Harry Potter and the Changing Fantasy Demographic

You would be hard pressed to find anyone who hasn’t at least heard of the Harry Potter series, let alone not become a fan in the many years these books and movies were coming out. I was watching Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone recently with my friend’s children, and as I sat through it while they squealed with delight, I paused and had an idea. The oldest child sitting in the room with me was 10, the same age I was when the first movie was released. I remembered the awe I felt at the first shots of Hogwarts, and the excitement from all of the fantastical elements on the screen.

I was curious and looked back at the release date of the original book and discovered that it started its humble beginnings way back in 1997. OK, that sounds about right…then I looked up the release date of the movie which turned out to be 2001. This book received critical acclaim and was greenlit for a movie that was fully filmed and released a mere four years after the book was published?! Anyone who as kept up with the Deadpool movie battle understands just how short a time this truly is. Ryan Reynolds lobbied to have the movie created for 12 years before it was finally taken out of movie limbo and released. So why did a children’s book that was written alongside so many others that year to get such a massive following so quickly, enough to get the attention of Hollywood?

Other than brilliant marketing, I think it has to do with my generation’s upbringing. When I was little, I was introduced to games and fantasy at a very young age and lived through Disney’s golden age as the target audience. Yes, I was a 90’s kid, and as such I realize I have lived through some of the largest entertainment shifts in recent history.

I believe J.K. Rowling has become so successful because not only is she a fantastic author that understands how to create a fantasy world, but she kept hold of our interest and aged her writing with us. With books getting darker and longer as the series progressed, it became a challenge and a joy to read even when I was delving into the newest book as a 16-year-old. I think as a generation that grew from Harry Potter and Disney, fantasy will continue to dominate pop culture for quite some time, and continue to evolve and reach out to new demographics.

Fantasy is not just for nerds anymore. As I write this, the next Alice in Wonderland film is set to release this year, and everyone is excitedly anticipating the next Game of Thrones episode. As I age, I hope to see this continued resurgence in fantasy love and adoration, and that my children get the chance to experience the same fantasy world I grew up in themselves. Watching my friend’s 10-year-old enjoy a movie that I watched for the first time almost 16 years ago is proof that this once ostracized genre is here to stay in a big way.