September 12, 2013 2:48pm PT by Graeme McMillan
'Harry Potter' Spin-Off: How Do The Fans Feel?
The news this morning that Warner Bros. has announced a new Harry Potter movie -- or, more correctly, a new movie set in the Harry Potter universe, but without any characters from the original series -- is a pretty big deal, considering the mammoth success of the original movie series for the studio. Add in the fact that the new movie, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, will feature the screenwriting debut of Potter creator, J.K. Rowling, and that becomes a much bigger deal -- but how is Potter fandom taking the news?
"Harry Potter fandom as a whole, right now, is in an uproar," according to Brandie Sylfae. She's certainly someone who'd know, being one of two organizers of the Portland, Ore branch of the Harry Potter Alliance, one of the leading forces of Potter fandom. "Tumblr has come alive," she continued. "People are saying 'Oh my gosh, Harry Potter fandom is back' and Tumblr is filled with Harry Potter stuff. I went online this morning at 9 o'clock Pacific time, and a repost of the announcement already had over 19,000 notes on it. People are very, very excited about this."
And it's genuine excitement, unlike many other fandoms' reactions to finding out that beloved comic books, movie series' or television shows are going to be rebooted, sequel-ed or prequel-ed. The reason for that? Apparently, the presence of Rowling. "If someone else was writing it, there would still be excitement, but it'd be more subdued," Sylfae explained. "There would be more trepidation, more 'What are they going to do with it?' Whatever J.K. does with it is what she does with it, and we have to accept that as canon, and we'll take that because a lot of people are missing Harry and his story. 'Starving' is the word I saw online; people are starving for more Harry Potter. This obviously isn't Harry Potter, but it's his world, it's connected, it's the same magic and it's awesome."
It helps that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is already a known property to Potter fans, having been written by Rowling and published in 2001, with all proceeds going to the British charity Comic Relief, although the new movie won't be an adaptation of the book for one particular reason. "It's not really a story," Sylfae said about the Fantastic book. "It's an encyclopedia about different magical creatures. But at the very beginning of the book, there's an 'About the Author,' which is about Newt Scamander [identified as the lead character of the new movie], how his love for magical beasts was instigated by his mom who was a breeder of fancy hippogryffs, and how he went on to work after graduating from Hogwarts at the Ministry [of Magic]."
(The fictional version of the book also makes an appearance in the Potter series, Sylfae said, being mentioned in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, and actually seen in the movie version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Furthermore, according to Potter mythology, Scamander's grandson Rolf eventually marries Luna Lovegood, a central character to the series' latter installments.)
The prospect of new Potter-related material -- especially that written by Rowling -- is something that Sylfae is personally excited about, she said, "because we get to see a completely different wizarding world -- we get to see a wizarding world set in the United States, and who knows where else, it could be that he's traveling all over the world to find these magical creatures. Also it's set in that pre-Voldemort wizard world, so how does that look? How different do those worlds look from the British wizarding world we already know?"
If Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a success, Sylfae hopes that it'll lead to even more stories explaining the backstory of Harry's world. After all, she said, Fantastic Beasts is great, "but the one that everyone really wants is Hogwarts: A History. Everybody wants the founder's story. We have pieces of that on Pottermore, but we don't have the whole thing. And even if we don't get that, then the other one is the Marauders' story," detailing the school days of Harry's parents and Severus Snape.
When asked about the prospect of seeing a new Harry Potter universe movie every couple of years, akin to Disney's Star Wars plans, Sylfae answered "Why not? If it's successful and people aren't getting tired of it, there's no reason to not keep doing it. As long as J.K. is still enjoying writing it and doesn't feel trapped by it, as long as it still feels like something fresh and beautiful for her, then keep doing the movies. Keep doing it, because we'll keep watching it."