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Creating Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience

Last winter, a magical illuminated experience enchanted guests at Arley Hall and Gardens in Cheshire.

Lalla Merlin

April 11, 2022

5 Min Read
blooloop

Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience, an immersive nighttime woodland trail that took place last winter, celebrated the iconic Forbidden Forest and creatures from the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts series.  

Located in the woodland of Arley Hall and Gardens in Cheshire, U.K., the illuminated experience was created by Warner Bros. Themed Entertainment in partnership with designers and experiential creators, Thinkwell, alongside its partner, Unify, and entertainment discovery platform, Fever.  

Heather McGill and Anthony Norris, directors and owners, Unify Productions Global; Craig Hanna, chief creative officer, Thinkwell Group and Peter van Roden, senior vice president, Warner Bros. Themed Entertainment (WBTE) talked to blooloop about the project’s creation.  

“Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience offers fans a way to enjoy some of the most iconic and magical wizarding world moments in an experience unlike anything we’ve ever done before on the franchise,” says Peter van Roden, senior vice president, Warner Bros. Themed Entertainment. “Fans love the Forbidden Forest, so getting to cast a Patronus, coming across beloved Nifflers, to encountering mysterious unicorns, we think this woodland light trail will truly thrill fans and is yet another Wizarding World experience in the UK that was created with fans in mind.”  

Together, all the teams created an experience that is both inspired by, and authentic to, the Wizarding World and the iconic Forbidden Forest.  

“I was event director, overseeing site operations, technical production and finance,” says Anthony Norris, director, owner, Unify Productions Global. “Essentially, Heather and I split the ‘event director’ role in half. She focused on the creative, working with Warner Bros. Themed Entertainment and the team at Thinkwell. I then took the creative concept and worked with the technical and operational teams to deliver them.”  

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A New Type of COVID-Secure Event  

Norris describes the inception of Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience: “2020 was a difficult year for many, and the Live Events industry was amongst the worst affected. Live events completely stopped in March 2020. In situations like this, you have two choices: fight or flight. Having spent the past 20+ years working on live events, I chose to fight, as I love what I do. Heather and I had worked together several times in the past, having met at Live Nation in 2010 and then for close to 2 years at London 2012. So, I reached out to her in early September to see what she was doing.”  

“We started talking about ‘COVID secure’ events. When the Forbidden Forest was mentioned, it was like a lightbulb had been switched on. At this point, Heather asked if I was happy for her to reach out to Craig, as they had been working with the Warner Bros. Themed Entertainment team for close to 15 years. The rest, as they say, is history.”  

In honor of Licensing Expo 2022 taking location-based entertainment as its theme for the year, License Global is teaming up with blooloop to further explore the world of immersive experiences.   

Read Lalla Merlin’s in-depth discovery of “Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience” in full at blooloop. 

Alternatively, to find out more about Licensing Expo or to register your interest in attending, click here. 

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