It’s January! Who else wants to visit the Universal Studios parks for A Celebration of Harry Potter? I’ve never been before, but it sounds amazing.
Kris from Wizard Way has some news.
Universal Studios has made it official: A Celebration of Harry Potter will NOT be returning in 2019. This news has come as a shock to many Harry Potter fans who flocked to the Universal Studios parks in Orlando, Florida, for a once-in-a-lifetime experience at the special event. A Celebration of Harry Potter had become an annual mainstay at the parks the last few years.
But why has the huge event been canceled? What could be in store for fans this coming year? And how might this impact Harry Potter: Wizards Unite?
First, a Bit of Wizarding World History
For those unfamiliar with special events at the Universal Studios Orlando parks in Florida, A Celebration of Harry Potter was first revealed in August 2013, just three months after The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley was announced. The event was scheduled for late January and was meant to draw attention to the franchise in the years following the final film releases from the cinematic series.
At the time, the event served two purposes:
- Keep fans engaged during a period of proverbial famine to keep the franchise afloat until the spin-off Fantastic Beasts films premiere.
- Fill a gap in the amusement parks’ schedules, as January and February are notoriously slow months following the bump of holiday-themed excitement.
A Celebration of Harry Potter made perfect sense, and it was greeted by fans with open arms, becoming a mainstay at the parks for a handful of years.
Why Cancel A Celebration of Harry Potter?
“So, if it’s such a huge success, why cancel it now, of all times?!” I can hear you shouting. The answer is simply that the landscape has changed.
The Harry Potter brand is stronger than ever. We have the theatrical stage show Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the unending content released on the robust Pottermore website, and over a hundred new products available through the mega-chain retailer Target.
The Fantastic Beasts film franchise is up and running, with the second installment of five films releasing in November 2018. Assuming a movie is released every two years, that means dependable content all the way until 2024. To boot, there are rumors already that the studio is looking into a SECOND spin-off series of films in the Wizarding World.
In short, there is no shortage of J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World for rabid fans to consume.
Likewise, the Universal Studios Orlando Resort has undergone a transformation of late. Both the Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley experiences are flourishing at the parks. In the last year alone, we’ve seen new chocolate frog cards, upgrades to the Forbidden Journey ride inside Hogwarts Castle, Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and a new wizarding roller coaster that is under construction and planned for a 2019 debut. Harry Potter has also been included in parades and in the Cinematic Celebration light-and-water spectacular that closes out each night at Universal Studios.
The growing popularity of both the Mardi Gras and Rock the Universe events has also taken the pressure off of A Celebration of Harry Potter to bolster the winter schedule. After five years, our beloved event may well have priced itself out, taking too much time and money to orchestrate on a yearly basis amid hype from Fantastic Beasts.
The event is no longer necessary. But that doesn’t mean that it will be gone forever. This hiatus may simply be Universal’s way of diverting resources in order to give us Potterheads even MORE of what we want. Here’s what Universal said in their press release:
“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 The 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.”
Speculation on 2019 and Beyond
On the heels of the announcement canceling Celebration, Universal has also trademarked the name “Fantastic Worlds” AND purchased additional property to presumably make a fourth amusement park south of its existing parks in Orlando. It is possible that the planned Super Nintendo World will be moved to this new park, freeing up land in Universal Studios for other projects. Will that space be devoted to Harry Potter?
No official word on that yet, but with the popularity of Fantastic Beasts, it’s not a stretch to think that the franchise will be included either in Universal Studios or in any new amusement park developed under Codename: Fantastic Worlds. The projected opening for the new park would be 2024, just as the final Fantastic Beasts movie would debut (if my timeline holds). If this new theme park incorporates Wizards Unite, it could be done in a way that truly integrates the game play into the layout and structure of the park, allowing for an immersive experience.
Another point to consider is that Universal is striving to compete with Disney as Walt Disney World approaches their huge 50th Anniversary in 2021. This means Universal is ramping up their construction projects to hopefully drive business away from their main competitor. That’s yet another reason for them to put off A Celebration of Harry Potter.
In the meantime, while so much will be going on in the background, I’m confident that Universal will do their best to support interest in the Wizarding World franchises. One big way to do that is to schedule events surrounding the eventual release of Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. The mobile augmented reality game we’ve all been anticipating could very well be a draw to the amusement parks, assuming they give incentive for players to come specifically to the parks to try out the new game.
In November we saw both the release of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and the first teaser trailer for Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. However, there is still no news regarding a beta version for Wizards Unite. Speculation about the release date looms.
Once more information is released regarding Wizards Unite itself, we can most likely expect Universal Studios to announce some sort of event to tie the game into the existing parks. And, depending on the various AR capabilities of the game, we could see a limited-attendance social event much like the recent “Back to Hogwarts” social media night. This would bring a limited number of people into the parks with the chance to play the game and generate hype across social media platforms as an official release for Wizards Unite nears.
Because Wizards Unite is meant to be a very interactive and social game, it’s plausible that Warner Bros. would work with Universal Studios to create an event that would have a similar draw to Celebration. That could mean celebrity appearances (perhaps trying out the game themselves), panels, activities focused on various features of the game, and the opportunity to sell exclusive merchandise or memorabilia. From a social media and capitalistic standpoint, such an event would be the perfect opportunity to generate profit for all parties involved.
In conclusion, we will very much miss A Celebration of Harry Potter, but looking to the future is still exciting. Universal Studios has promised events in 2019, and we’ll await them with great anticipation, hoping that they’ll include Wizards Unite as a focal point in the coming year.