Steven Spielberg Envisioned ‘Harry Potter’ As An Animated Franchise

Published 4 years ago by

Steven Spielberg Steven Spielberg Envisioned Harry Potter As An Animated Franchise

It’s always interesting to look back at movie industry choices with the benefit of twenty-twenty hindsight; near-miss casting decisions, actors turning down what turned out to be career defining roles – small decisions that could have had dramatically different impacts on cinema.

A recent LA Times article takes a look back at the Harry Potter franchise, in anticipation of the November 19th release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, the two-part film which marks the beginning of the end for the boy wizard. One of the most interesting reveals in the article was what the franchise might have been in the hands of the man responsible for some of the world’s most popular movie franchises, Steven Spielberg.

According to the article, Warner Bros. purchased the rights to the first four Harry Potter novels for a mere $2 million dollars, prior to the full release of the book series, and its subsequent astronomical success in both Britain and The United States. In the early stages of development, Warner Bros. reached out to Spielberg’s DreamWorks about a financial partnership, but were turned down.

When the book series became an international phenomena, it was DreamWorks’ turn to approach Warner Bros. about a potential partnership – only to be turned down. Warner Bros. president Alan Horn was interested in the possibility of Spielberg helming the films, however.

Spielberg would have been a natural fit for Potter in many ways; as a director with a proven record in both franchise development and fantasy – specifically children’s fantasy – it was a potentially perfect match. Alas, as the fates would have it, creative differences ended the possibility of a Spielberg directed Potter.

emma watson rupert grint daniel radcliffe harry potter and the sorcerers stone Steven Spielberg Envisioned Harry Potter As An Animated Franchise

Check out Horn’s quote about Spielberg’s brush with the Harry Potter franchise:

“I did think it would be worthwhile for Steven Spielberg to direct…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 went on to direct A.I.: Artificial Intelligence for Warner Bros in lieu of Potter, and Home Alone director Chris Columbus took on the first two films in the Potter franchise.

Horn and Warner Bros., unequivocally, made the correct choice. The six Harry Potter films released thus far have grossed a combined $5.7 billion in worldwide theatrical sales. It is the number one most successful franchise in film history. Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones are nine and ten, respectively.

Indiana Jones outfit Steven Spielberg Envisioned Harry Potter As An Animated Franchise

However, it does feel as though there may have been a lost opportunity here. Combining the films would have been an enormous fan disappointment, and would have meant a potentially massive loss of revenue for the studio; it also seems unlikely that an animated Potter would have held the mass appeal (to book series readers and non-readers, alike) that the live-action versions do. Yet, the thought of a Spielberg directed Harry Potter does open up the imagination to a world of possibilities.

The first two Potter films did not quite convey the sense of, well, magic, that one would have expected from the franchise, nor did they realize the full cinematic potential inherent in the books. Chris Columbus made a couple of fine children’s films, but Spielberg had the capability to convey a sense of whimsy, mystery, and yes, magic, that would appeal to both children and adults. Had the director tapped into the same sense of wonder and possibility that defined E.T., there is no telling what he could have made of the world of muggles, wizards and prophecies.

e t poster Steven Spielberg Envisioned Harry Potter As An Animated Franchise

A.I.: Artificial Intelligence was an interesting concept, but a fairly forgettable film; and as much as I love the franchise, the Harry Potter movies did not really come alive for me until the Alfonso Cuarón directed the third installment, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

We are left to wonder what might have been if Warner Bros. and Steven Spielberg had come to a compromise ten years ago. Too bad we have no Delorean to go back and set things right; though, perhaps, all is already as it was meant to be.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 zips into theaters on its Nimbus 2011 on November 19th.

Source: LA Times

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  1. Interesting, but I think it’s doing better as a live action film. Plus some stuff is a bit too extreme for the animated screen. Like killing unicorns, freaky hairless flying rat donkey creatures, life sucking rip-offs of the Ring Wraiths, a snake-faced Voldemoort, a gruesome dragon fight, and a giant snake that got stabbed through the head. So yeah. Live action better.

    • Yeah I’m glad it was NOT in his hands.

  2. If they had turned it into an Anime it would have worked, but then it would have had to have been set up as a television series . . . still, one can only dream

  3. I thank god that speilberg never got the chance to do harry potter. Animated wouldnt have made me as big a fan as iam today. But they can make an animated series on television now id like that…

    • Yeah, I’m glad that it wasn’t animated or condensed as well.



