Happy Birthday Harry Potter: 7 Defining Moments In Wizarding World History
It’s been over two decades since the first Harry Potter was published, and today, July 31 2020, marks the 40th birthday of The Boy Who Lived himself (and the 55th birthday of the author, J.K. Rowling).
As fans celebrate with virtual and socially-distanced parties at homes and libraries across the globe (as well as a virtual Harry Potter cast reunion hosted by WizardWorld), what better time to reflect on Harry Potter’s legacy in the muggle world than to remember some of the most defining moments in the history of the franchise over the past two decades:
Any fan around for the final midnight book release remembers this night clearly. Boxes with read labels in unmistakable font: DO NOT OPEN BEFORE JULY 21, 2007 were opened at midnight, as fans, friends and families united for a final time to jump into the unknown and complete Harry’s journey.
After releasing at 12:01am on July 21, 2007, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows sold a record-breaking 8.3 million copies in the U.S. in its first 24 hours of sale, according to Scholastic, and 11 million copies sold across the globe. In 2018 it was announced that 500 million Harry Potter books had been sold worldwide.
Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint were announced by Warner Bros. as the core trio of the Harry Potter series (Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley) on August 21, 2000.
The world was introduced to the three young actors at a press conference two days later, and the rest is history! Almost 15 years later, Eddie Redmayne was announced to be the lead in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a new film series taking place in J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World.
3) The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade Theme Park Announced - May 2007
In May 2007, Warner Bros. and Universal Studios theme parks announced plans to build a Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park attraction at Universal Orlando Resort, styled after Hogsmeade, the Wizarding village from the Harry Potter books and films.
What followed was the opening of three new Harry Potter rides, immersive shop and dining experiences, and eventually the opening of a new land, Diagon Alley, at Universal Orlando Resort, with the Hogwarts Express connecting the two attractions. Wizarding World parks also opened at Universal Studios parks globally, much to fans’ delight.
AECOM vice president Brian Sands said on the success of the parks in 2014 that the addition of the Wizarding World to Universal parks “broke through recession behavior and brought tourists flocking back to Orlando.”
In June 2019, Universal Orlando Resort added a new Harry Potter thrill ride, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, at a grand opening ceremony featuring members of the Harry Potter cast.
4) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 Premiere In London’s Trafalgar Square - July 2011
The first red carpet film premiere in Trafalgar Square, the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 London premiere on July 7, 2011 was truly a historic moment. After Warner Bros. advertised the movie with a memorable marketing strategy (posters simply reading “IT ALL ENDS” under photos of main characters), thousands of fans gathered in London to wave goodbye to the film franchise. The cast, filmmakers and J.K. Rowling were in attendance, and each made moving speeches about the impact of the movies on their lives.
"No story lives unless someone wants to listen. The stories we love best do live in us forever, so whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home,” Rowling said at the premiere. Little did fans know that this wouldn’t be the last time they saw Hogwarts castle on the big screen: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald took fans back to Hogwarts, and let them see a younger Albus Dumbledore.
The movie was the most successful of all Wizarding World films, breaking records and taking $1.3 billion at the worldwide box office ($381.01 million domestic sales).
5) Opening of The Warner Bros Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter - March 2012
Warner Bros Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter opened March 31, 2012, almost one year after the release of the final film in the franchise.
Since opening its doors to fans and allowing a behind-the-scenes look at how each set, prop, special effect and costume on the Harry Potter films was crafted, the studio tour has added extra attractions, including the Hogwarts Express, the Forbidden Forest, Privet Drive, and, the newest addition, Gringotts Bank.
After months of teasers, “Magic Quill” challenges and clues for fans and beta testing, Pottermore.com launched to the public in 2012 as an interactive platform for Harry Potter fans to explore the books in an immersive environment, offering users new written material from J.K. Rowling and the opportunity to take part in online duels, Potions classes and find out their wand type, Patronus and Hogwarts house along the way via quizzes:
“I’m thrilled to say that I’m now in a position to give you something unique, an online reading experience unlike any other. It’s called Pottermore.” J.K. Rowling published on the website in a statement on the day of Pottermore’s launch.
The site transformed into a news and e-commerce platform in 2015, and last year transferred over to WizardingWorld.com.
Since the final Harry Potter book was released in 2007, a new play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child—named the eighth Harry Potter story—has opened in theatres around the world, and a brand new film franchise based on a textbook in the Harry Potter series, the Fantastic Beasts series, will release its third instalment in November 2021. Warner Bros. and Pottermore united to form a new venture, Wizarding World Digital, in 2019, paving the way for a new era.
Celebrate the boy wizard’s birthday by listening to celebrity readings of the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s / Sorcerer’s Stone, via WizardingWorld.com’s Harry Potter at Home hub.