Wow. Say that five times fast! (Celebration Social Media Meet-Up, Celebration Social Media M…)
I’ve had many people ask me how I was chosen for such an event. Universal Orlando posted on their blog this contest, which required you to tweet them with, “I wish to enter my vault! #HPCelebration.” Having the worst luck in the world when it comes to contests, I sent my tweet, but wasn’t holding my breath for anything. I didn’t notice there were additional ways to enter through Facebook and Instagram until it was waaaaay too late. But guess what?! I was one of the few selected and was told I could bring a guest with me! Slytherin HoH Heather was happy to join in, thus making this a pureblood privilege event.
While our meet-up didn’t start until 6pm on Friday, we had to pick up our packets that morning between 8:30 and 9:30am. So much for sleeping in on our day off! This meant our first stop of the morning was at the City Walk Starbucks.
At the packet pickup location we were presented with sweet credential lanyards!
From there, we went about our day, enjoying the HP Celebration by visiting the Expo and watching The Philosopher’s Stone with other Slug Club members at the stage. It was no time at all before we had to leave to go check in for our meet-up! While I was very excited for this opportunity, I was a little bummed that it meant we had to miss the entirety of the opening ceremonies! We could hear the cheers and see the tweets roll in while we waited on the other side of the park.
There was a last minute opening spot during the movie showing for another pair to join in on the meet-up, posted via Twitter. I was very excited to find out our very own Ashlynn and Rubina won these coveted spots! We decided that it was becoming a Slug Club takeover!
Next we, along with the other winners and their guests, were escorted to Diagon Alley to begin our adventure. We got there shortly before park close, so we had to wait for some muggles to clear out. We practiced our swish and flick and discussed how long everyone had been in fandom while we waited.
Once the area was cleared, we gathered to take a group shot in Diagon Alley with Gringotts and the dragon as our backdrop. Little did we know this was a full production! Huge fill flashes were brought in and they took several different shots. We were told to stay where we were, that they would take a few more pictures in a moment. Then, when the photographer started to take the next series of shots, James Phelps, Oliver Phelps, and Evanna Lynch ran into the picture! We are still waiting on Universal to send us/post to social media the pictures from this shoot, but thankfully they posted this video to their YouTube channel!
We had a very few moments to meet and greet with the actors after this. I was extremely lucky to get a quick picture with James and Evanna. They were whisked away shortly after to attend a special media-only event at the Leaky Cauldron.
After that surprise, we were taken to the Escape from Gringotts ride. Our first stop was in the lobby to have a Q&A with Alan Gilmore, who was the art director for the films and supervising art director for the ride and new park area. It was amazing to learn how much was involved in the creation of Diagon Alley, which took three years from start to finish. We learned that J.K. was involved in the process from the beginning, approving each part. Another neat fun fact we learned about the lobby was the giant chandelier that hangs overhead; It contains twenty thousand crystals!
When asked what his favorite part of the new Diagon Alley area of the park was, Alan said it was the street itself. On a soundstage they are limited to a twenty foot ceiling and CGI fills the skies in, whereas in the park they could build to scale without those limitations.
Multiple teams made up the entire art department for the films, a thousand people in total. This included a team devoted entirely to the furniture you see throughout the series! Many sets took a month each to create. When bringing the details of those sets to the park, some details were designed back in London instead of on-site. One example of this is the marble columns in the lobby. The design for the marbling was created by the art department in London, then the file emailed and printed out here in the States.
Next, we headed down to the vaults to talk to MinaLima. If you don’t already know who they are, they created all the amazing graphic designs you see throughout the films (and now in the parks). They have been working together since 2000 with the first film and named their company after their surnames; (Miraphora) Mina and (Eduardo) Lima.
I knew about some of the more obvious things they’ve designed; the Daily Prophet, the Chocolate Frog boxes, the Marauder’s Map. What never occurred to me were some of the other aspects of the Wizarding World we see that they designed. The floor pattern in Gringotts, the details in the goblins’ armor, the medallions set in the floor for the new interactive wands…! They created ALL of that!
Another part of the films that was interesting for the duo was the idea that their creations would have to be animated. This meant drawing varying views of the Daily Prophet and even the Howler that Ron receives. They said during filming when a Daily Prophet was meant to be held by Harry, Daniel Radcliff would have to hold a green square to be animated in post production.
While the filmmakers were brought in for the park design, many of them (such as MinaLima), didn’t actually get to see the finished product until the park was already open. Like the marble columns Alan discussed earlier, Mina said that they designed while in London and then digitally sent those designs to be used here in Orlando. She admitted that they were a bit teary-eyed the first time they came to the parks and saw their work in person.
Finally, what were some of their favorite designs? For Mina, she was happy that they had some creative freedom to design entirely new areas that were never before seen in the Wizarding World… such as the “cheeky wall above the restrooms.” Lima said his favorite has been adding his Mom’s name in as the author of some of the books. We’ll definitely all be on the lookout for those, now!
Saying our farewells to MinaLima, we then proceeded to ride Escape from Gringotts. As Heather and I decided to go to the back of the line, we ended up riding the lift by ourselves! It was slightly eerie to be in the ride without all the extra muggles we’re used to seeing, but very nice all the same!
Having finished the ride and our wonderful Q&As, we thought our night was over. However, as soon as we exited the ride, we were taken to the Carkitt Market area of Diagon where we were given a FREE Butterbeer of our choice; regular, frozen, or warm! I swear it was the best warm Butterbeer I’ve ever had!
The end of the night had arrived too quickly. We were treated to amazing photo ops, private Q&As, no wait for the new ride, and a drink on the house to wrap things up. Thank you, Universal Orlando, for this amazing event and for the rest of the Celebration of Harry Potter!