How did the Wizarding World of Harry Potter end up in Universal instead of Disney World?
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How did the Wizarding World of Harry Potter end up in Universal instead of Disney World?


Did you know that a version of the Wizarding
World of Harry Potter was going to be made in Disney? Let us tell you all about it! In order to understand why this was not able
to happen, we need to go back and examine the rocky relationship between J.K. Rowling and Disney. Since Harry Potter and the Philosopher Stone
came out, the Harry Potter franchise was a world phenomenon. Every book that came out was a huge success
and J.K. Rowling was interested in taking this success
and making it bigger by taking it to the big screen. This is why many companies, including Disney
and Warner Brothers, were in the race for the rights of the acclaimed saga. And legend has it the entire negotiation between
JK Rowling and Disney started with the left foot. This was because Disney has a very specific
way of working and wants an absolute control over the creativity and direction of the projects. This form of business has proved extremely
successful for them. But, as many of us know, J.K. Rowling is very protective of her characters
and her story and she had some demands for the companies that were interested. First of all, she didn’t want the film to
be an animated movie, she also wanted it to be recorded in the UK with an exclusively
British cast. But the thing that made the agreement go south
was that she wanted to have all the creative control. She would be in charge of choosing locations,
the characters and cast, their motivations, and she wanted to have the final approval
of the script. Kind of like P.L. Travers wanted with Mary Poppins, but much
less complicated. Disney didn’t like this demands so they
decided to not put out a great offer, On the other hand, Warner Brothers decided,
that this was a big bet and that the movies were going to be a huge success. After all, J.K. Rowling had made Harry Potter what it was
and she knew what was better for the franchise, and as we all know now, they were right and
Harry Potter became one of the most important and influential franchises in the big screen
as well. Years passed and the success of the boy who
lived continued and so, in 2004 Disney came up with the idea of immortalizing the world
of harry potter in their parks. At that time, Michael Eisner was Disney’s
CEO and Disney’s contract with Pixar was about to end. It’s no secret that Eisner and Steve Jobs
who was the chief executive of Pixar Animation Studios did not like each other that much. And Eisner was thinking about not renewing
it. So he thought this new project would give
imagineers the opportunity to work on new attractions and shows, and it would give him
the perfect excuse for not renewing their contract with Pixar. So Disney sent J.K. Rowling a letter of intent and they started
negotiations. But just as it went with the rights of the
film, the negotiations quickly became tense. Rowling’s ideas were pretty much what we
can see today in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Parks. Her first demand was that she wanted a real-size
Hogwarts castle inside the park, I mean come on, what would be a Harry Potter park without
it? She also asked that none of her characters
be walking around in the area. So we wouldn’t have Harry greeting guests,
or Hermione and Ron taking pictures. And she wanted a large part of the sale of
merchandise that was going to be sold in the park. And again, Disney was not happy with this
demands. They said they could not include the land
inside the Magic Kingdom because Hogwarts couldn’t be in the same park as Cinderella’s
castle. So they told J.K. Rowling that the only way they would include
her franchise in the park was to create a small area as the Forbidden Forest inside
Animal Kingdom and obviously this was not what she was looking for. Rumor has it that in one of the many meetings,
things became so tense that JK Rowling left the meeting very upset and instead of going
straight back to the airport she went to Universal, arrived at the front door, told them who she
was and demanded to speak with the president. In less than three days Universal had agreed
to every demand and JK Rowling signed a letter of intent. And so they drew up the designs, had them
approved and the amazing Wizarding World of Harry Potter was on its way to becoming reality. Now, Bob Iger, became The Walt Disney Company’s
CEO and on his second day, he decided that the smartest thing to do for the company was
to invest all of their resources into buying Pixar instead of building a new park and so
he doubled the efforts to buy Pixar and offered 7.4 billion for the company that, amazingly,
Steve Jobs accepted. So this story ended up having a happy ending
for both parties involved. J.K. Rowling ended up having the park that she
always dreamed of having. With all of her demands met and all the detail
that the amazing world she created deserved. And Disney wound up buying Pixar which was
an amazing decision and the best bet they could ever make. They undoubtedly invested in one of the best
alliances that have existed in the world of animation What do you guys think? Would you want to have the forbidden forest
inside Animal Kingdom or are you happy with the way things are? Let us know in the comments!

