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20 years ago, Harry Potter cracked the secret to mega-franchise success

“It is important to remember that we all have magic inside us.”

Every potion tells a story, the story of its ingredients and the recipe itself. The Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’s Potion of Success is a very complex and arduous recipe. Many of the brightest wizards and witches have fumbled and failed to create this potion and ended instead with the Twilight Potion of Sparkly Skin or the Fifty Shades of Weirdness, something they, to this day, can’t forgive themselves for.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, whose 20th year anniversary we celebrate this week, became the highest-grossing film of 2001 (the year it was released) and the second highest-grossing film at the time, kickstarting a film franchise that would raise a generation. While its creator J.K. Rowling has since become a controversial figure (due to her highly intolerant transphobic beliefs), the film, on its own, remains one of those rare franchise films, whose scale and popularity did not impact the quality of the story and the characters. And well, you can’t do that without a very specific set of instructions.

Acquired from the Pensieve of producer David Heyman, this recipe has the power to make franchises. The use of the right ingredients is key, but shall you falter, it is wise to rely on your instincts, for it was someone memorable who said “it is important to remember that we all have magic inside us.”

Harry Potter tries on the Sorting Hat before his Gryffindor adventures begin in the Sorcerer's Stone.Warner Bros.

Yield: $7.7 Billion/8 films

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 bestselling book read by more than 500 million people around the world (adults and children alike)
  • 1 enthusiastic producer with a psychic knack for seeing the power of a story
  • 12 Chris Columbus beans filled with an unpasteurized loyalty for the books and sweet experiences of directing children
  • 2 Kloves of Steve packed with years of screenwriting experience
  • 4 cups freshly squeezed clothing aesthetic from Judianna Makovsky
  • 1 (and only) Stuart Craig with a sense of design unforgettably magical
  • Several well-orchestrated sound designs by John Williams
  • 1 stick of John Seale, with an eye (or two) for cinematography
  • A sprinkle of Dickensian aesthetic
  • 3 freshly grounded actors (tough outer layers removed)
  • 1 dollop of humility
  • A lot of heart and hard work
  • 5 fistfuls of wonder and a few drops of darkness
Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson star as Harry, Ron, and Hermione in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Warner Bros.

Method of Preparation

1. Preheat the planet to the idea of a film adaptation to trigger an anticipatory reaction unparalleled to any film ever, and in the process heightening the stakes of the film.

2. Next in a cauldron, drop said enthusiastic producer David Heyman into the cauldron with your left hand. Add 25 fl oz of water.

Note: This recipe calls specifically for David Heyman. This ingredient acts as a coagulation agent; his unsalted love for the story makes him indispensable to the brewing process. It was Heyman, after all, who brought all of these magical elements together.

3. Crush half of the Columbus beans with a knife and squeeze out his passion for the project and most importantly his desire to remain faithful to the books to provide the readers the best possible version of the book.

Note: If the voices of other directors, such as Steven Spielberg, Rob Reiner, or Terry Gilliam (all of whom were in contention to helm Harry Potter), start to bubble up in the cauldron, stir the potion three times counterclockwise with your right hand and then let it brew in the pot for several months, until only the Chris Columbus beans remain and float up to the surface.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone director Chris Columbus (right) with Rupert Grint (who plays Ron Weasley) and Daniel Radcliffe (who plays Harry Potter).Warner Bros.

4. Add the Kloves of Steve, then mix the brew for a few minutes to accommodate the difficulty of adapting a character for the big screen whose struggles and personality are essentially internal and introspective.

Note: If the brew begins to separate, begin to stir to coalesce the concoction. Remember: Steve Kloves adapted all eight Potter films. From the beginning, he tossed aside spectacle for the sake of character-driven stories that propel the audience onto a journey.

5. Drop Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint into the mix to produce a heartwarming reaction. This may inadvertently make you smile, laugh or cry. If it does, do not resist it!

Caution: However, keep a safe distance from the pot. The trio at times kick-ass (especially when fighting He Who Must Not Be Named), and the potion may splutter.
The winsome trio of the Harry Potter film franchise: Harry, Hermione, and Ron.Warner Bros.

6. Throw in the rest of the Columbus beans to spread an enthusiastic flavor that’ll prepare, teach and encourage the actors to return for seven more films.

7. Pour in the freshly squeezed clothing aesthetic by Judianna Makovsky who would create the iconic Hogwarts uniform that will legitimize the look of the school for the entire franchise.

8. At a 25-degree angle, drop 12 drops of Stuart Craig’s awe-inspiring design into the concoction to inspire a kind of Tudor, Georgian, and Queen Anne architecture for the film. It will enhance the flavors of a different time and space.

Note: If you feel the concoction is not stirring up a castle large enough to be Hogwarts, don’t worry — that’s part of the magic. Production designer Stuart Craig created Hogwarts as “a huge physical miniature,” meaning the Hogwarts castle of the films was only 80 feet in diameter.
Potions master Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.Warner Bros.

9. Drop John Seale slowly into the mix to ensure three cameras are rolling at all times on account of working with child actors with limited hours to shoot, while not missing anything magical going on in the background of the elaborate sets.

10. Sprinkle in generous amounts of Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman, and Richard Harris to raise the stakes. Professors, mentors, friends, and maybe foes, the adult counterparts also elevate this recipe to be not just for kids, but for everyone.

Note: The ingredient of Richard Harris is difficult to acquire. Although not replaceable, the mischievous Michael Gambon, who was cast as Dumbledore later in the film series after Harris passed away in 2002, is equally a treat.
Professors McGonagall (Maggie Smith) and Sprout (Miriam Margolyes) join Hogwarts headmaster Dumbledore (Richard Harris) and Professor Snape (Alan Rickman) in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.Warner Bros.

11. Finally, add a dash of Dickensian colors inspired by the 1968 film Oliver!, and leave the potion to settle for a long time...

And Voila, the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone's potion of Success is ready to entertain you forever.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is now streaming on HBO Max.

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