Culture

Harry Potter and the Theme Park of Gold

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As the Harry Potter novel sequence comes to an end (the seventh and final installment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, will come out in July), author J.K. Rowling has given her O.K. for a U.S. theme park based on the series:

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling has given her blessing to a US theme park based on the hugely popular schoolboy wizard, to be built in Florida, officials said Thursday.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is expected to open in Orlando in late 2009, as a joint venture between Warner Bros Entertainment—producers of the Harry Potter films—and Universal Orlando Resort.

"The plans I've seen look incredibly exciting, and I don't think fans of the books or films will be disappointed," she said, according to a statement received in London….

"Our primary goal is to make sure this experience is an authentic extension of Harry Potter's world as it is portrayed in the books and films," [the park's production designer] said.

Rowling is a billionaire based on her royalties from the various income streams issuing from the Potter books. Beyond the immense popularity of the franchise in all its iterations and variations, one of the most attractive things about the whole megillah is that Rowling has never played the role of celebrity refusenik, of dissing that which made her famous, of withholding material from her fans, of crapping on the parade of spinoffs that kids desire, etc. We can debate the lasting literary merit blah blah blah of the books until Harold Bloom's angioplasty drilling crew is finally rescued from somewhere deep within his Hagridian frame, but is there any other creator in recent memory who has delivered the goods for her fans like Rowling has?

Reason on Potter here and here and here.

NEXT: What Kind of Loser Is Fred Thompson?

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  1. Could we somehow connect this with Fundie Land in Kent(Y)UCKY?

    It all seems to fit, somehow…

  2. Beyond the immense popularity of the franchise in all its iterations and variations, one of the most attractive things about the whole megillah is that Rowling has never played the role of celebrity refusenik, of dissing that which made her famous, of withholding material from her fans, of crapping on the parade of spinoffs that kids desire, etc. We can debate the lasting literary merit blah blah blah of the books until Harold Bloom’s angioplasty drilling crew is finally rescued from somewhere deep within his Hagridian frame, but is there any other creator in recent memory who has delivered the goods for her fans like Rowling has?

    I don’t have a strong opinion on Rowling or her books but this is the best rationalization of selling out that I’ve heard in a while.

    Kudos.

  3. Dan,

    Rowling is an auther and her job is to write books and sell them for money. How is she “selling out”? What is there some kind of pure or authentic Harry Potter that she is somehow betraying? It is a kid’s book for God sakes. Rowling is a former single mother who was living on the doll who rather than sit on her ass feeling sorry for herself sat down and wrote a book and did something about it. Good for her. There are few more deserving billionaire’s than Rowling.

  4. “I don’t have a strong opinion on Rowling or her books but this is the best rationalization of selling out that I’ve heard in a while.”

    Harry Potter started as a book for children and mostly remains one, though it also seems to appeal to adults. Children love all the ancilliary mechandise emanating from the franchise. How on Earth does this qualify as selling out ? Did Harry Potter turn into “The Clash” while everyone’s back was turned ?

  5. Hmm .. cross-post.

  6. Dan,

    Rowling is an auther and her job is to write books and sell them for money. How is she “selling out”? What is there some kind of pure or authentic Harry Potter that she is somehow betraying? It is a kid’s book for God sakes. Rowling is a former single mother who was living on the doll who rather than sit on her ass feeling sorry for herself sat down and wrote a book and did something about it. Good for her. There are few more deserving billionaire’s than Rowling.

    Hey, I’m certainly not blaming Rowling for writing books or selling them for money. I wish I could do it. But once you start licensing your art for the sake of pure commerce (like starting a Harry Potter amusement park), that is selling out. Sorry.

  7. Dan T.

    Which part of selling books you’ve written isn’t a part of “pure commerce”?

  8. Guys, when somebody consistently elicits the “OMG! Did he really just say that?” response, it’s time to ignore.

  9. Perhaps “pure commerce” wasn’t the best choice of words but I’m suggesting that there is a difference between producing art and selling it in the marketplace and using characters, themes, etc. to make money outside of the context of the art.

  10. there is a difference!

    it’s very hard to ride books down a waterslide without losing teeth!