100 Comments

  • Expedition Theme Park

    I think the right choice was made and without it Universal would not of grown to what it is today, and will become!

  • Laurent de backer

    i learned a lot about Disney and i'm actually happy that they don't have control over HP, they don't need to control everything… JKR has made a very smart decision in all this 🙂

  • GQDisneyFan

    When Star Wars Land opens, Universal will be a virtual ghost town. Harry Potter Wizarding World will lose patrons when Star Wars Land and the accompanying Star Wars Resort opens. Disney all but destroyed any amount of increasing profits Universal will see in the next decade or more.

  • Stephen

    I loved the books and liked some of the films, but I think a HP theme park was and is a terrible idea. JKR created a fantasy world that lived in our minds and was enriched by our imagination. The films were able to capture some of this by using decent special effects. Unfortunately, the park suffers from a variety of defects, none of which would possible to overcome. The magic effects are pretty cheesy. The fantasy aspect is completely lost when you have to stand in line for virtually everything. My young grandchildren enjoyed the experience, but then again, they are too young to read the books.

    Its little more than a giant tourist trap.

  • Michelle Alexandria

    moral of the story always trust the creator, put your ego aside and work WITH them to bring their vision to life instead of trying to turn it into your own. Disney certainly learned because now they want all their properties to be their own parks within Disney. Basically the Universal Orlando concept.

  • kiba the wolf

    Disney dosn't own harry potter anyway and plus there is no room if it didn't got to Universal jaws wasn't been taken down thank god for that

  • Robert Gronewold

    JK Rowling is an extraordinarily generous woman. She likes to see things done right by her creations yes, but nearly all of the money she has goes into her personal charity, Lumos, which helps children in institutionalized childcare break free of the system. She is indeed the first person to ever reach the Billionaire status and donate her fortune away to the point where her current worth is about 100 million.

  • andreo

    I wonder if Discovery Island would have been big enough to hold it?
    But I do agree. Harry Potter would not have fit in at Magic Kingdom. Perhaps an added land to Hollywood Studios. Toy Story land, Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, Harry Potter, and Marvel Land (once they iron out the East coast rights). That would have been the nail in the coffin for Universal Studios. And Hollywood Studios would be the busiest park on the East coast.
    Though I'm happy that Disney Bought Pixar.

  • Tad Tranclere

    “Very protective.” And “she knew better for the franchise.” Yeah… sure… That’s why JKR allowed the abomination Cursed Child to come into being.

  • kuramasan

    Having JUST the forbidden forest doesn't even compare. I'm so glad that she didn't go with that option! It would be been so paltry!

  • Capt A Bumbler RN

    Thank God ! J K went with Warner , Disney would have destroyed all the work she did creating HP. then built their idea of how it should be. if then went wrong they would have blamed J.K.

  • Graeme Anshaw

    In interviews, JK Rowling has said that the studios approached her for making the films and also for making a theme park. She has said how at first she wasn't initially too keen on the ideas, but that the studios convinced her. So, there are some mistruths in this video.

  • SherWarlock

    J K Rowling did well when she didn't sign with Disney, they were gonna ruin Harry Potter just like they did Star Wars and everything else. I like the classic Disney films and nothing more

  • Joshua A

    the video is a bit pointless, since Disney only puts in rides/lands based off of characters/movies that they own rights to or own the company that has rights to it?

  • Christine Stolley Homeschool_Hangout

    I think the right choice was made for Harry Potter to end up at Universal! As a pass holder to both Disney and Universal in Florida, Harry Potter is much more suited at Universal. And, if Disney had gotten the rights I think their interpretation would have been way off, and I don’t think Disney would have done Harry Potter justice. Universal nailed it!

  • Douglas Freer

    Even before The Wizarding World was announced I wouldn't have seen Harry at Disney at all. It also kind of shows how interesting the relationship between Disney corporate and individuals is

  • David Munns

    To be quite honest with you I think that things turned out for the best and that PIXAR was giving Steve Jobs a headache

  • G Stone

    Rowling seems to be difficult to work with and she also seem to have rather strong political views. At least she seem very stubborn and protective of her work.

