Steven Spielberg wanted to make ‘Harry Potter’ an animated franchise

Nov. 07, 2010 | 7:39 a.m.
steven spielberg Steven Spielberg wanted to make Harry Potter an animated franchise

Steven Spielberg (Evan Agostini/Getty Images)

On the front page of Sunday’s Los Angeles Times you can read a Hollywood history of the “Harry Potter” property that I wrote with Claudia Eller, the business reporter who knows everybody who is anybody in the film industry. One of the many pearls that Eller brought to the collaboration was a fascinating insight into the early days of the brand — back when Steven Spielberg was still very much in the mix to guide “Potter” to the screen.  Here’s an excerpt from that section:

Warner Bros. secured the rights for four “Harry Potter” novels for about $2 million. At that point, only the first book was on shelves in England and none had reached America. Warner Bros. tried to get a financial partner on the project, reaching out to studios including Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks, which passed.

Once the books became a sensation, greenlighting the first “Potter” film became a major priority at Warner Bros., where Alan Horn had recently taken over as president and Barry Meyer as chairman (replacing longtime studio chiefs Terry Semel and Bob Daly). DreamWorks circled back and proposed a partnership, but Horn wisely declined. There was one aspect of the DreamWorks talks that did intrigue him, however.

“I did think it would be worthwhile for Steven Spielberg to direct,” Horn said. “We offered it to him. But one of the notions of Dreamworks’ and Steven’s was, ‘Let’s combine a couple of the books, let’s make it animated,’ and that was because of the [visual effects and] Pixar had demonstrated that animated movies could be extremely successful. Because of the wizardry involved, they were very effects-laden. So I don’t blame them. But I did not want to combine the movies, and I wanted it to be live action.”

Spielberg instead took on Warner’s 2001 sci-fi film “A.I.: Artificial Intelligence,” and the Hogwarts post fell to Chris Columbus, director of “Home Alone” and “Mrs. Doubtfire,” who was then tapped for the job …

The rest of the article has interviews with Daniel Radcliffe, screenwriter Steve Kloves, Columbus and many others. Check  it out if you get a chance.

– Geoff Boucher

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Comments


26 Responses to Steven Spielberg wanted to make ‘Harry Potter’ an animated franchise

  1. jon says:

    combining the books would have been terrible, but i have always thought an animated version would be seriously awesome. you could take your time in making them, because you wouldn't have to worry about actors aging, really, there are plenty of talented voice actors and part of their art is mimicry. as this article states, you could have insane visual effects…and that would go for many types of animation, it wouldn't necessarily have to be computer-animated. i think the current series is brilliant, but another version, with a property that has this kind of clout, is almost a given. i think a lot of fans still crave a truer version, but they aren't just going to do it again ten years from now. i think that would be beyond even the WB. so i think the animation is really one of the only options for reincarnation.

    • Duder NME says:

      Completely agreed. Getting an OVA series out of Potter would be ideal.

      • Drakar2007 says:

        I've always thought along these lines – an OVA series, one "season" per book, and one episode per chapter (regardless of length). It's the only way I can think of that would capture the spirit of the books which the movies miss or abridge.

    • cleareye1 says:

      All of the books will be done animated eventually. The demand will be there for the 20 or 30 years.

  2. Kva says:

    "Money money money must be funny in the rich man's world " ABBA

  3. John says:

    Animated Harry Potter? Combining books together? That has Ralph Bakshi's "Lord of the Rings" written all over it.

    Just, no.

    Plus, the books are too dark for the films to get an animated, cartoonish treatment, unless the animators wanted to risk it by going down the uncanny valley.

  4. KJP says:

    An animated television series could work well. You could involve more of the story lines from the book over three or four seasons.

  5. studioeingana says:

    They can make an animated film now that they are done…If they did this in the beginning, it would have killed the series.

  6. Khayal1O1 says:

    if its traditional animation then I'll check it out, but if its CGI then zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  7. Dan says:

    I would love to see the series become the first ever, unabridged series. They could complete it all in 7 or eight years. They could space it out so it lasted a school year like the books. Maybe some episodes from the later books would need to be 1.5 hours. It could be like a mega-mini series :-). Animation could work if done correctly…maybe even stop motion. A huge undertaking but it could be awesome. I'd love to see it. I'd love to own it.

