Muggle world manic over Harry Potter merchandise
© St. Petersburg Times,
Urgent Memo, By Priority Owl
From: Albus Dumbledore, headmaster, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
To: Professors McGonagall, Snape, Quirrell; Groundskeeper Rubeus Hagrid; Students Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Draco Malfoy, Neville Longbottom.
Re: How to deal with Nov. 16 opening of that new Harry Potter movie.
Meeting: My office. ASAP.
Scene: A very unusual and nervous gathering of nine Hogwarts faculty members and students standing around a large table conjured up in Dumbledore's office.
Dumbledore (eyes twinkling): Welcome! Please sit, sit, sit. We have much to do and not much time.
Hagrid (booming): Beggin' yer pardon, sir. But what could be so important?
McGonagall (tartly): Indeed, Albus, whatever are you up to? Please tell me this isn't about ... You-Know-Who?
Dumbledore: Something no less sinister than Voldemort (everyone winces at the evil wizard's name) in these strangest of times. What are we to do about Friday's debut in America of this Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone movie? I am troubled it may turn the wizard world and our dear Hogwarts into a three-ring circus.
Potter (rubbing the scar on his forehead): Sir, I, uh, I never thought it would come to this.
Snape (softly, staring menacingly at Harry): On the contrary, Albus. Potter, our little celebrity here, knew very well his ... adventures ... surely would catch the attention of the non-wizarding Muggle world. It was bad enough when that awful J.K. Rowling started writing all those books about Potter. But now a Warner Bros. movie. Outrageous!
Malfoy (leering): If my father were here, Potter would already be expelled from Hogwarts.
Dumbledore: Calm down, all of you. These are the facts. This Rowling woman, somehow, has discovered our wizarding world. She has written four enormously popular books and plans three more. I must say (chuckling), they aren't bad at all. But now an actual movie about us all is coming. My question to you (gesturing around the table) is: Do we stand by and let the Muggle world grow rich off movies about our precious Hogwarts?
Granger (waving her hand madly): Please, oh please! (Dumbledore nods.) I've read each and every legal document behind the marketing agreements for the Warner Bros. movie. And, sir, there's something for every one of us here!
Snape (hungrily): Power?
Malfoy (rubbing his hands): Money? Bags and bags of bronze Knutts and silver Sickles and gold Galleons to make even the goblins at Gringotts bank jealous?
Longbottom (falling off his chair): Tons of Chocolate Frogs and Drooble's Best Blowing Gum?
Potter (hopefully): A new Nimbus Two Thousand? My last broomstick broke in Gryffindor's last Quidditch match, you know.
Hagrid (pounding the table with excitement): Blimey, Hermione! Yeh wouldn't be hidin' a new chew toy for me dog Fluffy's three heads?
Quirrell (nervously touching his smelly turban): Per-per-perhaps a quiet hol-holiday?
Dumbledore (clapping his hands): Please, everyone! Give Miss Granger a chance!
Granger: Well, I've also read the corporate biography of AOL Time Warner, the giant corporation behind the Warner Bros. movie. I've researched A History of Manipulative Marketing of Box-Office Boffo Movie Hits. I've analyzed the financial statements...
McGonagall (impatiently): Get to the point, Miss Granger!
Granger: Well, the good news is Ms. Rowling made sure Warner Bros. did not overhype the Harry Potter movie with silly fast-food tie-ins! Compared with past megamovie marketing deals, there's surprisingly little...
Hagrid (angry): What! Burger King's not naming its flame-broiled Whopper after me pet dragon, Norbert?
Malfoy (sniggering): No Slytherin milk shakes at Wendy's?
McGonagall (eyebrows arched): Not even one little Hogwarts Happy Meal?
Snape (in disgust): I told you, Albus, you should have let me send one of my potions to ... convince ... Warner Bros.!
Potter (rubbing his forehead harder): Hermione, you mean they made a movie about us and then the marketers ignored us on purpose?
Granger: Oh, Harry. Please let me finish. Coca-Cola -- that's a big maker of Muggle drinks -- reportedly paid Warner Bros. $150-million for the movie's exclusive global marketing rights. Pictures of you, Harry, and your owl Hedwig appear on packaging for Coca-Cola and other drink products.
