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If Harry Potter Has To Reboot, Follow Spielberg's Advice - Make It Animated

Despite "Harry Potter" being one of the biggest franchises ever, it's become increasingly clear that Warner Bros. just can't find the right magic spell to save its future. Following eight films that were generally well-received, and a failed prequel series that was mostly ignored, the only truly noteworthy projects in recent years have been the reunion special with the cast and "Hogwarts Legacy," a video game version of the Wizarding World. 

However, following a frantic merger with Discovery, Warner Bros. didn't want to leave its cauldron bubbling for too long. Now, they've announced a decade-long reboot of "Harry Potter" for Max, which will retell the Hogwarts narrative of the original books whether "Potter" fans want it or not. Many people aren't happy about it, to say the least, and as if this weren't egregious enough, the series will also feature polarizing firebrand J.K. Rowling as an executive producer.

Now, while Rowling's involvement is a controversy unto itself, there's no question that there will be fans who still tune in for the sake of seeing their favorite subplots that were cut from the original movies brought to life. However, if a "Harry Potter" reboot has to happen, it's worth arguing that maybe there is another way. In fact, not only would an animated version of "Harry Potter" be able to scratch a different itch than the film series (instead of just repeating the past), but it could also blow the doors off of what's possible with this franchise as a whole.

Steven Spielberg was onto something with his animated Harry Potter pitch

Back in the late-1990s, when "Harry Potter" fever was first heating up, it was none other than blockbuster auteur Steven Spielberg who was set to oversee the films. With his wistful knack for childhood nostalgia and his passion for the magic of life, Spielberg seemed like an ideal choice for a series like this. 

However, the famed writer-director-producer had a very different vision for the adaptation than what eventually came to be: he thought that a "Harry Potter" adaptation shouldn't be live-action. 

That's right, one of Hollywood's favorite visionaries imagined the "Harry Potter" universe as a series of animated films. Furthermore, rather than thinking that the stories needed to be expanded, Spielberg actually suggested that they be truncated even more than they already were for the silver screen, with multiple books adapted in each film. While the director's pitch was ultimately rejected by J.K. Rowling and the top brass at Warner Bros., it certainly says something that the man behind such visionary adventures as "Jaws," "E.T.," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," and "Jurassic Park" saw the strength of animation over live-action for this kind of magical coming-of-age story. 

With that in mind, maybe Spielberg was onto something. It's worth looking into how an animated version of "Harry Potter" could do some very different things with the source material in question.

Animation would make Harry Potter's magical world far more magical - particularly with the supporting cast

One of the elements of the "Harry Potter" books that was the hardest to translate to live-action were the many bizarre side characters. From the grizzled Mad-Eye Moody (Brendan Gleeson) to the colorful anime style of Tonks (Natalia Tena), J.K. Rowling's fantasy series is filled with a wacky supporting cast that helps to fill out the Wizarding World.

In live-action, these characters ranged from amusing, to underwhelming, to downright goofy-looking. Remember the cheesy ghost effects that Moaning Myrtle (Shirley Henderson) has in "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," for instance?  In the books, part of what makes the Wizarding World so entrancing and inviting is that it's a world where anything is possible. There are moving pictures in the newspaper, paintings that can speak with passersby, a myriad of spirits that haunt the many schools of the world, and all kinds of different mythical monsters.

Now, imagine these extravagant creatures and characters animated with their own unique style. Anime and other forms of animation have mastered the art of pivoting between different methods depending on the needs of the story and what viewers would find most exciting. Utilizing this kind of approach could lead to the kind of endless possibilities that "Harry Potter" is known for.

Harry Potter could be animated in so many different ways

If Warner Bros. Discovery did decide to gift fans with an animated "Harry Potter" series, they would be wise to avoid the oversaturated market of CG animation and opt for a more traditional approach. Considering that the original covers of J.K. Rowling's novels all had colorful hand-drawn depictions of events from the stories, something closer to this look would be ideal.

However, in terms of traditional animation, a series like this could take just about any approach it wanted. Anyone who has seen the Studio Ghibli-inspired mock-ups of an anime version of "Harry Potter" will no doubt already be fantasizing about how great of a series that would be, especially when you consider how much protagonist Harry already leans into the shonen tropes of series like "My Hero Academia." Meanwhile, recent hits like Prime Video's "Invincible" and HBO's own "Harley Quinn" series show that there's no shortage of styles or possibilities when it comes to making an animated version of the Wizarding World. That's why when it comes to adapting the source material for the second time, the imaginative flourishes and design styles of animation would make for a much better and far more interesting approach than simply reinventing the wheel with CGI effects superimposed over real-life actors (again) a decade later.

A live-action remake of Harry Potter will just retread the events of the movies

As with other major sagas and pop cultural phenomenons like "Star Wars" or "The Lord of the Rings," the broad beats of the "Harry Potter" series are already so well known and ingrained in the minds of viewers that there's no point going over them all again unless you're going to do things differently. 

While an animated version of "Harry Potter" would similarly cover the same major events from the book series, it could at least change the way we experience them as an audience. Imagine an animated pivot to Harry's point of view during a wand duel or how an animated take could add the kind of massive explosions of light and energy that might overwhelm the scene in a live-action version. 

The creative team could even change how they animate certain scenes depending on the context. The deaths of pivotal characters could be slowed down for effect, and the usage of magical artifacts like the Time Turner could be amplified to a higher level. Meanwhile, animalistic side characters like Buckbeak and Nagini could be given far more agency and personality through the magic of animation. Ultimately what animation would provide for the "Harry Potter" universe is a world of unlimited potential.

An animated Harry Potter could add new layers to iconic scenes

Without the need to painstakingly recreate fictional elements in realistic CG, or to turn any action scene into a series of increasingly complex stunts, the Wizarding World could become a place of true magic. Dumbledore's phoenix, Fawkes, could fly around Hogwarts, dazzling both Harry and the audience with wisps of flame flickering from its wings. Fire could even singe tablecloths and curtains, and as Fawkes flies, we could watch the characters in the paintings flinch away from the phoenix's smoldering touch. Imagine a ghost character like Nearly Headless Nick seeing Fawkes coming and letting out a scream as the bird flies right through him.

We could watch impeccably animated and totally exciting cartoon Quidditch matches, the kind that could cut away seamlessly between a wide view of the match and up-close and personal shots of the players in action. Harry's worn-out invisibility cloak could partially slip off of him while he's walking, showing a quick glimpse of Harry's face from behind the veil and adding suspense to the scene. These are just some of the ways that an animated take on "Harry Potter" could offer fans a new window into this world that they've come to love so deeply.

While the passion of a few muggles isn't likely to be enough to sway the grand vision of a massive corporation like Warner Bros. Discovery, a much different take on "Harry Potter" is precisely the type of thing that could reignite excitement for this franchise.