The Good: Decent concept, Wonderful sound effect, Decent detailing on the rocks.
The Bad: Poor light effect, Vastly underdetailed on the buildings.
The Basics: The 2013 Hogwarts Castle Harry Potter ornament should have been so much better.
I can always tell when a franchise has fallen from its peak position by the merchandise produced for that franchise. After the licensers move on to other, more profitable, ventures but have to burn off product to satisfy their licensing agreements, the merchandise associated with the fallen franchise is decidedly subpar, especially compared to the merchandise produced for that franchise when it was hip, relevant, and most profitable. In other words, there are very few licensers who actually work to maintain the popularity of a franchise as it slips from the public’s attention. Harry Potter is now a franchise in decline and nowhere is that more evident than at Hallmark. That assertion is fairly easy to make after checking out this year’s Harry Potter Hallmark Keepsake ornament, Hogwarts Castle.
"Hogwarts Castle" has fair balance and a good concept but such erratic detailing that it almost looks like it was put together by two separate teams of ornament makers. The bulk of the ornament is light on the details and embarrassingly undercolored compared to the richness of the base and the picture on the box while the bottom and the sound chip for Hogwarts Castle is actually fairly impressive. The result is an erratic ornament likely to disappoint Harry Potter fans far more than it would thrill them.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, “Hogwarts Castle” is a holiday ornament that features the iconic school of wizardy and witchcraft seen in the Harry Potter Saga (reviewed here!). The magical fortress is a building set atop a cliff and Hallmark worked to incorporate the rocky surroundings into the 2013 Hogwarts Castle ornament.
“Hogwarts Castle” recreates iconic castle school with its spires and almost church-like architecture. The sculpt, to be fair to the ornament is not a bad one and the castle looks appropriate on the rocky ball it springs out of. Measuring 3 1/2" tall, 3 3/4" wide and 2 1/4" deep, the “Hogwarts Castle” did not sell out during the Preview Weekend at the original issue price of $24.95, despite it being the only Harry Potter ornament for 2013 (another sign that the franchise is in decline is that Hallmark did not produce an exclusive ornament this year!).
The Hallmark “Hogwarts Castle” ornament is made of a durable plastic and has the castle alone on the rocky earth. All of the pieces are molded together, so there is nothing that will fall off on this ornament. However, given how flimsy and assembled many parts of the ornament are – one of the spires and at least one of the halls are detached from the others, making it clear that the castle was not molded out of a single piece of plastic/resin. In general, the sculpt is good: the spires look like spires and the side windows on the main hall of Hogwarts are molded in to make it look like they are a product of the architecture. Unfortunately, that is not universally the case. Most of the windows – especially on the spires – are only distinguished by being a different color from the tan/brown buildings. Instead of having finer molded details, Hallmark relied upon coloring to make the Hogwarts Castle ornament appear correct.
As for the coloring, Hogwarts Castle is something of a wash. When the ornament is lit, the coloring details that make the building look weathered and more than one type of stone are washed out by the internal light. At least as important are the blues of the roofs and windows take on a sickly pallor and some of the colors even fall down the color spectrum to the point that they obscure their purpose. To wit, one of the windows on the main spire, when unlit, is clearly a blue window. When the ornament is lit, that window becomes almost gray and is so indistinct that at first I thought the ornament was simply dirty at the spot! The rest of the ornament takes on a color that is closer to orange than earthtones and it makes Hogwarts Castle look ridiculous.
The ground is multicolored for a sense of realism and it looks good when the lights are on or off.
As a Hallmark Keepsake ornament, “Hogwarts Castle” has a battery-powered sound effect and it connects to a light strand to illuminate the castle. The sound effect is simple: pressing a button concealed in the rocks causes the Harry Potter theme to play from a speaker on the bottom of the ornament. This is a music box-like rendition of the Harry Potter theme and it plays for over twenty seconds. The sound is clear and instantly recognizable to the fans.
Hallmark includes the batteries needed to operate the ornament. Unfortunately, when connected to a light strand for the light effect, the ornament is poorly and awkwardly lit. The weak lighting distorts the surface details of the ornament and undermines the few benefits the ornament possesses.
As with all ornaments, the intent of the Hallmark Keepsake “Hogwarts Castle” ornament is to be hung on a Christmas Tree. And for those creating the ultimate fantasy Christmas Tree, the “Hogwarts Castle” ornament is a fair, though large, addition, especially compared with other Harry Potter ornaments. The ornament has a metal hook loop that comes out of one of the spires. From that position, the ornament is actually fairly stable, more than I would have guessed. This is an exceptionally stable ornament that only sways when it (or the tree) is bumped.
“Hogwarts Castle” ornament hangs with a bias toward the back. The castle is in no way symmetrical and that makes the ornament backheavy, so it hangs with a pitch that is accented by the fact that the flat bottom is not hanging in a way that it is completely obscured. The pitch problem is not a huge one – no more than 15 degrees – but it is noticeable.
Hallmark Keepsake began delving into the collectibles market in 1991 with Star Trek when it introduced the exceptionally limited edition original U.S.S. Enterprise ornament (reviewed here!). Since then, they have delved into virtually every other collectible franchise in an attempt to cash in on every major license. The Harry Potter series has had several ornaments made for it, a few of which have started to really explode in value because of the end of the cinematic franchise. Given that this is the only Harry Potter ornament for 2013, one suspects it might sell well. However, given how fans have had the potential to get several other statue-quality Hogwarts models and toys before now, it seems unlikely that they would feel the pull they might have years ago to buy this substandard ornament right up.
If purchased at such a discount, I suspect “Hogwarts Castle” might be a decent investment piece. If this were to be the final Hallmark Harry Potter ornament, it might be a sure bet, but given how mediocre the execution is and given how the fan base already seems to be abandoning the franchise it is by no means the safe bet it might have been ten years ago.
"Hogwarts Castle" is a disappointing ornament for Harry Potter fans who might have hoped for a real knockout rendition of Hogwarts delivered at an affordable price. For those fans, the search continues.
For other Harry Potter ornaments, please check out my reviews of:
2012 The Final Battle
2011 The Golden Snitch (Limited Edition!)
2011 Fleeing The Fiendfyre
2010 The Pensieve
2010 A Gift For Dobby (Limited Edition!)
2009 "Harry! Happy Birthday!"
2001 Hogwarts School Crest Set
For other ornament reviews, please visit my Ornament Review Index Page, there you will find an organized listing of all the ornaments I've reviewed!
© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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