The enduring magic of the Harry Potter stories
I've read all of the Harry Potter books(including the script for Cursed Child and screen play for Fantastic Beasts)at least twice. I've seen all of the movies more times than I can count. I've been to the Wizzarding Worlds in Florida and Japan and currently, I'm listening to the audio book version of the series for the first time. I just finished HP and the prisoner of Azkaban - SO GOOD! So, yes. I'm a big fan of the series. I'm always amazed when people here or on other theme park fan sites state that Harry Potter is not an enduring IP. That in a few years it will be unpopular and forgotten about. I have to think this comes mostly from people who have only seen the movies. They are wonderful, but the books are so great.
What is it that makes some believe it's not going to be popular going forward? I just can't get enough. Thanks!
I think it has to do with the cyclical nature of pop culture and society's ever-shortening attention span. Have Moby Dick, Dracula, and Tom Sawyer endured? Sure, but perhaps not enough to sustain a full theme park for decades. Even Lord of the Rings, which was first published in 1954, has endured, but fell from the public's consciousness (aside from some Led Zeppelin songs that people were too stoned to know were about Tolkein's masterwork) until Peter Jackson came along. In fact, certain published works are forced into or out of the public's consciousness based on the whims of school boards and PTAs as they release lists for summer reading and books to be sequestered from children due to controversial contents (Sawyer/Huck Finn and LOTR have both been banned and unbanned numerous times by libraries and public school systems). Will Harry Potter be around in 50+ years, absolutely, but I think it's more likely that at some point someone will get offended by something in the books or some think tank will decide stories about wizards are to be kept off summer reading lists and the Hogwart's Express eventually loses steam.
Potter just needs to hold on long enough for the kids who grew up with it to start reading it to their kids. Which by my math, ought to be within the next 10 years on a significant level. That suggests that Potter's cultural endurance - at least for another generation - is pretty much in the bag.
I am one of those people in the minority who are pretty much “over” Harry Potter, so I’ll give my two cents.
Interesting take James...I'm quite shocked that you disliked Prisoner of Azkaban the most, since that Potter movie was created by the most acclaimed director, Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men, Gravity, Y Tu Mama Tambien). The tone of the series definitely shifted from Christopher Columbus' first 2 entries with far more whimsy (and amazing John Williams score) to the dark, eerie tone Cuaron brought. I quite enjoy the more serious tone that Cuaron employed, and it was a welcome change that managed to bring suspense to a story everyone knew (never felt that from Columbus' films where the kids never seem to be in any real peril). David Yates, the now go-to Harry Potter director (4 of the original Harry Potter films and slated to direct all 5 Fantastic Beasts films) seems to be bringing more whimsy back to the series with Fantastic Beasts.
I agree with what Robert said. I grew up with Harry as the books came out and I definitely intend to read my children all the books and watch the movies with them. I love the characters and the stories and want my own children to have the excitement of waiting for a new book to come out. (I need to figure out how to make them wait between books.) I'm guessing there are a lot of members of my generation who feel the same and that should help the IP hold on.
Hi Russell, my issues with Azkaban have less to do with the director and more to do with the screenplay. The vast quantity of great moments dropped and plot changes Cloves unnecessarily made just frustrate me to no end. And the reason movie #3 is the one I dislike the most is because it is the book I like best.
I would call myself a Hardy Potter fan but not a fanatic. I have never been to any Universal theme park (or Disney theme park for that matter) so I cannot judge it based on any experience. That said I do look forward to seeing it someday. Looking at Universal's attendance, no matter what you think of Potter, they made the right business decision. I enjoyed the movies as much as the books, even if they are missing so much of what made the books great. Its hard to say if Universal and Potter will be as popular as they are today, but I feel it's safe to say Potter will be at Universal for a long time. They just have to keep the books and the movies in the public's mind, the way Disney has with their movies and theme parks. Since Universal doesn't own the movie rights or the publishing rights that's a bit more challenging than Disney, but it's still achievable.
Love the Harry Potter franchise. I'm probably in the minority here, and I know she's made claims otherwise, but I honestly believe Rowling will return to the series one day and write more about Harry. She's vowed to leave him alone, but we waited 32 years between stints in seeing Luke and Han back on the big screen, so I'm holding out hope Rowling returns to the characters at some point in the future.
@James Rao- Yesterday morning I finished listening to Azkaban and then I watched the movie last night. I've watched each movie after listening to the books just to have the unabridged story fresh in mind as I watch the movie. I agree with you. Of all the books, Azkaban is my absolute favorite. The movie drove me nuts last night. I hadn't read the book in a few years and I'd forgotten SO MANY plot points especially in the third act that the movie changes. Of course, this has to be done in many circumstances to keep the run time of a film within normal standards. It's frustrating, but necessary. Then there are all the major story points that this screenplay completely rearranges or disposes of for no good reason in my mind. Sometimes I think it's refreshing for a movie to make a few changes so it's fun and new when viewed as a movie. I can't say I feel like that when it comes to Azkaban. I'd forgotten what a major role Hermione's cat, Crookshanks plays in the book. Here his turn as hero is eliminated.
