This post is longer than my normal posts will be. I’ll try to stick to about 2-4 paragraphs, but there will be exceptions when I’m really passionate about something.
I’m about to rant about people who haven’t’ read Harry Potter. This is not the topic of the blog, but just a little bit of a vent. If you haven’t read HP and don’t intend to and want to avoid a guilt trip, please skip down to the next section.
-Commence Guilt Trip-
I am currently 24 years old, which means that in 1997, when Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone was first published in the United State, you can bet that I had a calendar with a big red marker, crossing off each day until I turned 11…and then 12…and then 13… I really didn’t stop expecting my letter from Hogwarts (or whatever American wizarding school I was zoned for) until sometime between my 18th birthday and about last week.
I don’t expect everyone I run into to have read the books… BUT… when I do run into one of you, it pretty much signifies one of two things with me:
a) You were outside of the age gap of 9 to 13 around ’97-‘99 (about the time the first couple books were published), which is perfectly fine. You were probably too young for the books or you were too old and into Creed or something. I get that. You get a pass.
b) You were one of those illiterate, empty-headed, dim-witted punk-ass kids who threw sand in my eyes and called me ‘smelly potter’ when I was 11. So please excuse me if I think you should curl up in a hot pool of lava and await to be engulfed in flames.
(if English is a second language, that is also a semi-acceptable excuse, however it is printed in over 60 languages, so Get on that)
Maybe reading isn’t your thing or …
…maybe you thought you were too cool to read a fantasy book or…
…wizards are too mainstream or…
…whatever your excuse is…
If you’re reading this and you haven’t read Harry Potter, and you’re plus or minus 24 years old, (bonus points if you’ve +/-25 and you’ve read Twilight), you’re missing out on one of the biggest cultural phenomenons this world has ever seen! More importantly, it’s an incredibly well written story full of vibrant imagery, compelling plot, and relatable, three-dimensional characters written in a world that seems more alive than most places I’ve visited.
I’m not saying that it’s the best selling book of all time, but it’s certainly a better read. Maybe if it were published in the 6th century, we’d be wearing time-turners around our necks instead of crosses.
But that’s not what we’re here to talk about today. If you haven’t read it already, there’s nothing I can say or do to make you read it and I free you to move on with your life and continue throwing sand in my face.
I’m not ‘Smelly’
-End of Rant-
What we’re actually here to talk about today is this ever lasting trend of “what’s the ‘Next Harry Potter’?” Here’s the lowdown: whether or not you read It, whether or not you saw the movies, or whether or not you liked or even cared about the franchise in general, the fact is at the turn of the Century, something truly magical happened (see what I did there?).
You had a children’s series expected to be 7 books long,
- whose narrative was not even completed, committed to a seven (and later eight) movie long film franchise
- whose production length would span an entire decade
- and whose cast and crew rivaled that of a decently sized army (roughly 2,000 people worked on Deathly Hollows pt2 alone)
- and would literally age while filming
- and whose film profits would break over 2.3 Billion Dollars box office alone
EXCLUDING profits made from
- Hard Cover Book Sales,
- Paperback Book Sales,
- The Casual Vacancy Book Sales (I’m counting that one cause no one would have bought it otherwise)
- Candy Merchandising (why in the hell is that a thing?),
- Board Game adaptations,
- Original Board Games,
- Studio Tourism,
- a Theme Park Attraction,
- Kings Cross Train Ticket Sales,
- Potter-con (really?),
- A freaking Sport (no, really; They’re having a world cup tournament down the road from my hometown),
- Media Appearances,
- Paparazzi photo sales,
- Broadcast Syndication,
- Digital Download,
- Instant Streaming,
- An Eventual Netflix Deal I’m sure,
- Mr. Rental Instant Cassettes,
- Special Edition Re-releases,
- Video Games,
- and even VHS (yeah. That was still a thing when this started).
That’s a lot of dough. The Harry Potter Film franchise ALONE is estimated to be worth 21 Billion Dollars. Perhaps the only other franchise whose net worth is equal-to-or-surpasses Harry Potter’s net worth is Star Wars, which George sold to Disney for only 4 Million; granted, the Star Wars brand is worth more than that, but that’s entirely dependent on Disney over the course of the next decade.
Slow down nerds. I’m not proclaiming a nerd war on which is better, Star Wars or Harry Potter. I’m simply drawing comparisons between these two cultural phenomenons. I am partial toward Harry Potter, not as a superior piece of art, but as I wasn’t alive in 1977 and thus I did not experience Star Wars during it’s prime. Instead, I fell in love with Star Wars in the mid 90’s and really wasn’t able to decipher the differences between the original and the special editions other than one had the word ‘Special’ in it. Instead I experienced This Star Wars as a child in ’99. You see, It’s about Context.
Let’s recap. At the time the papers were signed, the second Harry Potter had yet to be published. Of course, at the time, no one could have foreseen what a cash cow this would grow into. Perhaps the largest problem with the film franchise is that unlike most film adaptations from books, the source was incomplete. Screenwriters didn’t know where the story would end, directors didn’t know how important earlier minor characters would implode into larger plot devices in the later part of the series (E.g. Dobby’s absence in the fourth film and Nevell’s badassery), and producers were caught in the infinite loop of fan service vs keeping the films relatable to an audience not familiar with the source material. Yet somehow, the franchise was able to make it out intact.
Now what do I mean by living in a ‘Post Harry Potter World’? What I mean is that even before the books or the films were complete, there were authors and movie makers desperately trying to find that rare golden nugget; that copy-cat franchise that could continue the momentum of the young-adult fantasy genre sparked by JK Rowling and the Harry Potter Series. Was it Eragon? Twilight? Certainly not Percy Jackson (sorry Rick).
The truth is that Harry Potter is an isolated incident; when good writing + loyal Fan base + Flexible Production Studio come together and create a perfect storm. It truly is a classic in it’s own right that future generations will appreciate, cherish, and maybe even love; but they will never fully understand the attachment we have with this series. The magic of Harry Potter was seeing the vast world come alive before your eyes, seeing the characters you love literally age with you (I know I’ve already pointed it out twice already, but did you ever expect that this would become this? Me neither.)
The true success of Harry Potter is that it is now a Household Name, whether or not you read the books, saw the movies, or produced a single independent thought. I’m not one to say that this perfect storm will never happen again, but it will be a different storm entirely, just like the differences between the Star Wars and the Harry Potter storms. There’s some speculation over the next trend; if it’s going to be the ‘Next Harry Potter’, but I hypothesize that we will not be seeing anything like this for at least a couple decades.