  11. “Sold out? You’re goddamn right I sold out! I sold out Borders, I sold out Barnes and Noble, and Amazon dot com!”

    what, no mick foley references allowed?

  12. Guys, when somebody consistently elicits the “OMG! Did he really just say that?” response, it’s time to ignore.

    Around here, that response seems to be most common after stating the obvious.

    Hey, Rowling sold out. The Harry Potter special edition Pepsi can is probably next. I suppose it’s her right and not really that big a deal in the big picture but let’s call it what it is.

  13. *pukes*

  14. “Sold out? You’re goddamn right I sold out! I sold out Borders, I sold out Barnes and Noble, and Amazon dot com!”

    what, no mick foley references allowed?

    Very similar to the Jason Newstead “Metallica sells out every seat in the house” response, in fact!

  15. Dan T.

    “Selling Out” implies that the creative artist has abandoned his/her artistic vision for the sole pursuit of financial gain.

    Since, Rowling has clearly stated that the potter series ends at book seven even though the market demand could support another seven or so.

    Rowling has also done a fairly good job of assuring that licensing agreements do not erode the original vision of her creation.

    Rowling has done the opposite of selling out.

  16. Selling out like painting portraits of rich people? Like of, say, Lisa Gherardini?

  17. Selling out occurs when the creative direction is taken from the artist, and then has marketability applied in place of originality.

    Good examples are the newer “pop-punk” or emo crap, where they don’t bother with getting good singers, but rather add chorusing and effects to make a shit-ass, thrown-together-for-looks band.

  18. Is anyone else suspicious of a theme park being created just as the book series is coming to an end? As I understand it, theme parks are very expensive places. What are they going to do for continuing demand? I propose that Rowling has every intention of either continuing the book series or doing something else with the series that will boost demand for the theme park. How are you going to add new attractions to a theme park without new concepts around which those attractions can be formed?

  19. Dan T.

    “Selling Out” implies that the creative artist has abandoned his/her artistic vision for the sole pursuit of financial gain.

    Since, Rowling has clearly stated that the potter series ends at book seven even though the market demand could support another seven or so.

    Rowling has also done a fairly good job of assuring that licensing agreements do not erode the original vision of her creation.

    Rowling has done the opposite of selling out.

    I would agree with you if I thought that Rowling’s intent in agreeing to the amusement park deal was to use roller coasters to artistically expand upon the characters and themes of her book.

    But come on.

  20. Congratulations for her!

    I don’t have any kids, but if I did I am sure I would be thankful. Wonderful and imaginative children’s literature is a great thing. When I was growing up it was “The Hobbit”, “James and the Giant peach”, “Bridge to Terabithia”, and so on.

    Reading about fascinating characters with good stories, as a child, does a lot to foster a desire to read and learn later on in life. So two cheers for Harry Potter’s success, the world is a better place for it.

  21. As a writer, I must add that Rowling is still a hack. J.R.R. Tolkien is likely rolling in his grave…

  22. Dan, you want themes? Harry potter is adolescent pap. Kids like speding money on adolescent pap. Kids also like theme parks. Ergo, a theme park based on adolescent pap will mean boatloads of money for JK and boatloads of fun for the kids.Producer surplus, consumer surplus, dogs and cats living together MASS HYSTERIA!

    jesus christ she gets kids to read seven hundred page books with tons of chapters, she could need to strangle puppies to get sexually aroused and I’d still put her up for a nobel

  23. I would agree with you if I thought that Rowling’s intent in agreeing to the amusement park deal was to use roller coasters to artistically expand upon the characters and themes of her book.

    Perhaps, her devoted fans would love an opportunity to emerse themselves in the aura of the stories.

    If the theme park is a well done a the movies, then it’s not a sell-out.

    Given her track record so far, it is height of “being an asshole” for you to presume that she is selling out before the park is done.

  24. The Potter books are crap. Selling out is the only way to go, there’s virtually no artistic merit to preserve. The theme park should fit in nicely with rest of the potter milieu. I might have gone for a Hogwarts summer camp. Who knows, maybe that’s next.

  25. I have to agree with Taktix. (Full disclosure: The first HP book is the only one I’ve read.) A hundred years from now, HP will have about as many readers as G. A. Henty’s ripping yarns for boys have today.

