UNIVERSAL CITY — Fans of all things Harry Potter are plotting a return to Universal Studios Hollywood this summer, with the theme park beginning presentations of a nightly light show highlighting the four houses of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
From snakes slithering up the turrets of Hogwarts Castle to a majestic lion leaping across its stone foundation, “The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle” will give Potter fans a thrill and likely entice even non-Potter enthusiasts with its dramatic score and illuminating effects, which at one point make the castle’s walls appear to dissolve away.
One in an occasional series of places to visit around Los Angeles.
The show, which began June 23, is the first of its kind for Universal Studios, which has reinvented itself over the past three years, establishing “immersive” environments that put park-goers into “The Simpsons” hometown of Springfield, the streets of Gru’s neighborhood from “Despicable Me” and, of course, the cobblestone walkways of Hogsmeade village leading into Harry Potter’s mystical Hogwarts Castle.
“It’s certainly the first time that we’ve endeavored to create a nighttime experience like this here at Universal Studios Hollywood,” Stephen Siercks, the park’s senior director of Entertainment Production, told City News Service.
The show is accompanied by a musical score created by Oscar-winning film composer John Williams, who penned the music for the “Harry Potter films, and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra.
As the lights go dark around Hogwarts, the voice of the school’s Sorting Hat booms over a surround-sound system.
“We’re first introduced to the Sorting Hat, which welcomes us to the experience, and says he’s going to help guide us through this journey, introducing us to each of the houses,” Siercks said. “Then, we’re introduced to Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Slytherin and Gryffindor.”
For the non-Potter-initiated, the Sorting Hat is placed upon the heads of new Hogwarts students and “sorts” them into one of the school’s four “houses.”
“I’m the Hogwarts Sorting Hat,” he says at the show’s onset. “There’s nothing I can’t see. So try me on and I will tell you where you ought to be.”
The roughly five-minute light show, projected onto the facade of Hogwarts Castle and its foundation, pays homage to the four houses, with themed presentations for each one — highlighted by the hissing snakes of Slytherin and roaring lion of Gryffindor.
“Then in an epic finale, we actually are introduced to Hogwarts Castle itself, in which the castle literally peels away to reveal the insides, whether it’s the Great Hall, the shifting staircases or the Owlery,” Siercks said.
“There’s something for every guest to experience and enjoy, whether they’re the extreme fan or they’re the casual fan.”
Throughout the presentation, the trees of the Forbidden Forest surrounding the castle are lit, and the show ends with beams of light fanning across the dark skies above the castle.
The “Nighttime Lights” show will be presented several times a night continuing through Labor Day weekend.