He’s not just the Boy Who Lived; Harry Potter is also the Franchise That Wouldn’t Die as news broke today that author J.K. Rowling will be returning to the Harry Potter universe by penning Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a spin-off film based on the magizoology textbook of the same name that all first-year Hogwarts students were required to purchase, for Warner Bros.. In 2001, Rowling also wrote and published a physical version of the book to serve as a magical bestiary and companion to the multi-billion dollar-grossing film and book franchise.
Here’s the full press release:
“Warner Bros. Entertainment today announced an expanded creative partnership with world-renowned, best-selling author J.K. Rowling. At the center of the partnership is a new film series from Rowling’s world of witches and wizards, inspired by Harry Potter’s Hogwarts textbook “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” and the adventures of the book’s fictitious author, Newt Scamander. The announcement was made by Kevin Tsujihara, Chief Executive Officer, Warner Bros. Entertainment.
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” will be an original story and will mark Rowling’s screenwriting debut. It is planned as the first picture in a new film series. Set in the wizarding world, the story will feature magical creatures and characters, some of which will be familiar to devoted Harry Potter fans.
“Although it will be set in the worldwide community of witches and wizards where I was so happy for seventeen years, ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ is neither a prequel nor a sequel to the Harry Potter series, but an extension of the wizarding world,” said Rowling. “The laws and customs of the hidden magical society will be familiar to anyone who has read the Harry Potter books or seen the films, but Newt’s story will start in New York, seventy years before Harry’s gets underway.”
“We are incredibly honored that Jo has chosen to partner with Warner Bros. on this exciting new exploration of the world of wizardry which has been tremendously successful across all of our businesses,” said Tsujihara. “She is an extraordinary writer, who ignited a reading revolution around the world, which then became an unprecedented film phenomenon. We know that audiences will be as excited as we are to see what her brilliant and boundless imagination conjures up for us.”
In addition to the film series, “Fantastic Beasts” will also be developed across the Studio’s video game, consumer products and digital initiatives businesses, including enhanced links with Pottermore.com, Rowling’s digital online experience built around the Harry Potter stories.
The Studio’s expanded partnership with Rowling also covers the continued expansion of its Harry Potter activities, including the wonderful Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme parks in conjunction with partner Universal Parks and Resorts (currently in Orlando, FL; opening in Hollywood, CA and Osaka, Japan), digital initiatives (including Pottermore), video games, consumer products and visitor attractions.
In addition, Warner Bros. will serve as the worldwide TV distributor (excluding the U.K.) of J.K. Rowling’s upcoming television adaptation for the BBC of “The Casual Vacancy,” her best-selling first novel aimed at adult audiences. This miniseries begins production in 2014.
The relationship will be managed in London by Neil Blair of The Blair Partnership, Rowling’s literary agency, and Josh Berger, President & Managing Director, Warner Bros. UK, Ireland and Spain, who will serve as Warner Bros.’ chief business contact for all J.K. Rowling initiatives going forward.
Rowling’s expanded quote regarding “Fantastic Beasts” is below:
“It all started when Warner Bros. came to me with the suggestion of turning ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ into a film. I thought it was a fun idea, but the idea of seeing Newt Scamander, the supposed author of ‘Fantastic Beasts,’ realized by another writer was difficult. Having lived for so long in my fictional universe, I feel very protective of it and I already knew a lot about Newt. As hard-core Harry Potter fans will know, I liked him so much that I even married his grandson, Rolf, to one of my favourite characters from the Harry Potter series, Luna Lovegood.
As I considered Warners’ proposal, an idea took shape that I couldn’t dislodge. That is how I ended up pitching my own idea for a film to Warner Bros.
Although it will be set in the worldwide community of witches and wizards where I was so happy for seventeen years, ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ is neither a prequel nor a sequel to the Harry Potter series, but an extension of the wizarding world. The laws and customs of the hidden magical society will be familiar to anyone who has read the Harry Potter books or seen the films, but Newt’s story will start in New York, seventy years before Harry’s gets underway.
I particularly want to thank Kevin Tsujihara of Warner Bros. for his support in this project, which would not have happened without him. I always said that I would only revisit the wizarding world if I had an idea that I was really excited about and this is it.”
What is most intriguing about this news is what it means for J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. going forward. It’s no small secret that Disney and Marvel have been giving Warner Bros. and DC a sound thrashing at the box office when it comes to superhero films. Plus, Disney’s acquisition of Star Wars and its plan to churn out a new SW picture each year means that they’ll be in a prime position to dominate the market on all things fanboy-related. Clearly, Warner Bros. is trying to step up its superhero game, but harnessing the potential of the expanded Harry Potter universe is one of the smartest decisions the studio could make right now, especially as tentpole franchises like The Hobbit will come to an end in the next few years. That isn’t to say that Rowling and WB will churn out a new Potter film every year, but it does open up a whole wizarding world of possibilities
This isn’t just Rowling stepping back into Harry’s world with WB; this is a full-scale media blitz that can touch on everything from films to video games to theme parks. The phrase “expanded creative partnership” should be of particular note as it implies that Rowling and WB won’t just be putting out a new Potter-verse film, but they’ll also be producing video games and “other digital initiatives” like apps and web-based campaigns that can leverage Rowling’s official Harry Potter fan hub Pottermore.com’s 5.53 million users for forthcoming content. Who knows? This could be the Golden Snitch that Warner Bros. needs to win the studio system House Cup.
It’s never been a better time to be a Muggle. What do you make of all this Potter news? Let us know in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter.