The Department of Mysteries: Potential Potter Products

by Bob Sindeldecker

AUTHOR’S NOTE: this was written in December 2004, to be posted in the week before Christmas. The weather prevented me from getting it up – more on that below. Just pretend it’s before Christmas (technically true 364 days a year) and you are waiting for Santa …

 DISCLAIMER:

I am not a corporate shill. I am not being paid to direct you to Jones Soda, Bertie Botts Beans or the lyrics of Lou Reed, so don’t send in any complaints about it.
It is the Holiday Season, plus I derive a certain glee (hee!) from irritating those who dislike my non-theoretical articles  so I thought I would waste your time this week by describing some HP products I would like to see.

Some of these things may already be out – I don’t know as I rarely shop for anything but groceries and reading material – but I will bet most are still theoretical, if anyone has even thought of them.

Hmm… so I guess this is a theoretical DoM after all. Rats.

(Note to Warner Brothers: as Patton Chase might say, you likey? Want to actually BUILD some of this stuff? Okay, but if you are not forthcoming with royalties I will sue your pants off before you can say, “QuiddOUCH!”)

1. Action Figures: are there any realistic Harry Potter dolls out there? If not, why not? I’ll bet it’s because Jo doesn’t want them out there. That could be. Well, fine. But I hope she relents. Even adults would buy these, not really to play with (well, most of us) but just to have, see? Gimme.

2. Ancilliary Books: these are all the books that have been mentioned in the series, but never written. Moste Potente Potions. Charm Your Own Cheese. Hogwarts: A History. Oh, especially that one! Jo should write some of these, or at least edit them and let other people (like us!) write them. She could spend the rest of her life doing this, in fact. Maybe that is just what she intends. If it is, I will not complain. I want to read them all.

Seriously, other writers have adopted the Shared Universe model to rake in the royalties for use of their creations without having to do a lick of work, except selecting and editing other people’s work. The best example of this is Larry Niven’sMan-Kzin Wars period within his Known Space series. Jo could get all of these other books out quickly and easily by allowing other gifted writers (*hem! hem!*) to write them, and she herself just serve as Executive Editor. That’d be keen, eh?

3. Board games: I love board games. With HP, as Lou Reed would say, the possibilities are endless. How about something like Clue set in Hogwarts Castle? Girls might like a Wizarding version of Mystery Date. Wizard’s Chess and Potteropoly have their own entries below. I am sure you can invent your own; you’re not dumb. Get thinking!

4. Broomsticks: It’s so simple. If Allivan’s sells wands, why isn’t someone selling broomsticks? Even Allivan’s could do it; this could be their second line.

The sober adult in me worries about liability: surely some poor kid would try to actually fly with one and get hurt. Even in litigious, irresponsible America, however, people are becoming more reasonable. We may soon live in a legal environment where, oddly, the parents would be held responsible for their child’s protection*, so it would be safe to sell a non-flying fantasy object like a broomstick. That would be awesome, because I would like to have my very own Firebolt, even if it did not fly. Just to have, see?

(*NOTE TO PARENTS: yes, I know you are responsible. This was a reference to the silly doot-brains who think it’s the tree’s fault their kid fell out of it. And the judges who would convict the tree.)

5. Butterbeer: Mmmmm! This sounds so good, why hasn’t Jo formulated it and put it on the shelf? Okay, she’s busy with her family and writing the books; I undestand. But I am an American: I demand EVERYTHING at 5,692 convenient locations and a low, low price! If she’s not gonna do it, she should at least have mercy on us and publish the recipe.

Seriously, butterbeer sounds something like ginger ale except creamier, and I’ll bet it is yellow and delicious. Jo should license the name to some small soda company that will do it up right, like Jones or Stewart’s perhaps, and put cases of it on my grocery store shelf. Then we can have Harry Potter parties and drink butterbeers while we play Potteropoly and arch our action figures around the board. Whooppeee!

6. Candy: we already have Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavor Beans thanks to Jelly Belly, though they still don’t have every flavor. But what about chocolate frogs? They should be easy to do. The cards are pentagonal with moving pictures of famous witches and wizards. That can be done with lenticular photos, another old technology, again easy enough. Fred and George’s, erm, medical treats I might pass on – we’d need an explanatory note that the spells only work on people with a Magical physiology. But hey, Fainting Fanciesand Nosebleed Nougatsare gross, and gross is good to a kid. Ditto Cockroach Clusters – I’m sure raisins would serve just as well. Rock cakes sound good too, though we’d have to make them less rocky than Hagrid’s or we’d break people’s teeth. Lots of potential here.

7. CD-ROM: I will go into this in detail in a later article. Suffice it to say I would like to see the entire HP series and a bit more on CD-ROM. The “bit more” includes the artwork of Mary Grand Pre, Quidditch Through The Ages, Fantastic Beasts and lots of supplementary material. In fact, I think Warner Brothers should pay good money for The Harry Potter Lexicon and include it all – they have done fantastic work, which it would be pointless to duplicate.

Most especially I would like to see a good search-and-indexing program on this CD, so if you wanted to look up terms and compare them it would be simple and easy. Digitizing everything would take research into the series – and our enjoyment of it – to a higher level.

8. The Daily Prophet: I doubt this could be a real daily newspaper – where would they get the news? – but maybe a book or digest of stories from the “regular edition” would work. The Onion does this. Hmmm … come to think of it The Onion is a daily internet news source that serves up completely fictitious news. So maybe The Daily Prophet *could* work! Perfect for us, too, because if it was digital then the pictures could move. HUH! I am smarter than even I suspected.

9. Hogwarts Castle: there is another entry for models. This would be a model, but mainly it would be a play set for your action figures. After all, they have to have some place to undertake their actions. It would not be to scale; more like a doll house (“Mom, they’re not dolls, they’re action figures!”) with a few big rooms we are all familiar with. It would have to be fairly big, and fairly expensive. Maybe several sections could be sold separately and fitted together into one. The Stair Hall could have moveable stairs. Dumbledore’s Office, a moving spiral staircase. Secret passages. A detachable Room Of Requirement.

Hmmm. Got to put some more thought into this one.

10. Hogwarts House Products: All kinds of possibilities here. Basically anything can have colors and a logo on it, and there are 4 sets of colors and logos. Most popular will be Gryffindor, followed by Slytherin for the contrarians, but all will sell I am sure. Pens, paper, clothing, mugs, cell phone covers, plastic hair thingies (girls, what do you call those thingies?) – you name it, slap on a Hogwarts house symbol and people will want it. Just look at all the Beatles and Star Wars stuff from decades past.

Truth be told, I am surprised there is not more of this stuff already. Surprised Good and Surprised Bad. I am glad Jo hasn’t let Harry be commercialized to death, but I would love to have my very own Gryffindor coffee mug or key chain. My current keychain is an Ohio State University bottle opener. With a Gryffindor Lion bottle opener I could open a bottle of butterbeer and drink it out of my Gryffindor mug. Am I too far gone?

11. Hogwarts, The Series: coming someday (?) to a television near you. Maybe live-action, maybe not. Could include the Trio, or maybe not. Aimed at little kids or teenagers or adults. Or multiple programs to suit each audience. The point is, Harry Potter is bigger than books and bigger than movies. He is fit for television, and that is BIG.

The big difference would be that a TV series is open-ended, while the books and films have a very definite end. I would like a series that did not involve Harry, as we will already know his story before the first episode (I am assuming Jo would not want it started until Book 7 was out). So, let’s see some other wizards, maybe in another time period. Maybe oh, I don’t know, Harry’s parents? They are interesting, there is already a built-in audience and Jo has said we are not going to learn a heckuva lot about them in the HP books. So fine: let’s have their story played out in the series. It would quickly become my favorite British import.

12. Howlers: another easy one. You shout into a digitizing receiver built into a talking greeting card. It is cheap so it distorts your voice, which enhances the effect. You send it to someone, they open it and it SCREAMS BLOODY MURDER at them. Then they can re-use it. A great gag gift. Of course it is bright red.

13. Jewelry: how about a Time Turner to start with? Witches and wizards always wear magical rings and amulets. This overlaps with Hogwarts House products – rings, pendants, etc. with the House crests on them. And I am sure someone will be giving someone else a Very Special Ring soon enough – not sure who, but soon. If we can wear the jewelry then we can live the fantasy. How about it, Jo?

14. Models: Cindy, Claudia — ERM! That is, scale models of HP people, places and things. Maybe not people – action figures take care of that (though those should be to scale, with Hagrid towering over the others) but places and things would be great. Dragons, for example. Every kind of Fantastic Beast. The Hand Of Glory. The Arch and The Veil. Some of Dumbledore’s little silver machines. Broomsticks, The Hogwarts Express (not just a model but a working toy train). Hogwarts Castle. Number 12 Grimmauld Place. The Three Broomsticks. The Shrieking Shack. The Chamber Of Secrets. The Burrow. Some assembly required.

15. Omnioculars: let’s see, they zoom in, zoom out and replay instantly. Sounds doable. Build a digital camcorder that looks like an old-fashioned pair of opera glasses and there you have it: omnioculars. If some toy engineer reads this they could even be out by the Goblet of Fire premiere in November.

16. Paint-By-Numbers Sets: do they still make these? If not, they should. All paint-by-numbers pictures end up looking like some kind of brutal impressionism, but I always liked them. Andy Warhol even painted paint-by-numbers paintings aspaintings, which is pretty cool. I can see doing this with Mary Grand Pre covers or with totally new pictures. The thrill of putting paint down and watching it come together into a painting by your own hand is always magical. Then for more fun you can always do the colors wrong.

17. Potions, Pre-Mixed: Really? Yes, really! No, not really. But I don’t see why we can’t have some fun with some interesting elixirs – harmless, mind you – sold as potions. They could be super-concentrated, have strong flavors and come in fancy little bottles. You could add a few drops to water and drink them. All totally edible, legally considered a food or condiment, tasty as all get out. Since Jo did not invent the idea of magic potions, we do not have to wait for her permission to do this. So what are you waiting for? Get cooking!

18. Potions Set: when I was a kid we had chemistry sets. Yes, children were once given dangerous chemicals which they were expected to mix together as a toy. Ah, those were the days!

Nowadays you would be locked up if you gave kids things like Sulfur and Phosphorus and told them, “have fun!” I don’t see why this should be. After all, we still have plenty of dangerous things around. Every auto airbag is an electrically-detonatedbomb that explodes right in your face – and these are mandatory! So what’s so bad about a chemistry set?

I don’t see why some sort of non-lethal potions set cannot be devised. The ingredients would have to be interesting and ingestible, since that would be the first thing every little witch or wizard would do with theirs. It might be a bit disappointing for those of us old enough to remember chemistry sets, but it would not be impossible.

19. Potteropoly: Monopoly is a classic. Potteropoly would be better. Imagine playing Monopoly with Wizard money. The bank is Gringott’s. Cheapest property is Privet Drive (who’d want it?) and Boardwalk = Hogwarts. Or perhaps Hogsmeade (would you build hotels at Hogwarts?). The railroads are London railway stations. Jail is Azkaban. Go Directly To Azkaban. Do Not Pass Hogwarts Gate. Do Not Collect 200 galleons. Cool.

20. The Quibbler: as with the Prophet, how about The Quibbler? Likely the same format, an internet journal, would be best. The fake news would be the hardest part. Fake? Did I say fake? Of course it’s fake, because magic isn’t real … OR IS IT???

22. Quality Quidditch Supplies: I am working on another article about how you, yes YOU, you Earthbound Muggle, can play Quidditch. Yes, Quidditch, up in the air on broomsticks. Seriously. I know this inventor, David Cowlishaw, and his brilliant invention is not even patented. He deliberately did not patent it to prevent it from becoming a Top Secret.

But that will have to wait. In the meantime, how about some Quidditch balls? The Quaffle is the easiest, a nice big red leather one you can toss around. Bludgers are hard – literally. Iron balls hurt and they’re pretty heavy anyway, although David C’s invention would make them fly happily. The Golden Snitch however would be a lot of fun. It could be motivated with a tiny electric motor and a watch battery. The motor turns a helicopter rotor. No stabilizer is needed because it’s supposed to be all wacky and zoom around at random.

Indeed, someone once suggested that a “Wacky Ball” should be the first commercial application of David C’s invention, and that would have done the same thing without wings, using inertial propulsion. Another alternative would be insect wings, which are more like a true Snitch anyway. There are already experimental flying insect robots; this seems like the perfect application.

Now if only we could get the other balls to fly like that. We can, but you’ll have to wait for the Quidditch article for me to explain – that or follow the link to David C’s website. Patience, Gentle Readers.

SO: balls. They come in a nice wood and leather crate, the kind Ralph Lauren would like you to think he crawled out of. How about robes? There’s the House Colors thing again. And professional teams, don’t forget them! Jo could create a whole fictional fanaticism around Quidditch and get us all caught up in it. The possibilities are as endless as the arguments over What Might Have Been. And just wait ’til you read that Quidditch article.

22. Remembrall: I don’t see why we can’t all have Remembralls. This would be a little glass bauble with a mirrored chamber in the center – mirrored so you could not see the battery and LED inside. It could be activated by pressing a button or just by touch alone. The LED inside the mirrored chamber would shine through, but when it was off it would look like nothing was in there. Best of all, it would never give you even the slightest clue what you had forgotten – just like a real Remembrall!

