Harry Potter Magic at Play: Warner Bros. Hopes for New Fans in Chicago

The former Macy’s in Chicago’s historic Water Tower Area is now the site of a Harry Potter interactive experience that looks set to draw scores of wizards and muggles of all ages.

“Harry Potter: Magic at Play” is the new collaboration between Warner Bros. and Original X Productions, which also produced three other animated Harry Potter experiences, as well as “The Friends Experience,” which is set in New York City. Before the opening of Nov. 11, Variety he was invited to view the stage and talk to the creative team that brought the event to life.

Click here to see pictures of the show.

Stacy Moscatelli, president & chief creative officer at Original X Productions, said there were two key themes the team had in mind for the show, which is full of activities for kids that adults can do too.

“The generation that grew up with Harry Potter, they’re parents now, and you never grow out of Harry Potter,” he said. “So it’s an opportunity for them to introduce the franchise to their children at the level they’ve prepared for it – even if they don’t know the stories, which most six-year-olds may not be familiar with. But we didn’t want to alienate the main audience – we wanted fans of all ages, which is difficult. There was a lot of discussion trying to figure out how we can make this place work in a way that suits both groups. “

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The three-story event brings many scenes from the Harry Potter series to life, including the Whomping Willow, the Triwizard Maze, the Forbidden Forest, Hogwarts classrooms and the Great Hall. The hands-on activities include trying Quidditch skills; being assigned to the right house by the Sorting Hat; to smell, feel and see the ingredients that make up potions by swirling them together in a pot; and creating custom Lego Wizards, in an installation sponsored by a brick-and-mortar company. Projection screens and super high-resolution photo backgrounds, designed to pop up on camera phones, provide plenty of photo fodder for fans.

A staggering amount of information is included in every corner of the exhibition, which took a team of around 500 people, from designers to architects, to put together. The project was launched in May 2021.

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Kathleen Wallis, vice president of global themed entertainment at Warner Bros. Discovery, highlighted the value of these shows compared to theme park attractions such as The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando and The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour in London.

“Parks are what movies are,” he said. “You can get into those stories and those experiences. These are some experiences that bring something different to the table. When we were thinking about what this experience could be, one of the things we looked at was, ‘How do we bring this franchise and make it accessible to young kids? We don’t have anything out there that’s really geared towards young kids.’ ”

Three other moving exhibits that the company is partnering with in the world of Harry Potter include “The Forbidden Forest Experience,” now in Westchester, New York; “Harry Potter: The Exhibition,” now in Atlanta; and “Harry Potter: A Yule Ball Celebration,” currently in Houston.

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The launch of “Magic at Play” comes at a difficult time for JK Rowling’s Wizarding World franchise, as the author has been criticized by some fans and some members of the films’ cast members for controversial anti-trans tweets.

Furthermore, the fourth film in the “Fantastic Beasts” franchise, Rowling’s prequel series which was originally set to five films, has not yet been released, as a result of the scandal and controversy that followed the third part, which led to the franchise- a low opening and an average box office performance.

Despite these speed bumps, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav discussed the possibility of doing “something else” with Rowling on another title in the Wizarding World franchise “going forward” during the company’s Q3 earnings call on Thursday.

In addition, there are a number of “Fantastic Beasts” easter eggs in “Magic at Play,” including appearances from some fantastic beasts, including the mischievous Niffler and Demiguise.

“Harry Potter: Magic at Play” will be open until May in the current location until they move to the new city.


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