    Not that this has anything to do with the main post. I’ll give the lady two cheers for being darn good at serving the public what it wants.

  26. For a self-confessed liberal arts hater and english major hater, you certainly seem to have the authority on artistic merit…

    *takes bite of sammich.

  27. Dan T.,

    You would love these guys:

    Farces Wanna Mo

    They are certainly never, and I mean never ever, ever, ever selling out. Never. No chance. Not gonna happen. No way, no how. nuh-uh. Nope. Not selling out.

  28. High#: DanT can’t hear you, cuz he’s got his Dave Matthews cranked up, like real high – grandma is about to pound on the cellar door to make him turn it down…

  29. also, never gonna get it.

    not this time.

    (my lovin’)

    but seriously dan, have you ever tried to ride a book on anything? mountain dew ads would have you believe such an act to be “radical” in “the x-treme” but these are LIES.

  30. Dave Matthews?
    Sellout.

    Dave W?
    Hero.

  31. lol, dave matthews.

    dude, that’s mean.

  32. I’m going to agree with Dan, actually. Do any of you remember Calvin & Hobbes, and what Bill Watterson had to say about that? I think he was right when he said that the magic of the strip would have been lost if you could buy a Hobbes toy, or a Calvin mug.

    I would have bought them, of course, but I’m glad that I couldn’t. Theme parks and toys and mugs get old and tacky, but the art that inspires them stays the same forever. It just stays a little cheaper for having been used like that.

  33. So, instead we get bootleg decals of Calvin pissing on things.
    Excellent.

  34. I didn’t know there was an objective standard for what diminishes the magic of those types of experiences.

    Who knew!

  35. It’s an alternative to Disney World. That’s good enough for me. When Jo Rowling sinks to the level of George Lucas or Piers Anthony, then we can start talking about selling out.

  36. I’m going to agree with Dan, actually. Do any of you remember Calvin & Hobbes, and what Bill Watterson had to say about that? I think he was right when he said that the magic of the strip would have been lost if you could buy a Hobbes toy, or a Calvin mug.

    I would have bought them, of course, but I’m glad that I couldn’t. Theme parks and toys and mugs get old and tacky, but the art that inspires them stays the same forever. It just stays a little cheaper for having been used like that.

    Agreed. That’s why C&H is still very much beloved but Mickey Mouse is just a trademark.

    Also, I wonder how much of the popularity of Harry Potter is due to the fact that Harry’s not been out there all this time selling cereal and toothpaste and what not? If a kid is smart enough to digest those giant books he might also be savvy enough to know when he’s simply being fed a marketing tool.

  37. Wasn’t Tolkien reviled as hack-ery when the Lord of the Rings first came out?

    Was it selling out when he (or his son) published oodles of books with almost the exact same stories in them?

  38. which explains all those savvy adults who enjoy hanging out with harry and his wizard friends.

    this does not explain harry and the potters.

    much less the “harry pothead” t-shirts.

    hmmm.

    also, if your experiences can be cheapened by a mug, perhaps it is time to get new experiences. or a new experiencer.

  39. You guys would do better if you went with a more straightforward “of course she sold out, but that’s her right and nobody is really hurt by it”.

  40. VM,

    Look above. Nathan knew.

  41. Dan T.,
    You would do better if you looked at it not as “selling out,” but as “buying in.”

  42. dan, i recommend the classic troll surrender. i believe it involves laying on your back and screaming for your mommy.

    i have never surrendered, so i would not know the proper form firsthand.

  43. VM and highnumber,

    I’m ashamed that Urkobold hasn’t sold out yet.

    Dan T.,

    When Rowling starts introducing characters just to sell toys (like the guy behind Krieg der Stern), then I might agree with you. Her art, as it were, seems unchanged by its popularity.

  44. Her art, as it were, seems unchanged by its popularity.

    Given that every book features the same damn stuff (Quidditch tournaments, creepy new Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers, drama with Muggle relatives), I’d say that her work has been very much unchanged.

  45. If a kid is smart enough to digest those giant books he might also be savvy enough to know when he’s simply being fed a marketing tool.

    Doesn’t this violate everything you believe about, not just kids, but people of any age?