  8. Jeff says:

    Oh, I'm so glad the movies went the way that they did. Obviously, stuffing several books into a single movie would have been a horrendous mess. As for animating the series… no, just no. Part of the appeal of the characters is their humanity (or lack thereof, for a few characters…) Animating them would have killed most of that feeling for audiences. The effects are perfect just as they are.

    So thank you, Alan Horn. You did the right thing.

  9. Eric Clarkson says:

    Someone may want to suggest Steven Spielberg should stop making suggestions. Dude hasn't put out anything worthwhile since Minority Report. C'mon Steve!!! Get it together!!! Put Indaina Jones to bed!!

  10. Anna Bella Potter says:

    Wow some people just want 2 ruin an great movie empire………………. The movies and books both ruled and some stupid tv show would suck!

  11. telly says:

    i think this is taking the harry potter empire way to far…im a HUDGE (and i mean HUDGE) fan but i still think this needs to end..even though they could potentially make more money off of this but lets get real…it has been a world changing phenomenon but it needs to end so that the people who have grown up with the books (like me) can enjoy them when they are older too..and not remember that it has been taken too far. I do not think that the wizarding world of harry potter could be categrized as taking it too far. All epic movies/franchises have theme parks associated with them and i personally hope that WWoHP stays for a long time.
    ps. i will also be visiting the WWoHP this summer SUPER EXCITED!!!

    <3 the magic will never truly end until you forget it <3

  12. dustin j says:

    Now that Ive seen 5 or 6 of these I cant imagine it as a cartoon. they have done a great job on the computer effects in the live action Harry Potters. I feel closer to the movies that the actors are aging, it adds to the fantasy that Hogwarts, magic and Harry Potter are real. I just don't feel that we would have gotten the same intense feelings out of a cartoon. I think once the movies and books are done it should be done and remembered as an epic movie adventure. No cartoon! Read the books if you want more than the movies offer. Also, You know in like 10 or 15 years they will come out with Harry's son fighting evil or something and it will all start again but for the newer generation. Just please don't kill its future with stupid cartoons.

  13. Guest says:

    Old news. Spielberg's strategy was reported way back when the first film was released. Why is this news?

  14. Jeane says:

    i think they should make an anime version of harry potter, the fanbase of harry potter is usually the same that enjoys this kind of stuff

    also japanese people LOVE harry potter, it would be awesome

    now it shouldnt be some kind of mainstream stuff, to go to theaters and all, only tv stuff and thats it, i would love to wait for a harry potter episode every week

  15. Harry says:

    $2,000,000 for the rights to make the Harry Potter films. That is dirt cheap!

  16. Isaac says:

    Making HP into a series would be great for book fans who were disappointed with all the content they left out of the movies. Some omitted parts were really integral to not only character development but story line. I would welcome an animated series where each season or two equals one book. They're actually doing that with one of my favorite novel series A Game of Thrones which is set to premiere next year.

  17. David says:

    Live-action was the right move. One of the most special things about Harry Potter in both novel and film is that it takes place in the real world, in real locations (or theoretical locations in reality), and that the wizarding world is something tangible and physical. To see it come to life with practical sets and locations really add to what JKR was aiming for, in that the wizarding world is, while subtly hidden, very much a part of reality to those children lucky enough to pass Platform 9 3/4 in her written world.

  18. Gary says:

    Wish he would read some other books that need to be made well for the first time. Dragonlance. CGI 3D for instance. I am hoping that Rowling will open up her world to some great writers out there. So much potential. Then talk another potter franchise.

  19. clogdancer says:

    Animated ? Please Spielberg is washed up anyways. He hasn't made anything worth watching in years.

  20. dawiz says:

    It looks as if Speilberg has lost it. Probably because he got so rich he thinks he can do no wrong, and lost his edge.

  21. CRRX says:

    In the style of tim burton would be cool!

  22. Morgan pearce says:

    Please note that if stanley kubrick might have been alive he would have been intersted of helming the potter series

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