This weekend Theme Park Review was invited to attend the returning event at the Universal Orlando Resort, A Celebration of Harry Potter. This event spans both Universal Studios Florida and Universal's Islands of Adventure, both inside of the two Wizarding World locales as well as in additional venues outside of the normal Harry Potter-related spaces within the park. Celebrity appearances, guest panels, cosplaying guests and an expanded Harry Potter Expo made this year's event the strongest yet. Returning exhibitors included Scholastic, the Warner Bros Studio Tour London and Harry Potter: The Exhibition. The new exhibitors at the Harry Potter Expo (the additional space located in a separate studio from the original venue, which hosted the previously mentioned guests) were Lego Dimensions, Audible and the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Google Daydream Experience. Throughout the course of the weekend, guests of the event had the opportunity to experience panels with hosts from these exhibits as well as to attend Q&A sessions with four stars from the Harry Potter film series: Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom) and Warwick Davis (Griphook and various roles).
This year's event was host to an experience that could be considered a star of the show and a hidden gem of the weekend. The Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Google Daydream Experience was something that both Madeline and I had the chance to experience, coming from two different levels of Harry Potter fandom as well as differing exposure to virtual reality and interactive VR experiences. Transported inside of Newt Scamander's now-well-recognized suitcase, players/participants/visitors donning the Google Daydream headset hold a small remote with two buttons and a smooth trackpad that synchronize on-screen (or in this case, ahead) with a virtual wand that you command. Testing this experience in a swivel chair with 360 degree rotation, it was easy to look around, but the real area where the immersive experience excels is the vertical views that deepen the reality in which you are surrounded. With Newt Scamander whispering in your ear, passionately describing his fantastic beasts with a nervous tremble, you feel as if you're being watched by the magical creature champion, but without the whole "game" being given away by his narrative. The story is simple but extremely effective: you have been tasked by Mr. Scamander to assist with interacting with his fantastic beasts as they live in their faux-native environments, conveniently located in a soundstage-like setup within his magical suitcase's expanse of habitats. The app currently features three creatures (all of which can be seen in the title film), but summoning them requires the completion a spell and task each to be able to visit. These puzzles aren't overly challenging, but provide just the right amount of activity for users of all ages and technical proficiencies to be able to complete and enjoy the reward of getting up close with these creatures. Each creature has at least two interactions that can be triggered by tracing out a pattern into the air with your wand and the result left both myself and Madeline giddy... One magnificent flying creature in particular shows off his beauty in a moment ripped straight from the recent film that when experienced through my own eyes triggered chills. Madeline's jaw clearly hit the floor at this point, followed shortly after by the biggest grin and at least a tear or two.
To quote our resident Harry Potter enthusiast, it could only be described as "amazing." Despite the simplicity of the approach, the unreal encounter of three mythical beasts is presented in such a rich, fulfilling, immersive experience that you as the user want
to believe that the mythical can be real--and it certainly feels like it is. The only thing the experience is lacking is the added immersion of the other senses. I was so drawn into what I saw and heard in the experience, I was half waiting for the ground beneath my seat to shudder as the Erumpant rolled over; expecting a breeze to cross me as a certain winged beast flew in. Sadly this experience is limited to Google Daydream compatible devices at this time, but I would highly recommend giving this app a go if you have access to such a device, or know someone/somewhere that does. Even better, there are hints throughout the current app that lend credence to the notion of additional fantastic beasts taking up residence in Newt Scamander's briefcase in the future, though no timeline could be hinted at when I attempted to pry...
Beyond this highlight of the event (the most unique offering I experienced), Audible presented an interactive audio trivia contest, Lego Dimensions demo'd the latest Harry Potter gameplay including a sneak peek at the new playable Hermione to be released later to the public. Outside of the Harry Potter Expo and the scheduled panels and presentations, guests had the two Wizarding World locations to enjoy (and a train between them to ride) throughout the weekend. Read our entire weekend's coverage of the event below and let us know your thoughts! Special thanks to the Universal Orlando Resort for hosting us at this great event--we look forward to all of the surprises next year's event will bring!
TPR will be at Universal Orlando throughout the weekend for the Harry Potter Celebration 2017!
Jason Isaacs, Tom Felton, Matthew Lewis and Warwick Davis are Universal Orlando this weekend for the event!
We're now at the Music Plaza Stage for the Harry Potter Celebration 2017 Opening Night Ceremony!
Across the crowd of Harry Potter Celebration The Tonight Shop is lit up. Race Through New York Starring @jimmyfallon opens this April!
Warwick Davis conducted The Frog Choir in a special concert just for the Harry Potter Celebration 2017!
A flood of magic filled the Music Plaza to kick off this year's Harry Potter Celebration! We'll be back tomorrow for more wizarding fun!
We're back this morning for Day 2 of the Harry Potter Celebration 2017 at Universal Orlando! We'll start our day with a visit to the Harry Potter Expo!
First up, the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London exhibit at the Harry Potter Celebration Expo!
Here are some of the facial prosthetics Warwick Davis wore when filming for the Harry Potter series as seen at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London exhibit.
Guests can see the work that goes into creating the spiders for the Forbidden Forest expansion opening at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London attraction this March!
Some familiar characters that guests may find in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Universal Orlando as seen in the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London exhibit.
Hagrid's wardrobe as seen in the exhibit at the Harry Potter Celebration Expo.
Wardrobes for the four main characters of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them are on display at the Universal Orlando Harry Potter Celebration Expo!