    BTW your attempt at “street-cred” is awesome, keep it up. Can we hold hands at the Depeche Mode hoot-night show?

  46. thoreau,

    Well, my point is that she seems to be writing pretty much the same way that she did before Harry Potter became the insanely popular product that it is today. I like the books well enough, but I don’t classify them as great literature, either. Nor would Rowling, I’m sure.

  47. On another note, I hear that congratulations are in order for Pro Libertate, Mrs. Libertate, and Proto Libertate!

  48. Guys, the difference between making art and selling out is simple: if you make money you’re a sellout. Take Dan T., for example: right now he is an artist who trolls merely for the love of trolling and need for attention, not for monetary gain. But if he figured out a way to make money off of his behavior, that would make him a sell-out.

    “What happened to you, man? It used to be about the trolling. Now it’s just a way to make a buck.”

  49. Daddy H still in full effect, y’all. Tha bling, tha fame, an’ tha bitchez keep flowin’ in, but that shit ain’t what matta. They ain’t what kept me in tha game foe so long when so many o’ my A.R. bruthahs never got promoted, or got hooked on Sharpies, or gave up on tha reeceevin’ an’ went into tax preparin’ or auditin’ or some other pitiful shit.

    No, it wuz always ’bout tha numbahs. Tha numbahs. An’ this Stone-Col’ Funkee-Fresh Mack Daddy Supastar Enforca O’ Midstate Office Supply will be crunchin’ ’em an’ balancin’ ’em 2 tha grave. Much luv 2 ya, mah G’s. H-Dog OUT. Peace.

  50. Thanks, thoreau! Proto Libertate and Mrs. Libertate are doing quite well. Oh, and Proto Libertate is a girl.

  51. Curious,
    Tolkien wasn’t considered a hack at the time, his literery peers just weren’t interested in the epic story genre. It didn’t fit in with the “character realism” trope that was popular in academe at the time.
    Also, I don’t know if Christopher’s decisions count as “selling out” or not. He didn’t sell Frodo plush toys, and the drafts/works in progress that he has put out are only of interest to the most rabid of Tolkien fans/scholars.

  52. Not that this has anything to do with the main post. I’ll give the lady two cheers for being darn good at serving the public what it wants.

    And this is actually Dan T’s real problem. In the world of the elitist, “ahrtists” produce deep, meaningful work that only the highly educated and outrageously sensitive can understand. Therefore if an author writes books that lots of folks want to read and see the movie version of and visit a theme park depicting, the work is popular, and therefore contemptible.

    Beyond the immense popularity of the franchise in all its iterations and variations, one of the most attractive things about the whole megillah is that Rowling has never played the role of celebrity refusenik, of dissing that which made her famous, of withholding material from her fans, of crapping on the parade of spinoffs that kids desire, etc.

    Also, she’s still living in Britain, where the government taxes the hell out of her billions to provide for the country’s myriad “less fortunate.” I wonder how many muggle families Ms. Rowling financially supports?

    I propose that Rowling has every intention of either continuing the book series or doing something else with the series that will boost demand for the theme park.

    According to the FAQ on her website: “There are things languishing in various drawers that I might return to, but I might write something completely different. I really don’t know.”

    As an author, I believe her. A muse is a fickle taskmistress.

  53. hmmm, is harry potter fanfiction the ulimate in (largely gross) artistic integrity or the ultimate platform for selling out (something that no one will actually buy)?

  54. Dying young is hard to take,
    Selling out is harder

  55. Taktix,
    Fascinating to meet you.
    I’ve never met a writer who liked Tolkien’s writing style.

    And thanks for clearing that up LarryA. I don’t actually visit her website. Therefore, I conclude that my observation must have been quite obvious to some.

    (disclosure: I actually like Depeche Mode)

  56. Now, would it be selling out, or pursuing a deep sense artistic inegrity in the Harry Potter “mulitverse” if the park were to install an “Equus”-themed ride?

    The Art: If the fundies hated on Disneyworld in Florida, give them Equus, The Ride. Sweet!

  57. In his biography on CS Lewis, AN Wilson relates an anecdote about the literary group ‘The Inklings’, that CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien were part of. One member, laying on his back, his club foot propped on his knee, would periodically, as Tolkien read aloud the latest from his Ring series, yell things like, ‘Not another fucking elf!’