    I'm saying this as someone you really liked Harry Potter as kid.

    She comparede Donald Trump to Lord Voldemort i think.

  • Shah Hurrem

    The grim reality of Harry Potter world doesn't really match up with disney 's all smiles.

    I hate it when writers have no crate control over their content and that always ends up messing the movies based on books. e.g. Maze Runner etc etc…

  • lifelong collector

    Just shows the limited thinking and attitude of Disney at that time (also they didn't learn their lesson from the failed movie rights negotiations). Walt Disney World is approximately 40 square miles so they could have easily built an entirely separate Harry Potter Theme Park away from their existing parks.

  • hockeysong

    Disney to this day still thinks that if they have control of a franchise they can make it better the problem is it never gets better look at Star Wars, they ignored a important part of the story which were the prequel and they thought that adding a political message to a franchise that is already diverse in it's own ways would be great for a franchise, they basically ignored George Lucas version of a sequel trilogy because they believe that they can make something better then the creator of star wars. Warner Bros knew that the person great for the job of making a film series was the creator of her own creation. Their are times where film studios like Warner bros with Christopher Nolan and JK Rowling and Universal with some of their actors but other studios like Disney do not respect the creators of franchises they built up. Disney never learnt that lesson of listening to the creator, Warner Bros and Universal did.

  • Silas White

    " This is what I want . You said NO ? Then I will take my multi-billion dollar franchise somewhere else. " YOU GO J.K. This is not a woman to be trifled with or intimidated . I can't help but wonder how they would have dealt with her had she been male. Just thinking. Don't you wish you were a fly on the wall when she showed up at Universal ? CAN YOU IMAGINE?

  • hugo wolf

    What about the Warner Brothers park in Spain? I thought Warner owned the rights to Harry Potter, so why didn't they make it in that park? Probably because it's much smaller than universal and Disney world, but still…

  • WickstarRunner

    Disney is the one that's going to be celebrating when this is all over. Rowling is notoriously difficult to work with and she retained so much control that she can shut down everything HP in Universal with the stroke of a pen, which I believe will eventually happen. Without HP, Universal cannot compete. Always better to own the IP in your parks as opposed to licensing it.

  • Alice Gordezky

    I think she made the right choice. Disney would never recognize the true beauty of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Look what Disney did to Winnie the Pooh and Mary Poppins. As an ex-Disney employee I know what they do to make a product completely Disney. I made style guides for some of the Disney animated movies.They are very strict. I also did a lot of signage for the park and it would have to be under their guidelines.

  • Tracy-Lynn McCoy

    I think J.K. Rowling did the right thing in going to talk to Universal. Putting the forbidden forest in Animal Kingdom & saying they can't have both Cinderella's castle & Hogwarts' castle in the same theme park is…well…Ridiculous (meant to spell it like the HP Sep, but not a great speller). Though, correct me if I'm wrong, doesn't Disney own both ABC & Warner Bros…and therefore also the Harry Potter movies? Because Disney has made open references to the Harry Potter movies, even having Disney stars drawing logo on screen using Harry Potter style wands (down in lower left side of tv screen). I'll always side with J.K. Rowling (and many other authors too).

  • amcaff

    What are the sources for this video? Not that I necessarily doubt the information presented, but it'd be nice to be able to delve into this myself, as well as to know that you're not just making this stuff up.

  • faigie2002

    I dunno…there is another castle in the magic kingdom, the beasts castle..so obviously Disney had no issue about a castle..

  • aciDC 14

    I would be lying if i said i wouldn’t have been exited at the prospect of a traditionally animated adaptation of Harry Potter back in the day.

  • Unicorn Lady (formerly archiecook55)

    I'm glad things turned out the way they did, the Wizarding World seems so much better than the Forbidden Forest probably would've been.

