As soon as you enter the Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando you are immediately greeted by the brightly colored Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes shop. This is the joke shop that belongs to Fred and George Weasley in the Harry Potter books. You can’t miss the bright orange building with fun trim and magic elements in the windows.
If you think the outside is impressive just wait until you step foot inside. All this amazing detail comes from the help of Senior Buyer Maria Kazaros and her merchandise team at Universal Orlando. Two years before Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes officially opened in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley , Maria Kazaros and her team were already hard at work to bring novelty jokes and pranks inspired by those of Fred and George Weasley to life.
Maria is involved with product development, and taking what we have read or seen on film and bringing it to a reality in this Wizarding World Of Harry Potter.
“One of the hardest parts in the beginning was just, how do you bring things to life from Harry’s world,” Maria explains. “We spent many months watching the movies, reading the books, brainstorming, doing work sessions. And we brought in some of the fans to see what they liked. Those fans care and they know what they want, so that helped us all in figuring out what the merchandise in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter would be.”
Even though we got a glimpse of the joke shop in the film and a closer look at the products we have read so much about it was time to try and make those products real and operational.
“One thing that I do is I rely on my product partners who are experts in the industry and know how toys can go from nothing to something,” Maria says. “I ask a lot of questions or just come to them and say, ‘I want to make this, can I?’ And then we’ll sort of reengineer it and I get to create my vision, so to speak.”
Maria has been with the company since 1999 and with the merchandise team since 2001. She said she likes the challenge of creating toys and the problem-solving behind it.
“It’s challenging to take something non-magical, like a pen, and make it magical,” Maria says. “Or something that is magical, like The Monster Book of Monsters, and make it something real for people to interact with.”
It’s one thing for sure. The masterminds behind the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando really paid such close attention to detail. From the Skiving Snackboxes to the Extendable Ears we got to see in Order of the Phoenix they really went all out. And it’s not just the product they perfected. The joke shop from the inside out is so extremely detailed and exactly how it was shown. Even the Umbridge on the ceiling has made it to the shop.
“When you think of that scene in the movie, everything is moving. Dolores Umbridge on the unicycle moves in their store and moves in ours. So that’s one we actually created and brought to life from the movies.”
Make sure you plan a visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley and check out all the insane details of Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes thanks to Maria and her team. Diagon Alley and Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes is located only in Universal Orlando.
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