  58. For a self-confessed liberal arts hater and english major hater, you certainly seem to have the authority on artistic merit…

    *takes bite of sammich.

    Well to be accurate, I don’t hate liberal arts or English majors. I just think they need to learn some algebra and statistics.

    As for the artistic merit of the Potter books, I may not be an authority on literary criticism, but in this case I agree with those that are.

  59. grin!

    kinda like the def. of a lawyer: can’t do math and is scared of blood!

    *psssccchhht. Opens can of bier

  60. At lunch on a weekday?!

  61. Well to be accurate, I don’t hate liberal arts or English majors. I just think they need to learn some algebra and statistics.

    Kind of like the way I don’t hate guys with your major. I just think they need to learn some social skills.

    Remember when you argued that all high-school teachers should be polymaths proficient in every subject a given high school teaches? Ha! Thinking things through is so Englishmajory.

  62. Which major is based on hatred and murder and overrating Ulysses? Hmmm?

  63. I just wanna give a shout out for all the physics majors with liberal arts minors in da house!

    (I was an econ minor.)

    And if I type quickly enough I’ll also be post #69 in this thread!

  64. ProGLib – Classics majors, of course.

    Doktor T: sounds like one of my best friends! (RBK is leaving engineering to teach math and science at his former prep school – in Ct that pretty much everyone in the northeast would know)

    great person!

    High#: symbolic bier. We only have Stiegl and Jever (maybe Anchor Steam) in da haus right now 🙂
    only when Mr. Crane and I lunch do I have a bier at that time of day.

  65. One of my best friends was a physics/classics double major.

    In grad school I knew a bunch of people who had done double majors, but it was usually physics/math, physics/astro, physics/chem, or something like that. Although I did know one person who did ChemE/anthropology. (Don’t ask me why she did that.)

  66. I did know one person who did ChemE/anthropology.

    Why on earth did she do that?

  67. “Which major is based on hatred and murder and overrating Ulysses? ”

    trick question: it’s impossible to overrate ulysses!

  68. chem and anthro sounds like fun, but i like, uh, knowing stuff.

  69. Ah ha! Your proclivities are revealed, dhex. The correct, non-English major response is that it is impossible to underrate Ulysses.

  70. I am an English major and I have no qualms about admitting James Joyce sucks ass.

  71. Jennifer,

    You must’ve failed the mandatory Pray to Joyce class, then.

  72. wait you can’t buy a calvin and hobbes stuffed doll, but you can buy a decal of Calvin pissing on a ford motors logo?

  73. stephen the goldberger,

    If you see Calvin and/or Hobbes on anything other than one of Bill Watterson’s books (now that it’s no longer run in the papers), it’s copyright (and probably trademark) infringement. Watterson has steadfastly refused to license the images.

  74. I know this guy who has Calvin tattooed on his calf (the part of the leg below the knee, not a young animal). Infringement, yes? Who pays for it? The tattoo artist solely, or could the tattooed guy be forced to get the tattoo removed and/or pay damages?
    I’m sure this has come up with some sort of copyrighted material before. Anyone know the outcome?

  75. Another English major here:

    I have to defend James Joyce because he was brilliant. That man understood the nature of language in a way that few writers have since. He was able to invent his own words and still people understood what he was saying. Well, some people, anyway.

  76. dhex said: “dan, i recommend the classic troll surrender. i believe it involves laying on your back and screaming for your mommy.

    i have never surrendered, so i would not know the proper form firsthand.”

    Spews apple juice on the keyboard. :+

    dhex wins the thread.

  77. what quixelnofish twaddlenockery.

  78. “VM | May 31, 2007, 1:18pm | #

    grin!

    kinda like the def. of a lawyer: can’t do math and is scared of blood!

    *psssccchhht. Opens can of bier
    highnumber | May 31, 2007, 1:24pm | #

    At lunch on a weekday?!”

    AS lunch on a weekday.

  79. I’ve never met a writer who liked Tolkien’s writing style.

    I can’t say I’m a big fan of the writing style (reading like a textbook and all), but the themes and substance seem to be a direct rip-off.

