The latest light projection show at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, called “Dark Arts at Hogwarts Castle,” will unleash the darkest creatures and villains from the Harry Potter franchise, in an awe-inspiring display of light, music and special effects. As darkness falls, sinister images from the darker side of magic, including Dementors, Death Eaters, Aragog, Mountain Trolls, Thestrals and even the powerful dark wizard Lord Voldemort, will impress guests as they cloak the castle. And all of this is accompanied by an exclusive musical arrangement from William Ross that’s based on the original scores from the film series.
Collider was recently invited to preview this exciting new offering, and while we were at Universal Studios Hollywood, we took a few minutes to chat with Sr. Director of Entertainment Production Stephen Siercks about how it all came about.
Collider: When and how did you decide that this was the next thing you wanted to do with Hogwarts Castle?
STEPHEN SIERCKS: After the success of “The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle,” where we were able to embrace the four houses and tell that story, and “The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle,” which allowed us to look at the holiday season within the Harry Potter world, the Dark Arts at Hogwarts Castle allows us to now portray those darker undertones of the Wizarding World. Now, our guests are going to be introduced to characters, such as Aragog, Thestrals, Dementors, Death Eaters, and even Lord Voldemort, himself, as we explore and celebrate the Dark Arts.
Why did you want to celebrate the darker side of this world?
SIERCKS: It’s an aspect of the story that we haven’t been able to embrace, in this way, yet. We’re really excited about bringing this to the guests to experience it, and finding ways to create new and unique storytelling devices and experiences for the guests here in the Wizarding World.
What are the technical challenges of doing something like this?
SIERCKS: It takes a team of designers, creative directors and technicians, over two years to fully conceive, develop and produce these experiences for our guests. Through that, we’re able to uncover and understand what parts of the story we want to produce, and then we translate that into imagery, sound and overall dynamics, both on and around the castle.
What did you learn from doing this the first time that has made it easier to keep doing different things with these types of shows?
SIERCKS: One of the things that we were able to introduce, with both “The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle” and “The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle,” was the ability to extend the experiences off of the castle. Through innovative lighting and audio, we’re able to not only project onto the castle surface itself, but bring that experience in and around the audience. We’re excited about continuing to embrace and enhance that for Dark Arts, as well.
How has the technology evolved?
SIERCKS: We’re continuing to marry technology with storytelling to create our experiences, and we’re also finding that innovative approach to make sure that we’re staying true and embracing the story and the architecture of the Wizarding World.
What do you personally love about the Harry Potter movies, and why do you think it’s so appealing to so many different age groups?
SIERCKS: One of the things that I love about the Harry Potter franchise is the sense of community. The fact that you’ve got several different facets and areas of the communal ability to experience together is something that not only transcends from the Harry Potter books and films, but also into experiences that we create here in “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.” It’s creating a truly immersive and compelling experience where guests, as soon as they walk through those gates, are a part of the collective vision and story that’s being told.
What is the coolest thing about what you get to do, here at the theme park?
SIERCKS: Being able to work with people, creating great experiences with great content, is probably the best part of my job.
“Dark Arts at Hogwarts Castle” is at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood through April 28, and then returns from May 25-27.