Woulda, coulda, shoulda. Okay, maybe not shoulda in this case. As any production history comes to light there is potential for many “what if…?” situations with regards to casting alternatives and disposed of ideas. But especially now that seemingly every step of a film’s development is reported on throughout the blogosphere, it’s neat to hear about little tidbits of trivia that haven’t surfaced before. In anticipation of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” today’s revelation comes via the L.A. Times‘ look at how the “Harry Potter” film franchise came together as it did. Of particular interest is what Steven Spielberg wanted to do with the adaptations when he was expected to direct. Warner Bros. studio head Alan Horn is quoted:
“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.”
I think for better or worse what Horn did do with the series is perfect for its material (I don’t love everything about the movies or the books, don’t believe the Columbus-directed installments are any worse than J.K. Rowling’s writing in their source novels, both the books and the movies improved exponentially in quality as they’ve continued). And there’s no sense wondering what Spielberg’s animated version would have been like. It could very well have been pretty great in its own way, even with the supposed abridging of texts, which I don’t think would have ever passed muster with the fans enough to actually happen anyway. Still, there’s something about the “Harry Potter” stories that really sparked the curiosity of what this wizardry world would look like as a kind of reality, and animation wouldn’t have satisfied this anymore than a cartoon adaptation of “Jurassic Park” would have.
Here are some other responses to Spielberg’s vision from around the film blog water cooler:
With this news and the old rumor that Spielberg wanted to Americanize Harry Potter by either setting it in America or casting an American boy in the lead role, it’s incredible to think how an otherwise great director can fundamentally misunderstand a story and a character. You Americanize Harry Potter and he’s no longer Harry Potter. You staple-gun different stories from different books together and it no longer has the graceful, artfully-planned unraveling that the author intended.
Personally, I’m glad The Beard’s take didn’t pan out. An animated adaptation of the popular wizard would’ve looked handsome on the screen, and would’ve been quite popular to boot. Yet, part of the fun afforded by the films was watching stars Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson literally blossom into full blown movie stars right before our eyes. An animated film would’ve jettisoned all of that in favor of pixilated incarnations of Harry, Ron and Hermione – ironic when you consider Spielberg is currently adapting The Adventures of Tintin with such a process.
When Spielberg came up with his idea to condense and animate the films, not only had the Potter Phenomeon really not exploded, digital effects weren’t quite where they are now. You can imagine being nervous if this new, unexperienced writer J.K. Rowling would be able to keep up the quality of the first book in the sequels. Plus, though game changing films like The Matrix and The Phantom Menace were on the way, the world of Harry Potter feels understandable intimidating from a technical stand point. No one could have foreseen how the books would just keep getting better and more popular. So, animating the movies would seem to solve both those problems.
Do you think an animated “Harry Potter” with Spielberg at the helm could have been better, worse or just different?