A taxing woman

This amusingly myopic item about how Universal beat out Walt Disney for the right to open a Harry Potter theme park is full of showbiz types claiming to be relieved that they missed out on the deal because now they won’t have to deal with that awful J.K. Rowling.

Just because she pulled a storyline out of her head that generated a hugely successful line of novels that in turn support a series of blockbuster films, Rowling has the notion that she’s entitled to a say in what gets done with her characters. In fact, her own ideas about what a Harry Potter theme park should be like might have impeded Disney in its headlong rush to generate more crappy rides and spin-off products. The nerve of the woman!

Aside from the fact that I like the Harry Potter books quite a lot, I admire J.K. Rowling’s stiff neck in dealing with the various showbiz geniuses who have viewed her the way mining companies view the natives who showed them the route to the gold mine — as an inconvenience to be gotten out of the way so lucrative exploitation can begin at once.

Not many writers would have the nerve to tell Steven Spielberg to go fly a kite, but that’s what Rowling did when he wanted to collapse the first two Potter novels into a single film. I happen to agree with him that the books in question are virtually identical, but guess what? Identical or not, Rowling wrote them and she gets to decide. She also values her relationship with her fans, and she doesn’t want to give her imprimatur to a theme park that will treat her readers like tourist-cattle being herded through a slaughterhouse for wallets.

Rowling also probably understood something that should have been crashingly obvious to the Disney people: that Harry Potter’s dark, violent world would have been a terrible match for the Disney brand. That they expended so much effort in wooing Rowling betrays, I think, a certain desperation — a realization that they have been burning their creative seed corn with schlocky direct-to-video sequels to their classic films.That’s something they’ll just have to deal with without Rowling’s help. I just finished listening once again to Jim Dale’s audiobook reading of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and the theme park it created in my mind beats anything Universal and Disney combined could come up with.

One thought on “A taxing woman

  1. Ron Fischer says:

    Disney has always had this problem: to expand its market share it needs to get out of the straightjacket of its “goody goody” image. Its been accomplished in various ways over the years. Buena Vista Pictures was seen as the adult film releasing arm, etc.

    In addition, there are legions of cloying Disney fans who want the company’s works to be encased in amber, preserved unchanging for eternity. These folks complain mightily every time a ride is updated at the parks and fuss over every re-release of a classic.

    Disney’s still an impressive company, having walked this tightrope rather well in recent years. But yes, Rowling is likely the one that dodged a bullet by going to Universal.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: