Twenty years ago, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was first published on June 26, 1997. Many of us grew up with the bespectacled British wizard as an integral part of youth culture, whether we were obsessed with Hogwarts or not. But for every super-fan with an account on Pottermore, there are people who don’t know much other than that Dumbledore is the headmaster at Harry’s magic school and that Voldemort is the series’ bad guy. The magic of Brad Neely’s (China, IL, Harg Nallin) “Wizard People Dear Reader”, a complete sound dub that fits over the first Harry Potter film, is that rabid Potter fans and casual passersby can enjoy it equally.
Voice actor, writer, and animator Brad Neely recorded himself musing about Harry Potter in 2004, calling every character by a slightly off-kilter name (Ron is Ronnie the Bear, Dudley is Roast Beefy Weefs) and narrating the action in Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone. When Neely took the recording on the road, Warner Bros. wasn’t happy, though Neely argued “Wizard People” was a distinct enough work of art to stand apart from the film.
Today, “Wizard People” is still the most subversive example of the many, many art projects that stemmed from Harry Potter’s initial release. A stage musical emerged in 2009, an entire genre of pop punk called “wizard rock” came to life, and Hogwarts-themed comics, animation, and puppet shows are now a part of many young adults’ memories. Though all of that glorious mess has a place in Harry Potter fandom, “Wizard People” is unique.
You can download the full film here, or watch it in segments on YouTube. The first segment, titled “POWER-BABY”, is below. As with all of Brad Neely’s work, the narration is really verbose while also being silly. There aren’t any outright jokes per se, but the irony is thick. “As Haggar gnashes his teeth in inner conflict and almost drowns in snotty, fearful tears,” Neely snarls, describing Hagrid’s hesitance to leave baby Harry, “his master, Dumbledore, tells him to wait in the frickin’ car if he has to!” Somehow these are still the familiar characters we know, but their personalities and objectives have been dumbed down to the core, in order to make the whole movie’s spectacle feel bizarre.
One fan favorite of the series is Hagrid’s re-introduction in Chapter Four: Hagar’s Gifts. “But Blam!…Blam!…Blam!… at the door! The Porktown family scuttles into position, but what busts in the door is far more than expected: it is Haggar — the horrible, the nightmare of hair — a wall of a man, but buried under his woolen chest is a heart I’d trust a baby with.”
Fans also enjoy Neely’s version of Severus Snape (Professor Snake), who first appears in Chapter 14: FIRST DAY SUCKS IT. “Snake demands from Harry how to make a certain spell. Harry good-naturedly says he just doesn’t know. How could he? This is his first day! Christ! Driven by some unholy jealousy, the unfair Snake presses him again. What is such and such? How many rat tails are in minkerfulls? Harry again, with the oil of Olivier, acts humble. Demure, even. Thankful for the lesson.”
The crowning jewel quote, however, is Harry’s response to catching the snitch in what “Wizard People” calls “THE CRIBBAGE MATCH”. First, Harry exchanges the following repartee with Professor Snake, who is now a woman in Neely’s narration:
Nice work on the troll thing, [Snake] says, eyes shifting. I wish you luck today in the cribbage match. Harry responds, ‘I wish you luck on not hating your parents for mixing up such an unthinkable person’.
On the Quidditch pitch, Neely’s description of Harry catching the snitch is as follows: “The crowd is destroying its throats calling Harry’s name. Harry feels right with himself. He’s down there, a new god who has found a calling. He holds up that Snitch and bellows: ‘I am a beautiful animal! ‘I am a destroyer of worlds! ‘I am Harry Fucking Potter!’ And, dear readers, at last the world was quiet.”