UNIVERSAL ORLANDO Resort
ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE
Universal Studios Theme Parks
Review by: Lance Hart
Christmas at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
(11/22/17) Screamscape was lucky enough to be invited down to Universal Orlando for a couple days to see a preview of their massive new Christmas holiday season entertainment offerings, featuring brand new additions and the return of some classics to both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure theme parks.
At Islands of Adventure the big new addition is the new “Christmas at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter” program, which is not only a big deal, but based on opening night crowds, this is going to be a very popular program for years to come. For starters, the Wizarding World as you know it, including Hogsmeade Village and the Hogwarts Castle area has been decorated for the holiday season with garland, lights and more. The additions are quite a natural looking evolution as you’ll remember that the buildings in Hogsmeade Village are already lightly covered in snow anyway. According to Michael Aiello, Universal Orlando’s Senior Director of Entertainment, the idea of being able to bring the Christmas season to life in the Wizarding World each year goes back to the original design of the land, so this has been an idea that has been building and brewing since 2010.
In addition to the decor, and the addition of the oh-so-tasty “Hot Butterbeer” to the menu, the popular “Frog Choir” singing entertainment has undergone a transformation to now perform a series of all new holiday songs for the crowds in front of Hogwarts Castle throughout the day.
But just wait until it gets dark… that’s where the magic really happens. A new state-of-the-art projection mapping system has been installed that blankets all of Hogwarts Castle itself as the sun goes down, giving the appearance that it too has been lightly covered in patches of snow for the winter. The look is simply stunning, and just as I stopped dead in my tracks the first time I saw Hogwarts with my own eyes in 2010, I was similarly stunned once again upon seeing Hogwarts this week, enhanced by the magic of subtle projection mapping technology.
According to Aiello the projection system is put to use all evening, and approximately every 20 minutes throughout the evening a spectacular projection show will take place on Hogwarts Castle itself. The frequency of the projection show will likely be adjusted as the park takes crowd levels and traffic flow under consideration. The nice thing is that the roughly 7 minute long show seems to be a perfect fit to allow time for a crowd to gather before the castle, watch the show and then clear the area, making room for the next crowd to gather for the next performance.
As for the show itself, descriptions just don’t do it justice, but know that it hits on all the right levels, bringing the Christmas season to life through magic inside the Wizarding World, along with appearances by some of your favorite characters, each adding their own charm and flair to the action. To fully understand, you simply just have to watch the video of it in action that we captured below, though even that doesn’t quite do justice to the massive scale of it all. This is just one of those things that you really have to see in person to get the full effect of it all, but looking around at the crowd afterwards as everyone applauded and cheered, it was clear that Universal has a huge hit on their hands with this one.
Oh… and don’t think that the Christmas celebration ends when you leave the Wizarding World. Islands of Adventure is also home to The Grinch and the long-time favorite Grinchmas holiday take-over of Seuss Landing. In addition to performing bands of Whos from Whoville you might encounter singing carols in the land, you will not want to miss a close encounter with The Grinch himself performing in a live retelling of the classic tale for “The Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular” show. Keep and eye out and you just may get a chance for a close-up encounter with The Mean One himself.