Come face to fangs with Aragog this weekend at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London exhibit!
The House of minalima has returned for this year's Harry Potter Celebration Universal Orlando
Some of the art minalima provided for the production of the Harry Potter film series, on display at the Harry Potter Celebration Expo.
The Audible booth at the Universal Orlando Harry Potter Celebration is hosting a live audio trivia contest for guests to enjoy!
The Scholastic Muggle Wall has returned for muggles that wish to share what Harry Potter means to them.
The Sorting Hat Experience has also returned outside of the Harry Potter Celebration Expo!
Harry Potter: The Exhibition has brought some Quidditch themed games for guests to enjoy!
The prop of Hermione after she was petrified by the Basilisk in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
Some additional work that minalima did on the Harry Potter film series, on display at the Harry Potter Celebration Expo!
New this year, LEGO Dimensions has a booth at the Harry Potter Celebration Expo, allowing guests to demo the game as Hermione before her public debut.
Guests can assist with assembling the Harry Potter Celebration Fan Mosaic while in the Harry Potter Expo.
The Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Google Daydream Experience is available to demo at the Harry Potter Celebration Expo! It was awesome!
Outside of the Harry Potter Celebration Expo, chalk artists are creating art of the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them characters.
Lots of guests enjoying the sights, sounds and thrills of Diagon Alley!
More escaped fiends from Azkaban... Be on the lookout for these wanted wizards!
Today's lunch at The Leaky Cauldron, the classic Ploughman's Platter!
How many of you are craving a Butterbeer right now?
A quiet afternoon on the streets of Carkitt Market in Diagon Alley.
Quite the sight to see in Diagon Alley!
We had the chance today to meet Mina and Lima of minalima at the Harry Potter Celebration Expo!
Dark wizards congregate in the depths of Knockturn Alley... Enter with caution!
At the entrance of the Kings Cross Station you can find some talented street performers throughout the day.
We've got a train to catch... Any guesses as to where we might be headed?
If you guessed Hogsmeade, you were right!
Now departing for our next stop, Hogsmeade Station!
Dementors on the train!
Chocolate frogs from the trolley... Catch them while you can!
We've arrived to the familiar sight of Dragon Challenge flying by...
A busy day on the streets of Hogsmeade...
Guests enjoyed a panel with Jason Isaacs, Tom Felton, Matthew Lewis and Warwick Davis Universal Orlando for this year's Harry Potter Celebration!
In hearing them speak, you can tell that these actors are still incredibly passionate about the Harry Potter films.
Here is the Harry Potter Celebration schedule of events at the Toon Lagoon Amphitheater for the rest of the weekend.
That wraps up our coverage of the Universal Orlando Harry Potter Celebration Day 2! We'll be back tomorrow for more fun on the final day of the event!
We're back at the Universal Orlando Harry Potter Celebration Expo for another demo of the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Google Daydream Experience!
The chalk artists have moved inside to the Harry Potter Celebration Expo for the last day of the event.
The famous Ford Anglia 105E Deluxe from the Harry Potter film series is on display at the Harry Potter Celebration Expo.
Guests at this year's Harry Potter Celebration have created unique costumes inspired by their favorite elements of Wizarding World.
Next up is the Harry Potter Celebration minalima panel at the Toon Lagoon Amphitheater!
Guests have been chosen to go up to the stage to ask minalima some questions!
More unique cosplay found in Hogsmeade on the final day of the Harry Potter Celebration at the Universal Orlando Resort!
As the weekend begins to wind down, the Harry Potter Celebration Fan Mosaic is nearly complete inside of the Harry Potter Expo.
The Book of Monsters prop found in the Harry Potter Celebration Expo Warner Bros. Studio Tour London exhibit.
Some recognizable pieces that minalima worked on for the production of the Harry Potter film series.
A quiet afternoon in Hogsmeade on the final day of the Harry Potter Celebration 2017…
Time to make our way back to Diagon Alley!
The queue for the Hogwarts Station of the Hogwarts Express provides close encounters with Dragon Challenge!
Our train has arrived!
Weasleys' Wizards Wheezes advertised on the Hogwarts Express!
One of the best cosplays of the entire weekend!
Guests can visit the Knight Bus outside of London before they visit Diagon Alley!
What Leaky Cauldron specialty are you craving the most right now?
Would you like to try some of these enchanted candies?
Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes is home to all kinds of magical trickery and fun.
A sight that stops everyone in their tracks...
It is time once again to take the Hogwarts Expresss to Hogsmeade!
We've arrived once more at Hogsmeade Station!
The Flight of the Hippogriff can be seen on the approach to Hogwarts Castle while in Hogsmeade.
The Harry Potter Celebration 2017 merchandise can be found in select locations in both Islands of Adventure & Universal Studios Florida.
A look at this year's Harry Potter Celebration merchandise design, highlighting both Wizarding World locations.
The mandrake prop from the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London exhibit at the Harry Potter Celebration Expo…
How about another Butterbeer for the day?
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter can be found at Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal Studios Osaka and the Universal Orlando Resort each with unique elements.
Another look at some of the wardrobes from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as seen at the Harry Potter Celebration Expo.
Diagon Alley is filled with a magical glow when the sun goes down...
It is also filled with this kind of glow too!
We end our coverage of the Harry Potter Celebration 2017 with a ride on the Hogwarts Express! Thanks to Universal Orlando for hosting us this weekend!