At first, I thought yesterday’s announcement of a new series of films set into the Harry Potter world was a joke, as the news was so unexpected.
But then I realized that it was not, in fact, April Fool’s Day. This was actually happening – new Harry Potter-inspired films were actually being produced – and I’ll admit it: I couldn’t contain my excitement.
A quick recap and analysis of what this announcement tells us:
1. This won’t be just one film – it will be a series with multimedia tie-ins
Warner Bros.’s press release stated that the films series is “at the center” of a new creative partnership with Rowling. So we know (1) that this will be more than one film, but we don’t quite know how many, and (2) there’s more to this partnership than just a few new films, as it will expand through various media platforms, including Pottermore.
2. This will mark J.K. Rowling’s screenwriting debut
The biggest part of the excitement of this announcement is that Rowling herself will pen the script for the first film, and though she didn’t say it, it may be that she will continue writing them. With The Casual Vacancy and The Cuckoo’s Calling, Rowling has ventured into new writing territory, so it will be interesting to see her write a story in a familiar universe but through a new medium.
3. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a textbook, but the film will likely cover Scamander’s adventures researching it
Like a good Potter fan, I bought Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through the Ages when Rowling wrote and published them for charity back in 2001. The former is essentially an encyclopedia of magical creatures. The potential for story is in exactly how Scamander became such an expert on these creatures. Whether only the first film or the whole series will cover Fantastic Beasts remains to be seen.
4. The first film will open in 1920s New York
Gatsby, anyone? I kid. But Rowling’s statement that the story begins in New York seventy years before the events of the Harry Potter novels clearly sets it in the Prohibition-era Big Apple. Or does it? Rowling could easily be referring to somewhere else in New York State rather than the city. A quick glance at Newt Scamander’s page on the Harry Potter Wiki reveals that he spent much of his career in Britain, so we’ll have to see how much of the films take place in New York.
5. It allows but does not require cameos of well-established Potter characters
Rowling referred to this project as an “extension,” noting that it will not be directly part of Harry’s story. At its core, this new film series will be all about Newt, someone about whom we know a fair bit but who never properly figured into the Harry Potter story. But there exists the possibility that a character like Dumbledore, who was certainly alive and active in the 1920s, may pop into the narrative. And, as Rowling noted, Scamander’s grandson eventually married Luna Lovegood, and Evanna Lynch, who played Luna in the films, has already expressed enthusiastic interest in a cameo in the new series.
6. Warner Bros. is looking to continue the Harry Potter legacy – and cash flow
As the press release notes, the Harry Potter films have grossed $7.7 billion worldwide. Warner Bros. wasn’t going to let that go lightly. Warner Bros. Entertainment CEO Kevin Tsujihara openly announced his hopes to build a franchise. News of the expansion of the Harry Potter theme parks – a physical expansion of the existing one in Orlando and news of new ones coming to Hollywood and Osaka – coupled with yesterday’s announcement makes it clear that Warner Bros. wants the Harry Potter brand to have as long as life as it can.
7. J.K. Rowling wants to retain creative control of the Potterverse
While the announcement that there would be news films taking place in the Potterverse may seem like an obvious cash-grab on Warner Bros.’ part, the big news here is that J.K. Rowling is heavily involved. In fact, although Warner Bros. first approached her with the idea, Rowling did not want to see another writer write Newt Scamander, so she pitched her own idea to the studio. Thus, while the idea for a continued film presence of the Potterverse was indeed Warner Bros.’, the specific plot and focus of this series of films comes directly from Rowling’s imagination. That she did not want someone else to write it demonstrates that she is still protective of the Harry Potter franchise. This instantly raises the integrity of the new project, which, under Rowling’s pen, will ultimately become part of the Harry Potter canon. And this, I think, is why Potter fans have reacted to this news with such enthusiasm rather than skepticism.
Now, it’s just time to wait the inevitable few years it’s going to take to produce the first film.
What was your reaction to yesterday’s announcement? What do you want to see in the new film series?