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The line between movie magic and reality was hopelessly blurred at Warner Brothers’ party for the American premiere of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on Sunday. Nine-hundred guests had scarcely finished viewing the film at Grauman’s Chinese Theater when they boarded buses that shuttled them to the nearby Jim Henson Company Lot, where they were re-immersed in the wizard world of ancient castles, prophesies, and enchanted fireplaces.
Warner’s Courtney Saylor, Chad Hudson, Troy Williams, and Bonnie Horton oversaw the event, and Saylor and Hudson collaborated with Wendy Creed Productions on event design and production, providing Creed with specific scenes and set direction from the film to incorporate into the decor. Guests passed through a sheet of fog decorated with a projection of the film’s title before ambling through a courtyard evocative of the movie’s Forbidden Forest. Buffet tables and bars made from foliage and rocks appeared to grow from the ground and complemented a verdant landscape of oak, pine, and sycamore trees. Carnival games with Potter-like themes—among them Flip a Phoenix and Quidditch Toss—dotted the courtyard, as did a tea-leaf reader and a fortune teller.
As a creative way to move guests from the courtyard to an interior space, Creed re-created the film’s floo network—fireplaces with brilliant green flames used for traveling—with an oversize fireplace and green-flamed projections on a fog screen. Inside, various elements from the film coexisted, such as a wall decked with orbs emulating the Hall of Prophecies, a replica of the enchanted ceiling at Hogwarts Great Hall that alternated between projections of blue and stormy skies, and a series of moving pictures (the Harry Potter special effects team provided a hard drive of images that party organizers reformatted to DVD and played on a loop throughout the night).
The re-creation of the film’s fictional world was so thorough that even the bathrooms featured film-inspired touches, in the form of the kitten-decorated china plates of Hogwarts teacher Dolores Umbridge’s office, complete with meow sound effects. Guests remained at the party past midnight, delaying the exit to the real world on the other side of the green flames.