes, and trivia competitions.
MinaLima made a big announcement regarding the future of House of MinaLima!
BIG ANNOUNCEMENT: We have some exciting news to share with you all! Our spells and potions have worked and House of MinaLima in London is staying open! If you are planning a visit to London, or you are a fully-fledged Londoner, make sure you come see us at 26 Greek Street, London W1D 5DE!
BRAND NEW: just wanted to give you guys a sneak peek of our special #HPCelebration print for 2017, available only at this year's event at @universalorlando so come get yours! 🙂 . . . . . #minalima #miraphoramina #eduardolima #houseofminalima #harrypotter #wizardingworld #fantasticbeasts #fantasticbeastsandwheretofindthem #jkrowling #jkrowlingswizardingworld #warnerbros #universalorlandoresort #hpcelebration #acelebrationofharrypotter #theboywholived #graphicart #graphicdesign #filmprops #graphicartforfilms #graphicdesignforfilms #film
A photo posted by Miraphora Mina & Eduardo Lima (@minalimadesign) on
Another announcement was made by Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, which revealed that soon, visitors will be able to actually follow the spiders into their domain: The tour is expanding to include the Forbidden Forest!
The expansion opened on March 31, 2017, the tour’s fifth anniversary, and features one of Hagrid’s costumes, a new full-size Buckbeak model, and of course, Aragog emerging from his hidden lair. Visitors can wind between the roots of 19 trees, each over 12 feet in diameter, as they make their way through the Forest. Visitors are also able to control the weather in this part of the exhibit, the way filmmakers did!
The celebrations of the weekend were tinged by sadness. Actor Sir John Hurt, known best to Potter fans for portraying Mr. Ollivander in the Potter films, passed away, and many stars took to social media to share their feelings on this loss.
MuggleNet led a tribute to the actor at Universal Orlando Resort.
Universal Orlando announced a short time later who had been scheduled for the event. Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley), Katie Leung (Cho Chang), Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom), and Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood) were all in attendance for the celebrations.
Along with the film talent, A Celebration of Harry Potter featured Harry Potter: The Exhibition, dynamic graphic design team MinaLima, wand master Paul Harris, and prop maker Pierre Bohanna.
The opening night event was filled with magic and a plethora of new information. MuggleNet was there to share this experience with fans via social media. The event opened with wizards and Muggles paying tribute to the late Alan Rickman (Professor Snape). Exclusive new scenes from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them were shown on the big screen to the delight of many. Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood) and Pottermore shared the announcement of the other wizarding schools around the world. The opening night event concluded with all the film talent on stage and everyone in the audience shouting “Lumos Maxima” while the night sky filled with fireworks.
The Harry Potter Expo was filled with opportunities to be immersed in the world of Harry Potter. There were various photo opportunities and a chance to write on Scholastic’s Muggle Wall. Attendees had the chance to watch a wand making demonstration and meet MinaLima and enjoy the showcasing of some of their incredible graphic designs. Guests could also delve in and explore the enormous map of wizarding schools around the world.
The schedule of events offered sessions in wand dueling and an opportunity to "Dance Like a Beauxbatons" or "Battle Like a Durmstrang."
During the Harry Potter Props Showcase with acclaimed prop maker Pierre Bohanna and special guest Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom), Pierre Bohanna revealed the core contents of Newt Scamander’s wand to be elements of bone, lime, and shell.
— ᴍᴜɢɢʟᴇɴᴇᴛ ʟɪᴠᴇ (@MuggleNetLive) January 30, 2016
The film talent participated in Q&A sessions in various locations throughout the event.
— ᴍᴜɢɢʟᴇɴᴇᴛ ʟɪᴠᴇ (@MuggleNetLive) January 29, 2016
MuggleNet also hosted a special wand raising tribute to Alan Rickman.
The opening night event started on the Music Plaza Stage with the "Battle Like a Durmstrang" and "Dance Like a Beauxbatons" classes. Joining the teams on stage was the Hogwarts Frog Choir. The film talent of Sir Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore), Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood), and James and Oliver Phelps (Fred and George Weasley) were also on hand for a brief introduction.
Returning to the stage in grand fashion again this year were the Dueling Demonstrations and Wand Masterclass with Paul Harris. Evanna Lynch was the special dueling guest this year, dueling with the crowd and select audience members.
There were interactive panel discussions with MinaLima, the graphic design team for the Harry Potter films, and Kazu Kibuishi, illustrator of the Harry Potter books.
At the end of the first night for A Celebration of Harry Potter, the cast of the film series sat down for a special Q&A session with the media. In attendance were Sir Michael Gambon, Evanna Lynch, James Phelps, and Oliver Phelps.
New this year, the event included autograph sessions with the attending Harry Potter cast members.
The rest of the weekend was filled with opportunities for House photo meet-ups, Harry Potter film trivia, and movies in the park on the Music Plaza Stage.
The celebrations kicked off with a special evening on Friday featuring a Harry Potter tribute at the Music Plaza Stage, accompanied by some cast members and designers of the series. Award-winning artist Kazu Kibuishi, who reimagined the Harry Potter book covers for Scholastic, was even on hand to sign copies of the Harry Potter books.
A wand masterclass hosted by Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter featured wand combat choreographer Paul Harris with special guest Mark Williams (Arthur Weasley). Paul Harris taught offensive and defensive wand combat to the audience, and he dueled with select members of the audience on stage.
There was a panel discussion with MinaLima – creators of the graphics seen in the movies - where they discussed creating art for the eight Harry Potter films. Also in attendance was Pottermore’s creative director, Tom Hodgson, who appeared on a panel during the event to give a behind-the-scenes look at the online experience and reveal beautiful new artwork from the next installment of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Pottermore also previewed an exclusive audio clip from J.K. Rowling, in which she gives a mischievous and somewhat unexpected backstory to one of her most colorful Harry Potter characters, Gilderoy Lockhart.
Below you can see a showcase of panels and Q&As from the event with MuggleNet staff members, as well as cast and crew from the films!
The Props Panel was a discussion with art director Alan Gilmore, film sculptor Bryn Court, and senior prop manager Eric Baker about bringing the Harry Potter film magic to the theme parks.
For the Cast Q&A, Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom), Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood), James and Oliver Phelps (Fred and George Weasley), and Devon Murray (Seamus Finnigan) answered fans' questions.
Guests were able to explore the one-of-a-kind Harry Potter expo that included a vignette of movie props from Harry Potter: The Exhibition. There were also interactive activities for fans, one of which involved a surprise appearance by Matthew Lewis helping in the Sorting Hat experience.