End the day with a dose of magic, at Universal's new Hogwarts Castle show

June 14, 2017, 11:17 PM · UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. — If there's a defining character to the Harry Potter franchise, it is persistence.

Now, I'm not just talking about the persistence of a group of idealistic students, fighting to rid their world of evil. I'm also talking about the persistence of a franchise that started with one book and ended up delivering seven major novels, eight movies, a pair of stage plays, a slew of shorter books, and another film trilogy (in progress). And, oh yeah, four theme park lands... and counting.

No matter how much Potter you've enjoyed in your life, the Wizarding World persists in offering you more. The latest? The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle, a castle projection light show that is debuting this month at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Don't come expecting the Wizarding World's response to Disney's World of Color, or even Universal Orlando's Cinematic Spectacular. While Hogwarts Castle provides an impressive canvas upon which to paint a delightful show, the available viewing space in front of the castle in Universal's Hogsmeade Village is relatively meager.

Universal would be killing itself by programming a show meant to draw thousands in a space that can barely hold hundreds. So Universal laid up here, and appropriately so. This nighttime show is the creative equivalent of picking low-hanging fruit.

The Sorting Hat is our unseen host, leading us through a short, five-minute shout-out to the four houses of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry: Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Slytherin, and Gryffindor. Go ahead and yell for your house — everyone else in the crowd will for theirs.

But the thing about low-hanging fruit is that it's often sweet, tasty, and easy. Despite the brief run time, Universal has packed enough detail onto its castle that you'll want to see the show a second, and third, time — to take in everything from the cut-away, interior view of the staircases at one point in the show, to the owls flying from the school at the end. No, it's not the Battle of Hogwarts, recreated to thrilling effect. There's no narrative, nor a recreation of classic moments from the franchise. But it's a fun way to end your day in Hogsmeade — with a healthy, final serving of magic.

And with a Christmas version on the way (in Orlando, at least), Universal has the ability to deliver additional versions of the show in the years to come. So who knows what we might see, eventually? All we do know is... the wizards at Universal are persistent.

Universal plans to run the show multiple times a night once it opens officially on June 23, and I'd recommend not rushing to see the first performance of the evening. Universal invited local reporters to watch tonight's performances, and after crowding onto a platform to record the first show above a packed crowd of Potter fans, I found a better angle on the ground for the second show, when there was ample space to spread out and enjoy the view.

Update: Universal Studios Hollywood will host a Facebook Live event to stream the official debut of The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle, on Friday, June 23 at 8:45pm PT.

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Replies (6)

June 15, 2017 at 5:40 AM · Animation looks great, just needs some pyrotechnics.
June 15, 2017 at 8:25 AM · Oh my, This is Lovely!!!

Universal keeps adding new and exciting things.

June 15, 2017 at 11:36 AM · Universal can't do nightly pyro in Hollywood due to the difficulty of securing permits, given ongoing concerns about air quality in the highly populated Southern California megalopolis, not to mention what would be an epic fight with neighbors over noise and traffic concerns on three adjacent freeways. (It just went through a knock-down, drag-out with some neighbors over the new freeway ramps.)

Disneyland goes through bureaucratic hell to stage its shows and had to develop a new propulsion system to continue doing that. Universal has more important battles to fight in the community, at this point, IMHO.

June 15, 2017 at 12:59 PM · Not a bad show, but it does need some fireworks. They should do low level fireworks that don't explode. They just spray outward in the midpoint and finale. They should consider adding drones, but I'm sure the winds might make it less possible.

The show doesn't do anything for me. There's a lack of interesting things to see. They should have a narrative story that uses some familiar character voices like Dumbledore, Snape, or Hermione.

June 16, 2017 at 1:51 PM · Robert--greetings--does the disneyland fireworks, tend to get cancelled less often, with this new propulsion system, you speak of? Are the launches more accurate, to not have to worry as much about wind, blowing smoke to neighboorhoods?
June 16, 2017 at 4:38 PM · Disneyland started using compressed air instead of explosions to launch its fireworks about a decade ago. It produces far less smoke, as the launch no longer contributes to the air pollution - just the blast of the pyro itself. But Disney does cancel its fireworks when the wind blows over a certain speed (forgetting the specific MPH, off the top of my head), in an effort to contain the spread of the smoke and debris. (Don't know if the air-launched pyro is more accurate that then old blast-launched method.)

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