Potter (chest swelling): Really? Me and Hedwig?
Others at the table, together: But what about us?
Granger (rummaging in her bag): Wait! I've brought loads of real samples. For Professor McGonagall, a Harry Potter watch. For Neville Longbottom, jelly beans posing as Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans. For Headmaster Dumbledore, a Mattel Hogwarts Castle playset. For Professor Snape, Snape's Potion Lab from Mattel...
Snape (grabbing the toy): Nobody consulted me about that!
Granger: ... and a Hogwarts Express electric train for Professor Quirrell...
Quirrell (his turban's starting to stink): I ho-hope it's na-not too la-loud.
Granger: ... for Malfoy, a Mattel "Slytherin Malfoy" action figure. For Hagrid, a Mattel Roaring Snorin' Norbert.
Hagrid (blowing his nose, rattling the windows): I'll care for it like it was me own dragon!
Granger: ... and my favorite, Mattel's Levitating Challenge for $44.99. You know I can levitate things for free! (She seizes her wand.) Wingardium Leviosa!
(Hagrid gasps and starts to float.)
Dumbledore: Thank you, Miss Granger. Let our groundskeeper down gently.
Potter (annoyed): What about me?
Granger: Oh, Harry. Where to begin? Take your pick of the Potter T-shirts and backpacks. Or the Playstation and Gameboy Potter video games from Electronic Arts. Or maybe the Hogwarts trading cards from a Hasbro subsidiary delightfully named Wizards of the Coast.
Longbottom (flipping backward in his chair): Oh, Harry. Can I try some of those?
Granger: In Britain, it's positively Pottermania. Harry, people are buying head-to-foot Potter outfits, complete with starry capes, Nimbus Two Thousands (fake, of course), round glasses, and even jeans -- all for the price of 175 pounds. Then there's the inflatable Potter bed, Potter pyjamas, a Potter alarm clock, Potter wand, Potter lunch box, Potter satchel, Potter cutlery and Potter quilt.
Potter (rubbing his forehead even harder): I had no idea.
Dumbledore: And how do we know the Muggles will embrace all this merchandise?
Granger: Muggle news, sir. Newspapers say tickets to the movie in America already are selling faster than any other film this year. One ticket seller called Movietickets.com says Potter sales are already five times higher than the company's previous recordholder, Pearl Harbor.
Dumbledore: Homework well done, Miss Granger. Ten points for Gryffindor. But what about ... that other wizard movie?
Granger: You mean the The Lord of the Rings with that wizard, Gandalf? It debuts Dec. 19. Sure to be definite competition, sir.
Dumbledore (thoughtful): Ah, yes. Gandalf. Haven't heard from the ol' boy since we went together to see the Wizard of Oz.
Potter (shouting, his scar blazing in pain): Sir, there's something terribly wrong ...
Quirrell (his voice suddenly desperate): Harry Potter, where is it? You must tell me!
Potter (alarmed): Where is what? The Sorcerer's Stone?
Quirrell (his lips are no longer moving): He lies! Who cares about the Stone?
(Quirrell's turban falls away to reveal a snakelike face on the back of his head.)
Hagrid (leaping up, looking too big to be allowed): Gallopin' Gorgons, it's You-Know-Who!
Voldemort (growing stronger): So, you thought you could meet here without me to decide the fate of this movie? There would be no movie without me. It is I, Lord Voldemort -- not some 11-year-old boy named Potter -- who deserves top billing! It is Voldemort whose image should grace the inflatable bed, the toys, the posters, the lunch boxes, the notebooks. (Voldemort begins a curse and raises his wand to strike. Everyone cowers, except Dumbledore and Potter.)
Dumbledore: Harry, you must tell him.
Potter: Sorry, Voldemort. Hollywood just didn't go for it. No merchandise bears your name.
Voldemort (shrieking): Not even one puny action figure?
Potter: Nope. Who wants some figure called You-Know-Who?
Voldemort: Aaaaaargh! (He vanishes. Everyone cheers.)
Dumbledore: Remember, Harry. Never underestimate the power of good magic -- and a good licensing agent.
-- Robert Trigaux can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8405.
490 First Avenue South St. Petersburg, FL 33701 727-893-8111
Times columns today
Mary Jo Melone
From the Times Business desk