Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the birth of the Wizarding World
Today marks the 20th anniversary of the debut of the world's most compelling modern entertainment franchise. On June 26, 1997, Bloomsbury published Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
in the United Kingdom. The book would come to America the next year, under the title Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
. While the first printing of the UK edition ran just 500 copies, 10 years later, the seventh and final book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
, would sell 11 million copies... in the first 24 hours of its release.
The Harry Potter franchise would spawn eight movies, with another, spin-off trilogy in progress. And it has provided theme park fans with four beloved new lands at Universal theme parks in Orlando, Hollywood, and Osaka, Japan — attractions that would drive Universal's parks to record popularity and profitability.
Why is Harry Potter so beloved by so many fans? I believe that it is because the series, ultimately, addresses our collective desire to find a just home in a seemingly hostile world. No other franchise at this level is so focused on the concept of home as Harry Potter. Star Wars and Marvel offer good versus evil battles, too. But neither offer Potter's almost obsessive focus on the enduring archetype of home and the importance of the comfort that it can, but too often fails to, provide.
An orphan — driven from his birth home by war — Harry endures 10 years of humiliation before he can makes a new home at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. There, Harry also discovers the wide variety of homes and families from which his classmates have come: the Weasleys' poor, but cozy, Burrow; the Malfoys' opulent, but cold, Manor; the Lovegoods' literally broken home. Throughout the series, we visit various characters' homes, discovering the comfort and support they provide some characters and the lack of that found in others'.
It's not just home that we seek in the Potter series — it is a just home, where things are put right, and comfort is given to all in need. In the series' quest for justice, we learn that the central conflict between good and evil is not one of right versus wrong, but between doing what is right and what is easy. Evil comes not from some alien invasion, but lies within us, ready to co-opt the institutions created to protect us, with the enthusiastic support and assistance of family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors. Home can be a bitter and ugly place, if we let it. Vigilance against evil is essential... but that rushing eagerly into battle can become a tragic, deadly mistake.
These lessons resonate with generations struggling to match the standard of living enjoyed by their parents and grandparents, while watching their schools, business, governments, and communities torn apart by those who eagerly sacrifice the well-being, and even lives, of others to preserve their own construction of superiority.
We all want a home. But what we consider a just home often stands in conflict with others' ideal of the same. No one thinks they're the bad guy. That's always the other one. In the Harry Potter series, we learn that, ultimately, it is up to you to choose your just home and your "family." But that your decisions will affect the lives of all around you.
I can think of no better lesson to teach a child... or an adult.
Of course, the Harry Potter books have elicited a great deal of hostility, too. Many (but certainly not all) Christians refuse to allow their children to read the books, watch the movies, or visit the theme park lands, claiming they promote witchcraft. I find that ironic, in that the main story arc of the books and movie constitute a barely disguised Christ fable. Or maybe that is the problem with Harry Potter for these Christians, after all? They don't like a popular character co-opting what they see as their story.
And let's not overlook the ire that some Disney fans (again, but not all) have for Potter, ever since the theme park rights went to Universal.
Whatever. The rest of us have found a blessed thing in J.K. Rowling's creation — we have found a home. The Wizarding World welcomes us all, no matter the house we've been sorted into, by birth or circumstance. Hogwarts' Sorting Hat listens to you. So choose your house robes, find your wand, and come play with a universe of fellow Harry Potter fans with whom you share this common bond.
And maybe, along the way, you will discover that we share so, so much more together, too.
Thank you, Joanne Rowling, for showing us the way home.
To date there has yet to be a more immersive and themed land than The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Specifically, the combined lands of Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. There is no better achievement in theme parks. Universal knocked it out of the park.
This will without doubt stir up a lot of conversation. TH Creative - The floor I believe is yours, sir.
Stop it. I am a huge Disney fan. The world showcase and Haunted Mansion are my two favorite places on earth, but I love Harry Potter. Read all of the books several times. I even have personal photos of actual movie props. I also love what Universal has done, and we are all better off for it, Disney included. Without a doubt it is the single best themed environment in any theme park. The butterbeer, chocolate frog, Moaning Mertle, the wand shop, the queues, and you haven't even gotten on the rides yet. Maybe Disney will have taken notice and Star Wars will be 70% as good. Not sure how Star Wars will handle food, though. Back to Potter. The literary achievement was staggering. A children's series that grew and matured with the reader, and the author was not making it up as she went along. Each book told a contained story that was still part of a whole. And if you thought the movies were good...
I have, as yet, been unable to go to Pandora and so can only go by what others have said about it. The one big impediment to the type of immersion that you get with Harry Potter that Disney faced is that the atmosphere of Pandora is toxic to humans. How can they get you to feel that actually there with that one simple given being in the way. Until Disney can find a way to overcome that little problem then I can't see Pandora being as immersive as Potter.
If you ever make it to wee bonnie Scotland, make sure you head up to Fort William and take the Jacobite steam train up to Mallaig. Along the way you'll cross the Glennfinnian Viaduct (Sorry, no flying cars), and pass the island where Dumbledore is buried.
Why is Harry Potter so popular?
Why is Harry Potter so popular?
Obviously you people haven't been to Tokyo yet...
I feel that the Harry Potter franchise has a little something for everybody which is why it is so popular.
Universal's Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade (and connecting Hogwarts Express) are still the best themed lands in the world. I'm looking forward to what they do with Nintendoland.
Harry Potter books will go down in history as literary classics along side the Narnia and Lord of the Rings/Hobbit books. The same cannot be said for other faddish series like Hunger Games and Twilight.
Some preposterous comments here. Rowling is lifting stuff from Earthsea, even if she hasn't read the series?? So I guess Rowling herself has magic powers? I didn't know she was psychic. You know what, she probably hasn't read a word of that series, because they're not exactly the most famous books. Ask the average person if they've heard of the Earthsea series, and you'll get a blank look. Ask them if they're heard of Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, and it's a different story. I've read quite a lot of science fiction, I know of Le Guin, but never heard of this Earthsea series, despite its awards. But if Rowling HASN'T read it, you're still going to accuse her of defacto plagiarism??
The reason Potter was such a literary phenomenon was because it focussed on children in a school, which we watched grow up and graduate as normal schoolkids do, with magic powers in an environment which they could all relate to, stimulating their imagination, which children have aplenty. This, plus amazing characters, all with memorable names, a plethora of unique and creative imagery, objects and animals all wrapped up in a Good v Evil fight in locations everybody could identify with was completely and utterly believable to all who read them. Genius! The films did a superb job in bringing them to life while Universal has given us full interactive immersion to a level which may never be equalled.
Still A Fan:
Still sounds far fetched -- some kind of influence by osmosis? Le Guin herself said that the Potter books could not be more different. It's at least as likely that Rowling never read Le Guin's series and just came up with the idea of a wizarding school on her own. Why not? If someone writes a haunted house story, does he necessarily have to be aping The Shining?
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