Harry Potter is in no immediate danger, but can the same really be said for 10-20 years in the future? I think that is the real question here, and a lot will depend on how well it can connect with the next generation. The dominant audience within the fandom is those who were born from the late 1980s to the early/mid 2000s, and while there are fans outside that range (particularly on the later end), it definitely is not as popular with kids today as it was 5-10 years ago. Will it rebound as parents who grew up with the series read it to their children, or will those children not feel the same love of the stories and not care for it?
@Rob Not to mention Harry's stunning Quidditch victory! Talk about a "pump your fists in the air and jump for joy" moment! How do you leave that event on the cutting room floor!?!?!
@James -- Thank you!!!! For years I thought I was the only person who thought the movie version of POA was a disaster. I stuck around for the rest of the movies and enjoyed them for the most part, but I can't stomach re-watching POA.
Anyone have a good link as to where to find the HP audiobooks? I like what they done at Universal with the Harry potter theming but don't want the whole park to turn into HP world. I can see both sides of the "argument" and its nice that a conversation can be had and kept civil. So many people take things like this as a personal attack. Anywho, thanks for all the great articles guys, keep up the good work.
@JonFerguson My local library has the audiobooks available for checkout. If yours does not, then I am sure you can get them from Amazon.com. Just make sure Jim Dale is doing the reading. He's a brilliant reader!
@JonFerguson - When I decided to start over and listen to the Audio Books, I just thought I'd go to iTunes and download them. Cut to me - mouth hanging open at the shock of what they cost! I figured by now, the price would have come down to a easy to afford level. Oh, no! Each is still around $30+. So, I decided to do things the old fashion way and go to my local public library. You won't believe this, but that library place...they let you borrow stuff...FOR FREE!
Interesting side note, Rob (interesting to me anyway): Before the movies came out, Mr. Dale pronounced Voldemort without the "T" at the end (which I think sounds way more sinister). But in the later recordings he adds the "T" sound to match the way they say it in the films. Another reason I despise those movies!! ;)
Thanks for the quick responses guys. Yeah, we have priced them as well and had the same reaction when we saw the price. Stephen Fry has a version I hear is really good. I will check out the library and see what they have to offer. Again, thanks for the info.
The one thing going for the theme park area is that the books may be the most well written fantasy literature in a lifetime. The movies are well done, sure, but most series are made up as they go along. As a Star Wars fan, I can clearly admit the inconsistencies in the original Star Wars movie with many of the other films. The Potter books knew exactly where they were going from the very first sentence to when we meet Harry's kids at the end. Another thing that cannot be denied is the attractions are very, very well done with a lot of respect to the source material. My family was in one of the shops and could not trip up the barkeep from getting out of character. She knew every minute detail of Potterlore, and it was impressive. I cannot imagine the popularity diminishing anytime soon. Now, Star Wars will not diminish either. That will last forever, and I hope they put the love and attention into that that Universal has put into Potter.
I thought it was interesting that somebody mentioned whether Tom Sawyer has endured. Um....Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom both have an island that answer that question.....;)
@JC VanHouten Rowling's books are far from perfect. There are enormous plot holes and continuity errors in the Potter novels - why in the world do you think Rowling always has at least one chapter of exposition near the end of each book explaining how everything "worked"? And before you go poking too many holes into the Star Wars stories, you might take a closer look at the similarities between the two franchises. It is very apparent that Rowling was a big Star Wars fan - the similarities in plot, characters, relationships, and significant events are uncanny (not that Star Wars itself was very original to begin with - remember, there's nothing new under the sun!).
Her books were basically mystery novels set in a fantasy world, so, yes, she had to explain how her world worked. I would argue she drew more from basic fantasy sources than from Star Wars, which is just the good vs. evil story. Certainly, there are many areas of literature where a nobody turns out to be the one world savior, and I am sure I don't have to point all of those out. While her basic structure is not new literature, one thing is: the books age as the characters do. The first book is very much a children's book and the last one is a teen book. You could argue that this happened with the Hoobit and the Lord of the Rings, but the aging process was apparent with her books. Also, they were well written. All that being said, they really do lend themselves to a theme park world. They have food, merchandise, locations, etc. Now I grew up on Star Wars. I really hope Disney knocks that out of the park (pun intended.). They also would lend themselves well to a theme park world, but I think it would be more of an effort to attain to same level of immersion due to the fact that the world has aliens and robots, but I believe they can do it, they just have to figure out how to deal with the crowds.