  • Spicy Sandwich Production

    I hate universal curse you universal grrrrrrrrr🤬😡😡🤬😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😠😠😠😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡

  • Julia T

    If Disney had agreed to build Hogwarts and agreed with JK Rowling, it could have been something great. Disney always does the best with theming and everything. And I’m sure that Universal did a great job too (I haven’t been to the wizarding world yet) but Disney would have done better with the rides instead of that screen stuff that they use at universal. Make some real rides! (No hate to Universal, I’m just a big Disney fan and I honestly think Disney could have done better.) NO HATE plz don’t come for me lol. I also don’t understand why so people think that Disney wouldn’t have done such as great job as Universal. If anyone has gone to a Disney park, they would understand what I’m saying. Disney parks pay attention to every detail and make your trip there truly magical. If you go to Frontierland, you really feel like your in the old west. The same with New Orleans Square, Carsland, and pretty much all of the other parts of the Disney parks. They would have done a great job with this in my opinion.

  • 392Firepower

    Glad it turned out the way it did. I cannot imagine the Wizarding World to be any better than the way Universal executed it (with JK's oversight, of course). I'm so thankful that JK is such a strong woman, who guards her characters and intellectual property as she would her children. It has made the movies and the park truly iconic generational experiences that will last lifetimes.

  • Tyler Thorne-Squibb

    why did warner bros allow harry potter world to be built in a universal studios park when wb owns the rights to harry potter which means it should hav been built in a warner bros.park,

  • -

    I’m very glad that its in Universal because most of the time Disney is all about Mickey Mouse and princesses…and plus, Universal is great and I always go there!

  • jacoblgames

    Interestingly enough, it really was for the best that Disney didn't get anything Harry Potter-related. The thing is, with the Harry Potter fanbase would have came with the Harry Potter IP. Look at what happened with Star Wars. Disney was completely oblivious to the fact that they acquired its fanbase with the acquisition.

  • FLMEW

    Good for Jk. Universal has an amazing Harry Potter land and Disney’s version of it doesn’t sound appealing. I think everything worked out

  • Rose Renee

    I’ll be honest, I’m glad Rowling went to Universal. It’s beautifully put in the park and has it’s own specific section like she wanted.

  • Solqueen86

    Thank God it didn't end up in Disney cus just last month I was there and it was still cool. Universe has more room to split and give us a train too

  • I love Meghan

    I'm honestly happy with the way things are because being the Disney fan that I am and the H.P. fan that I am I really wouldn't have wanted it to be part of Disney because Disney to me is princesses, Mickey, Minnie, toy story, etc. not witchcraft and wizardry and besides Disney's highest rating is PG and the last few Potter films are PG-13

  • David Feltheim

    This is one of the few times I say Disney would not have been able to do as good if they got their way. Disney's Harry potter franchise would be much different and probably not as good as if Warner Brothers and Rowling stuck with Universal, and a Forbidden Forest section would not have been nearly as good as a full Castle and Hogsmead. Also Disney got Pixar, which has turned out great, and If they didn't we probably wouldn't have seen the success with both companies. Also Universal making the Wizarding World in the parks and Warner Bros movies wouldn't have pushed Disney to build Galaxies Edge. But just imagine what the world would look like if Disney had Warner Bros Harry potter movies and a Forbidden Forest land, that would be very weird to see.

  • Road To Sparta

    HP is far better off with universal
    Disney would just milk it to death like they did with Star Wars and try to demolish existing storylines and add their own cheesy crap to the mix. Disney doesn't care about the lore or the fans

  • MrStGeorgeIllawarra

    This is such a shitty Disney-fied version of what happen. Disney thought they could low-ball JK and get her to sign because nobody else would. They were wrong.

  • Alex R

    I don't think new theme park fans realize the nadir of the parks in the 2000s. Seagram and Vivendi had been running Uni into the ground while the Pressler era ran DL into the ground along with the suit changes at WDW. Potter rebirthed the theme park wars and gave us a new rennaisance. Potter changed Otown like EPCOT had changed it decades earlier…

  • general phoenix

    Yeah well good cause disney would ruin Harry potter forever universal and warner bros were the only ones to do harry potter right while lionsgate was the only one to do twilight and hunger games right

  • KingKeith

    Disney’s ego got in the way. Let the woman make final decisions, she’s the creator of the world! It’s like telling Tolken he can’t have final say on a Frodo Baggins story!

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