  80. We English majors need to stick up for each other here. 🙂

  81. this whole thread is stupid.

    dan t. says something which, in my opinion, is perfectly reasonable – and everyone, including the Coalition Of The Illin’, jumps on him rather than consider any of the merits of what he’s said.

    now, on the merits of the post, and dan t.’s comment:

    rowling HAS been a remarkably generous author re: engaging with her fans and allowing a fandom culture to flourish; compare her response (or lack thereof) to fanfiction to anne rice’s. she’s delivered the goods, and for the most part with no strings attached.

    BUT. let’s not pretend that a harry potter theme park would be anything but a cash cow. it’ll be just another place with roller coasters and animatronic characters and overpriced food – except the animatronic characters will be potter and his pals and the overpriced food will be $4 bottles of “pumpkin juice”.

    is this a BAD thing – nah, not really, there’s no compelling enough reason why she shouldn’t cash in while the cashing’s good. however, it is nice when an author/creator doesn’t totally license out all of their creations (like the calvin & hobbes example, above); it does preserve the polite sometimes-fiction that characters stand alone and aren’t all destined to be shills for mcdonald’s or pepsico or whoever wants them the most. can we all agree that shrek, for example, has been run into the ground?

    also, one wonders how long the replay value of a harry potter amusement park is. have you been to universal studios lately? i haven’t been since 1999, but wow. the entertainment was all back to the future and terminator 2 and movies that were already about ten years old. these things get outdated quick.

  82. We’re talking a continuum here, not either-or. There’s nothing innately superior about art that has no financial awards associated with it. The art has aesthetic merit, or it does not. Whether merchandising, etc. affects the art is part of the aesthetic judgment of the beholder, but let’s not forget that other factors can affect art–like aging, which ruins most artists, it seems.

    A major example of someone who let something other than his creativity affect his art is George Lucas. His work had visible influences that had nothing to do with character, story, etc. and more to do with merchandising and inflating the reputation of Joseph Campbell 🙂 Egad.

  83. Steven, cashing in is not always the same as selling out. Rowling has profited handsomely from her works and derivative works, but she hasn’t changed the character of her work (as far as we can tell, anyway) in order to accomodate commercial endeavors. So she’s not a sell out in the sense of somebody who has let the quality of the work suffer to get more money.

  84. TWO Ms, DAMN YOU! TWO Ms! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?

  85. INDEED!

  86. speaking of selling out, the new Smashing Pumpkins single kind of rocks. Has a little Black Sabbath-y metal feel.

  87. she hasn’t changed the character of her work (as far as we can tell, anyway) in order to accomodate commercial endeavors

    No, she hasn’t. In fact, each novel is better than the last. The sixth is vastly superior to the first. And no, there is NOT a quidditch tournament in every one. In fact, other than the school setting, there is rather little in common between them except as fits into the progression of a very long story arc.

    dan t. says something which, in my opinion, is perfectly reasonable

    If by “reasonable” you mean “contrarian”.

  88. hey, i’d go to a james joyce theme park.

    also jennifer is sadly really wrong and joyce was a motherfuckin’ OG (original genius)

  89. SHOOT I logged off yesterday before I saw Jennifer had responded to me. So this is just for posterity.

    It is flat out wrong to claim that I said ever student/teacher needs to be a polymath. In the thread she’s talking about I went to great pains to explain it to her. She just refuses to lean. I will state my case once again here.

    Every teacher/student should be required to demonstrate BASIC understanding of core courses like math and English. Requiring an English teacher to pass an algebra exam is no more demanding than requiring the algebra teacher to write a coherent essay with paragraphs and complete sentences.

  90. I am inclined to agree with Bill Watterson about the idea of licensing one’s creations. Must every single idea or creation on planet earth ultimately be judged by what kind of a profit it can turn?

    Not that I am against profit, or a creator deciding what to do with her creations. And if this theme park is done well it will for sure make a lot of people fistfuls of money.

  91. rhywun,
    “No, she hasn’t. In fact, each novel is better than the last. The sixth is vastly superior to the first. ”

    The first two were written on/for an adolescent level, but with the third and on she came into her own, and I was hooked.

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