Sunday, October 5, 2014

Harry Potter Fans Will Only Find Disappointment In The Sorting Hat Ornament From Hallmark!

The Good: Good soundclip
The Bad: Very light on surface/coloring details, Frontheavy, Animated look
The Basics: In their quest to make a Harry Potter diorama ornament, Hallmark made the 2014 The Sorting Hat ornament unfortunately underdetailed.

The cat is out of the bag, the ornament to find at Hallmark this year is the Olaf ornament from Disney’s Frozen! Anyone who is tuned into Hallmark ornaments and pop culture saw this one coming (while Hallmark stores and social media are flooded by offended people who clearly are not at all aware of the collectible nature of the ornaments). The ornaments from the Harry Potter franchise used to occupy the coveted niche for fans and collectors, but since the film franchise ended, Hallmark has really let the line go. This year’s ornament for Harry Potter fans is The Sorting Hat and because I am only a reviewer and collector of Hallmark ornaments, the company obviously does not care what I think, but the truth is that virtually all of the problems with The Sorting Hat could have been easily fixed by one simple thing: stick to the title.


I applaud ambition, but sometimes in the attempt to make something big and wonderful, a company can completely miss the mark on what they wanted to create. In the case of The Sorting Hat, instead of being the magical artifact on its own, the ornament features the hat, Harry Potter and Professor McGonagall. In the past, Hallmark has been willing to create ornaments that feature only the artifact that is the subject of the ornament; The Sorting Hat continues the diorama ornament line and if Hallmark had done that with The Sorting Hat, they could have done it right. As it stands, though, the two characters are animated-looking and there is so little detailing on the Sorting Hat that one has to really look to see what the supposed subject of the ornament is all about!

For those unfamiliar with the concept, The Sorting Hat is a holiday ornament that features a moment from Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone (reviewed here!). When each of the students arrives at Hogwart’s, The Sorting Hat is used to determine which house each of the students gets to be a part of. When Professor McGonagall calls upon Harry Potter to get his house, he begs the Sorting Hat not to put him is Slytherin. The hat chooses Gryffindor for Harry and it is the moment McGonagall holds the Sorting Hat over Harry Potter’s head and it “reads” him that is the subject of the ornament.


The Sorting Hat recreates the moment from Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone features Harry, Professor McGonagall, and The Sorting Hat standing on a section of floor cast in solid plastic. The ornament, released in 2014, is an underdetailed ornament that is so light on detailing that it is more like the artwork associated with the novels than it is a replica of the characters as they appeared in the films. Measuring 4 3/4” tall by 2 3/4” wide and 1 7/8” deep, the The Sorting Hat seems to be selling remarkably slowly at the original issue price of $24.95.

The Hallmark The Sorting Hat ornament is made of a durable plastic and has the professor standing next to Harry Potter, her left hand on the Sorting Hat and a list of the students in her right hand. Because Professor McGonagall is holding the Sorting Hat and both characters are attached to the wooden-looking piece of the stage, all of the pieces of molded together, so there is nothing that will fall off this ornament.

The ornament is exceptionally light on detailing, though. The skin tones are all monolithically tan and the eyes are little more than black dots in the sockets (or behind the glasses). The paintjob on the characters is erratic and the list does not have a level of detailing to actually include the names of the students on it. But most important is the Sorting Hat itself. The Sorting Hat is molded much smoother than the actual sorting hat, so it does not look like it is actually burlap. Even more importantly, the coloring on the Sorting Hat is so muted that the molded and colored eyes and mouth of the hat are virtually invisible. In fact, it is only if one looks exceptionally closely at the hat on the ornament that the face is evident. The lack of accents for the key thing that makes the Sorting Hat a magical artifact ruins the ornament. If the characters had been better detailed and the hat had been better detailed or on its own, the ornament could have been saved, but as executed, the muted colors and lack of detailing to the hat really drive the value of the ornament down.


As a Hallmark Keepsake ornament, The Sorting Hat has an impressive audio clip. The entire dialogue exchange where Harry Potter begs the hat to pick “not Slytherin” and the hat mulling that over and then choosing Gryffindor for Harry. The sound clip is impressively rendered from an actual audio sample from the film Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone. The ornament is powered by watch batteries (that are included) and the volume is pretty decent. The sound clip might be the best part of The Sorting Hat ornament.


As with all ornaments, the intent of the Hallmark Keepsake The Sorting Hat ornament is to be hung on a Christmas Tree. And for those creating the ultimate fantasy Christmas Tree, The Sorting Hat ornament should have been an essential Harry Potter ornament, but its execution is so poorly done that this one cannot be recommended. The ornament has a steel hook loop that comes out of Professor McGonagall’s arm. Unfortunately, from that point, the ornament is exceptionally front-heavy. The ornament seems to lean forward and that is troublesome given how the base is a flat piece of flooring; it makes it obvious that the ornament is not level.


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, but none of them have truly exploded in value. Given how expensive the ornament is initially and its relatively low quality level, it is hard to believe this one will be appreciating any time soon.

In other words, this is not the best investment piece and even the collectors and fans seem to be pretty neutral to it.


Despite the excellent sound clip from The Sorting Hat ornament, the expense of the ornament, poor balance, and the low level of detailing to the sculpt and paint job make it easy to pass by this ornament.

For other Harry Potter ornaments, please check out my reviews of:
2013 Hogwarts Castle
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 Crests mini-ornament set


For other ornament and toy reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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