Published in the United Kingdom in 1997, with a first run of only 500 copies, J.K Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone would not only change the way that children's books were viewed, but would go on to leave its mark on the hearts and minds of fans around the world.
Rowling would go on to continue Harry’s journey, taking the boy wizard from his first day at Hogwarts to his last heroic moments battling a great evil in the halls of which he once laughed. The story would become eight full length feature films, each opening to bigger and bigger audiences. But could a book and movie series made for children stand the test of time?
Any adult fan of the series will tell you it is far from a simple children story. Rowling’s wizarding world has inspired not only movies, but theme parks and a website, Pottermore, that takes fans on their very own Hogwarts adventure. Not to mention countless fan pages and the birth of the muggle version of the broomstick sport, Quidditch.
Just this week, writing as the less than ethical journalist Rita Skeeter in the Daily Prophet, Rowling posted a new story about Harry and his heroic friends. The story, while meant to follow the Quidditch cup, focused on the founding members of Dumbledore’s Army in attendance at the games. The story grew so much attention the Pottermore site was crashed, forcing fans to wait patiently to read the newest, and according to one of Rowling’s reps, the final update they would have about Harry and his friends. For those not members of the site, the story was shared by Today as an exclusive.
While Harry will go off into the sunset of the collective imagination, living a somewhat simple life as an Auror, or Dark Wizard fighter, Rowling is far from finished with the magical world she has created.
Rowling is currently hard at work writing her first screenplay. Having been on hand and involved in the production of the film versions of her books, Rowling will take the lead on the new Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a trilogy that will follow Newt Scamander, fictional writer of the school book of the same name used by students at Hogwarts. The trilogy, the first of which is set for a November 2016 release date, will film at Warner Bros. Leavesden Studio just outside London. There have yet to be any announcements regarding casting of the film, which is said to at least start off in New York’s secret wizarding community in the 1940′s, though the possibility of the film starting in the United States would mean the first glimpse of American witches and wizards.
The biggest buzz at the moment, of course, is the recent expansion of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park in Florida. The original park featured several themed rides, Hogsmeade, the Scottish village located near Hogwarts, and the castle school itself. The new expansion, opening to huge crowds, features Diagon Alley, the very first glimpse of the magical world Harry and the audience see. Fans will be able to visits Gringott’s, check out some quality Quidditch wear from the films, and a visit to the Magical Menagerie will give a sneak peak at what Fantastic Beasts may hold.
“It will give visitors a peek at the next wave of Harry Potter,” said Alan Gilmore, the art director for the Wizarding World park projects as well as Goblet Of Fire and Prisoner Of Azkaban.
Floridians are not the only ones getting their dose of Potter fun, as Universal will open Wizarding World Japan on July 15, and Los Angeles is well on its way to opening the second U.S. based Wizarding World location at Universal Studios Hollywood. The Hollywood expansion includes the destruction of the Universal Amphitheater and is likely to change, or do away with, the famed tram tour. While the new expansion – which is part of a 25 year plan for NBC/Universal – won’t open until sometime in 2016, the expansion will be an investment in the Los Angeles economy in both construction and new hires for the park, the pay off being the tourist revenue that the park promises. With construction underway the expansion has already resulted in over 2000 local jobs.
There will be plenty of kids begging to visit the magical worlds, but the fans of Rowling’s world are not just the kids. Here in the U.S. there are adult fan groups scattered across the country, with NYC HP Meetup and Los Angeles’ Dumbledore’s Army (LADA) topping the list at 1,550 and 1,020 members, respectively. Fans often travel both inside the United States to visit the Orlando theme park, and many even go the extra mile by making a pilgrimage to the Warner Bros. Leavesden Studio tour and the surrounding locations around the United Kingdom where the films were made.
“I have always wanted to go to England and Scotland, and with Harry Potter I had an excuse to go. It was the best experience of my life.” Said Lori McClain, a member of the LADA who recently made the trek across the pond. “Every time we arrived at a new location the excitement and awe of having been there before would come over me. Of course, I had not been there personally, but I have been there through the books and movies. Now, watching the movies or reading the books has a whole new meaning because I have actually walked those roads and experienced those locations.”
After 16 years the Harry Potter fandom has grown up, and perhaps with its global reach and the new adventures in the world Rowling created, has grown into a lasting staple in both children’s literature and cinematic history. Long time fans will look forward to the next chapter, while new fans are just discovering the magic.
If you have yet to tackle the seven books (10 if you include supplemental works Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Quiddich Through the Ages and The Tales Of Beedle the Bard) and the eight Harry Potter,films here is a quick run down of what you are missing.