Spielberg Initially Wanted an Animated 'Harry Potter' Years Ago
This isn't so much news as it is a fascinating story worth reading and discussing. Plus it gives me a chance to make mention of an absolutely fantastic new article on Hero Complex that looks back at the entire Harry Potter franchise and how it all came together. One segment they pulled to highlight that was very amusing to hear, is about how Warner Bros offered Steven Spielberg the chance to direct the first few Harry Potter films, but he wanted to make them animated and condense the first couple books. How's that for a totally different concept, now that we've seen six full-length live-action Harry Potter movies. Read on for the story!
Here's the excerpt pulled from that great Hero Complex Harry Potter article talking about Spielberg's notes:
"Warner Bros. secured the rights for four 'Harry Potter' novels for about $2 million. At that point, only the first book was on shelves in England and none had reached America. Warner Bros. tried to get a financial partner on the project, reaching out to studios including Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks, which passed.
Once the books became a sensation, greenlighting the first 'Potter' film became a major priority at Warner Bros., where Alan Horn had recently taken over as president and Barry Meyer as chairman (replacing longtime studio chiefs Terry Semel and Bob Daly). DreamWorks circled back and proposed a partnership, but Horn wisely declined. There was one aspect of the DreamWorks talks that did intrigue him, however.
'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 [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 then went on to direct Artificial Intelligence in 2001 instead and Warner Bros hired Home Alone and Bicentennial Man director Chris Columbus for Harry Potter. I've also always thought of Alan Horn as one of the smartest execs in Hollywood today, and this just goes to show he's helped steer that studio in the right direction ever since he hit the top. Without him making smart decisions, we probably wouldn't be about to see the dark, epic version of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that's out in a few weeks. It's just a fun story that doesn't really mean much today, and I don't think it even makes Spielberg look that bad anyway, but it is interesting to think about the different directions this amazing franchise could have gone.