Oh, Star Wars was definitely not her only source for ideas, but the similarities between the stories go beyond the fact that both use the same tried and true "Hero's Journey" tropes and "Jesus Saves" literary plot devices. Neither here nor there to me as everyone copies everyone else these days - it's impossible not to do so! Just thought it was worth mentioning,
James - This is EXACTLY what I wanted. I was hoping people on this page would show passion for these stories. I firmly believe the books will be something generations of parents will share with their kids as they reach the right age. I was in my late 30s when the books came out and I turned my nose up at all the media hype they received. How could a children's book create so much excitement among adults? I didn't start reading the first book until around the time Prisoner of Azkaban was released. Eventually I felt left out, so I picked up a copy of Sorcerer’s Stone and I was hooked. I have no doubt Ron, Hermione and Harry will be a part of our collective imagination for many years to come.
I feel your pain James. When it comes to adapting books in Hollywood, blood sacrifices are always made (ask any fan of Ice and Fire how they feel about the lack of direwolves in Game of Thrones). The beautiful thing is, as unfaithful as the films may be, the books remain timeless and unmarred on our shelves. When James Cain was interviewed for his thoughts about the films based on his books, he offered the following: "People tell me, don’t you care what they’ve done to your book? I tell them, they haven’t done anything to my book. It’s right there on the shelf. They paid me and that’s the end of it.” The Potter lands, while visually inspired by the films, can also fit snugly within the canon of the books. That's why it's been so successful for Universal, there is something for the geek within all of us!
You said it all, Rob. No disagreement here, brother.
Rob, I am both a Star Wars and Potter fan. My fear is twofold with Galxy's Edge. The first fear is most likely mere paranoia, and that is they will not put the love and care into the land that Universal did with Potter. In the WWoHP, there is no outside influences. You get butterbeer but no Coke. You get chocolate frogs. The bathrooms have Moaning Myrtle in them. You see wizards and witches walking around. Will Disney have Mickey Mouse with lightsabers? Plastic Death Star cups? Will we have cast members with Star Tour costumers, or will we see wookies, droids, and other aliens walking around? It will be more of a challenge for full immersion, but I think they can pull it off which is why I hope it is just paranoia on my part. The other fear I am afraid is very justified. FP+ stinks. It is a terrible system, and Star Wars is going to be massively popular. I do not see how that system is going to work. At all. Imagine the anger when a family spends thousands of dollars and can ride each attraction once, or not at all due to that system. It will be enough to turn you to the dark side.
On our recent trip to WDW Fastpass+ worked like a champion. No issues at all. Plus, because we stayed on site, we were able to get Fastpasses to every headliner we wanted including Flight of Passage. But I am a planner, and I love the ability to lock things in months in advance. Others don't. I get it. But the system works fine as far as I am concerned.
There are many serious issues with it. The main one is that they allow it for everything, so wait times are exaggerated throughout the parks, even for attractions that had light wait times. Another is it is very hard to make last minute changes if you want to include popular attractions. The tiered system in some parks is bad, and it is basically worse than the previous system which makes you wonder why they did it to begin with. I like Universal's Express pass better, but you really cannot compare due to the fact that Disney has such a higher volume. Being a visitor to both WDW and DL, the FP+ is a massive step backwards. I like to plan as well, but the number of attractions my family can now experience in a day has been cut in half at Disney. I am all for a Star Wars upcharge. I wish they would not have to do it, but realistically, there may be no other way at first. Y dream is to wake up to find that they are totally revamping FP+ park wide. I like the armbands for tickets, keys, purchasing, reservations, and even as a system for holding fast passes. The system has simply diminished the amount of fun we can have at WDW now. I am sorry for being overly negative, and I am glad the system works well for the people that enjoy it.
Universal Express is the same as Flashpass and Fastlane, and unless you are spending a decent amount of cash to stay at Royal Pacific, Hard Rock, or Portofino you have to pay a premium for it. For a free system, Fastpass+ is fine. The reason you're getting less rides is because everyone is utilizing the new system, whereas before a lot of people never took advantage of paper Fastpass. Personally, I wish all these cut in line systems would go away, as everything would move much quicker, but if we have to have them I would rather not pay for them.
You are correct. I always stay at the Royal Pacific, which is about the same as a Disney Moderate resort. The Six Flags flash pass is almost always a waste of money. With the old fast pass you could use touring plans to assist.
I still use touring plans and when combined with early arrival and a steady pace, you'll be fine even on crazy busy attractions like Flight of Passage, 7 Dwarves, and Frozen. Plus you can further mitigate waits with the proper use (or if staying off property, the avoidance of) Extra Magic Hours.
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