Yesterday was one of the most monumental moments in Nerd History since the announcement of Star Wars: Episode VII.
Warner Bros and J.K. Rowling are collaborating on expanding the Harry Potter Universe.
Just as George Lucas often disavowed any interest in returning to the Star Wars Universe, J.K. Rowling has spent the last several years stating that the Harry Potter series is done, completed, and will not be added to. Instead, she has been releasing adult fiction and enjoying a more quiet life.
Yesterday’s announcement stays true to Rowling’s word. The new film series, and other marketing tie-ins, will not expand the story of Harry Potter himself. Harry’s quest to defeat Voldemort is completed and finished, and his story ended. Instead, much as the Extended Universe of Star Wars has explored the expanse of that galaxy, this new series will go deeper into the nuances and lore J.K. Rowling built while writing the Harry Potter series.
This is not an extension of the Harry Potter story. This is an opportunity for Muggles to get an expanded glimpse into the world of Diagon Alley, Hogwarts, Platform 9 and 3/4, Quidditch, Norwegian Ridgeback Dragons, and the rest of the world of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Here is the press release from J.K. Rowling herself:
“It all started when Warner Bros. came to me with the suggestion of turning Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them into a film. I thought it was a fun idea, but the idea of seeing Newt Scamander, the supposed author of Fantastic Beasts, realized by another writer was difficult. Having lived for so long in my fictional universe, I feel very protective of it and I already knew a lot about Newt. As hard-core Harry Potter fans will know, I liked him so much that I even married his grandson, Rolf, to one of my favourite characters from the Harry Potter series, Luna Lovegood.
Although it will be set in the worldwide community of witches and wizards where I was so happy for seventeen years, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is neither a prequel nor a sequel to the Harry Potter series, but an extension of the wizarding world. The laws and customs of the hidden magical society will be familiar to anyone who has read the Harry Potter books or seen the films, but Newt’s story will start in New York, seventy years before Harry’s gets underway.
I particularly want to thank Kevin Tsujihara of Warner Bros. for his support in this project, which would not have happened without him. I always said that I would only revisit the wizarding world if I had an idea that I was really excited about and this is it.”
I do not believe Rowling is doing this for a paycheck. She already has more money than she knows what to do with, even after donating large sums to charity. She can pick and choose what she would like to do. If she did not want to return to the Potter sandbox, she does not need to.
I do believe she is genuinely engaged in the creative work, and, as she wrote, “The idea of seeing Newt Scamander, the supposed author of Fantastic Beasts, realized by another writer was difficult.”
Being a writer myself (though not quite as successful as Rowling), I can identify with not wanting to send off my beloved characters to be written by another mind. That mind has not lived with the character’s in their mind, does not know all the details of the character’s life history.
Will people be disappointed to not join Harry, Hermione, and Ron on another adventure?
However, thanks to the magic of the Internet, we can always enjoy things like this:
The quality of the film, despite Rowling acting as Screenwriter, also depends on the director.
For example, here’s a quick run-down of the Harry Potter Film Franchise Directors:
Christopher Columbus (1,2)
Columbus built the visual world in The Sorcerer’s Stone (or, the Philosopher’s Stone for those of you in England), but lost much of the life and spirit of the books. The Chamber of Secrets was a better film, but still lacking.
Alfonso Cuaron (3)
Cuaron brought in the needed emotion, and added flourishes and shades of life, yet The Prisoner of Askaban has some moments that feel out of place.
Mike Newell (4)
Built a sturdy, though forgettable adaptation for The Goblet of Fire.
David Yates (5,6,7,7.5)
Beginning with The Order of the Phoenix, Yates balanced the spectacle and wonder of Potter’s world with the emotional journey at the core of the series. In the last four films, he captured the essence of the books while making something truly cinematic. (Also, he made wizard duels look super, super cool.)
In the words so often used to describe a fan’s feelings towards Star Wars: Episode VII, I am cautiously optimistic. Honestly, I would be more excited if this were a book series first, but I have faith in Rowling’s ability as a story-teller.
This could be spectacular.
SIDE NOTE 1
As a reference, here is my Excitementometer (a meter to measure how excited I am).
As you can see Harry Potter is not my absolute favorite thing in the universe (oh, how I love chocolate chip cookies), but it still ranks very high.
SIDE NOTE 2
Here is the letter Warner Bros should send to J.K. Rowling:
Dear Ms. Rowling,
Thank you for continuing the Harry Potter franchise. This will help balance our books, in case The Justice League falls apart. On the other hand, if the Justice League succeeds, we appreciate the addition of Harry Potter-related movies to compete with Star Wars.
In other words, thanks for helping us compete against Disney.
Warner Bros Management
Side Note 3
I won First Place in my Toastmasters Club’s Humorous Speech contest. I based the speech on this story. Now, I have to get ready for the District Level competition on September 28.
Other Thoughts On The Next Venture Into the world of Witchcraft and Wizardry:
How excited are you for this new venture into Harry Potter’s universe? Who do you think should direct it? If you could have any character in the new film series, who would it be? Are you still waiting for your letter of admission to Hogwarts?