  4. I’m not sure if the author of this post read all the books as well, but Ifelt the book series didn’t really come alive either until the Prisoner of Azkaban. So one can argue the relation between that. The themes of that movie/book were much more deeper than the previous two films. On a side note, I also personally felt that the first two books were aimed to a younger audience as well. Not that the latter of the series was aimed specifically towards an adult audience or anything. But, Perhaps she intended the books to grow with the reader/the main characters, as they got older so did the depth of the books. I’m just saying that maybe it wasn’t the fault of the director. Thats just my opinion though, i could be wrong.

    • Oh yes, I’ve read them :). Big Potter fan, and I do agree that the books aged with Harry and that it is absolutely right that the films did as well.
      It’s one of the things I love about them.

      Still, even as films that were intended for a younger audiences, I feel like there were missed opportunities in the in first two films, just cinematically. There are some pretty amazing kids films, so I think you could have kept the sense of innocence in the books had at that point, and still had a more fully developed world. Even just visually.

      Don’t get me wrong, I love all things Potter :), but I was glad when Cuaron took over on the third film. He did age the story, but he also gave me a sense of the world that had been missing previously.

      Many Thanks!


      • Yes Roth cuaron has been the best HP director to date. I wished hed done the whole series how epic would that be? It would be amazing.

        • Cuaron had and probably still has no idea what Harry Potter is about. His movie was an abomination.

          The first two movies were magical. It wasn’t until WB hired Yates that the series righted itself.

          Why is Azkaban the lowest grossing movie in the series? Why is it that so many cherish it? Sheep, I suppose, just push the button they think will everyone else will.

          Borrow a brain, please.

  5. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 zips into theaters on its Nimbus 2011 on November 19th.”

    it’s “Nimbus 2010″.


    • Oh I know — I was making them so on top of it that they already have next years model — these are the ways I amuse myself :)



    • Julien?????

      ur not the mysterious julien who runs HPF by any chance are you?

      • Thats what i was thinking ADAM!

  6. I disagree with the author of this article – the first 2 films had the most sense of magic – the following movies lost that sense and the franchise went darker.

    • You nailed it.

      You understand.

      Azkaban was crap.

  7. They don’t own the rights, so its a safe bet they wont be allowed to come near it :) Thank god for that.

    • Same. Lucas would have made the young Tom Riddle nothing more than a cry baby, and given us some Jar Jar version for this series.

  8. What?? No reference to the South Park episode about Indiana Jones 3??

    That’s almost a gimme!

    I agree, please don’t ever let Speilberg/Lucas “violate” the HP franchise!

  9. Harry Potter and the Nuked Fridge. No thanks.

  10. Speilberg would have been a bad choice. Half of each movie would have been centered in the least interesting part of each book, the Aunt & Uncle’s house. By the third book, I was just hoping they would start the books & films directly when the gang gets to hogwarts.

  11. if spielberg directed it, it would have all been one movie, and it would have ended with harry’s parents being alive the whole time, and he would reunite with them. also, none of the main characters would get killed off.

  12. Harry Potter… young boy… wizard… Hogwarts… Ron and Hermione… Dursleys… these words open a gate to a wide world, from the imagination of J.K. Rowling. This 3rd installment of this wonderful series managed to hook me up from page 1. I developed a keenship with the characters, living their adventures, experiencing their problems and happiness and pain. This book is written with such passion it can please both children and adults. And being 19, I’m not exactly a child anymore. From all the books, this has been the one that had pleased me more and I am sure the more I read the more it’ll please me to read Harry Potter. I especially liked the characters in this book. I enjoyed Remus Lupin and Sirius Black the most, and the Prongs, Moony, Padfoot and Wormtail quartet as well… I recommend this book to everyone, child or adult, besides recommending the previous ones too. And, let’s just say J.K. Rolwing knows how to write with feeling, and depth.

  13. As a huge Harry Potter fan who stayed up until midnight to get books 5, 6, and 7 and saw every single movie either opening night or at midnight, I must say, that I was incredibly disappointed in the third movie.

    And I think Alfonso Cuaran is the absolute WORST director that I have ever seen. The first two movies were amazing and just captured the essence of the books. They were INCREDIBLY magical and they changed my life… especially the first movie.

    The third movie came out on June 4 (my birthday) and I was just so disappointed. Movies 4-8 were decent, but for me, absolutely nothing compares to the first movie.