23. Robes: This is so obvious I am surprised it wasn’t the first thing on the shelf. Where, oh where, are our Hogwarts School robes? They are the simplest of all garments – simpler than a dress – and would have a HUGE profit margin. Sew some cloth together, call it a robe and charge 20 bucks. And everyone would have to have them! Boys, girls, kids and adults. Wizard robes are a role-playing aid: they help you Get Into It. I would wear mine every time I read the books or watched the movies, if I had them. Got to get all four House styles, of course. And dress robes too. Maybe a Dumbledore Special – purple with silver moons on. Do any of you folks (or your mothers) do any sewing? Then get to work! Don’t forget the Hogwarts School Crest – that makes it official.

24. Sorting Hat: Oooh, this would be a fun one! Talking hats are easy to do with voice chips. The interesting part would be how it selected your house. Could it be made to recognize the same person each time? I am sure some kids would be crushed not to be put in Gryffindor, but they might get mad when they try it again and get put in yet a different house. Perhaps biometrics can be used in a benign way instead of just to spy on people. Even if it’s just a simple record player with a string, like the old See-And-Say toys, that would still be neat.

25. Stuffed Animals: Like I say, I haven’t been toy shopping in a while. If you are reading this with your stuffed Hedwig in your lap, tell me where to get one. But I don’t think there are any stuffed Potter toys, are there? I could easily see all of the creatures mentioned in the books as big puffy dolls for kids (and adults!) to sleep with. I certainly wouldn’t mind a nice, soft Hedwig of my very own. Again, this is simple and obvious. So where are they?

26. Theatrical Scripts: Now you know, you just know there will be Harry Potter plays eventually, don’t you? If they’ve done it with ‘The Brady Bunch’ and ‘Jerry Springer,’ Potter is well past due. So, where are the scripts?

These should be basic. They should be written for kids to perform, meaning they cannot be overly long, and the props and sets must fit within a school auditorium and budget. The Quidditch parts would probably have to be cut, but smoke and fire could be retained. The stories would be truncated even more than in the films, but that doesn’t matter. The point is that kids get to play Harry Potter stories out on stage. And Warner Brothers could be making millions on these scripts if someone would just get around to writing them. Do I need to say, “Duh!?”

27. ViewMaster Reels: I don’t know if they still make ViewMasters. These were little viewers that took a cardboard disc about the size of a CD with 7 stereoscopic pairs of photos in them. The effect was amazing, and as a kid I was enthralled. I really miss ViewMasters.

And you know, they didn’t always have to be photos of live people. Some ViewMaster reeels were made from stereo photos of models or even cel animation – they made those flat cartoons look 3D somehow. My point is, we could have ViewMaster reels of all of the books even beforethe films are started, much less released.

There used to be a Talking ViewMaster too, but it didn’t talk for long. Now with audiobooks you could listen while watching for the entire story. Regarding that, the old ViewMaster packages rarely had more than 3 reels (21 photos) in them. Nowadays with DVD boxed sets people expect a lot more, so maybe every scene in the movie could be provided; that would be 20 or 30 reels at least.

28. Wizard Chess Set: This wouldn’t be hard either. Just a fancy, non-animated chess set with big, enameled pewter pieces. They could say it doesn’t move because you’re a Muggle, hehe. I’d buy it. Then I’d spend all my time trying to charm it.

29. Wizard Money: The Pobjoy Mint has already issued HP coins, but we need more. Gold Galleons, Silver Sickles and Copper Knuts should be sold in bags or rolls. They would not be real silver or gold, of course. Copper is cheap enough. The silver could be imitated with nickel, and the gold with brass. That way they would never rust and become Leprechaun gold. To really pull this off, the issuer should keep changing the designs to represent different famous wizards, just like on the Chocolate Frog cards. Fans would have to collect them all. This is of course just what most mints do with legal tender coins. Diabolical, isn’t it?

30.___________(fill in the blank): I will leave the last one up to you. What would you like to see? Send me an owl about it and if I get enough, I’ll do a follow up to this article. Be sure to tell me whether to mention you or leave you anonymous.

POSTSCRIPT:
TRUDGING THROUGH THE SNOW…
Poor Bob owns neither car nor computer. To do this column, I have to get on a bus and go to a library. In the week before Christmas this was EXTREMELY difficult. The wimpy, milque-toast librarians could not be bothered to hop in their nice, warm cars and open up the library for me – pretty infuriating when I trudged through foot-deep snow to get there. Wearing sneakers!

You know, I studied meteorology in the Navy. I almost became an Aerographer’s Mate. But I doubt even Admiral Byrd could make hide nor hair of Ohio weather. Like, Tuesday (Dec. 21) was balmy, almost tropical. Wednesday (Dec. 22) was a classic White Christmas a few days early. Thursday (Dec. 24, the day I am writing this) is Ice Station Zebra. The snow pack is all frozen lake on top, fluffy marshmallow underneath. With each step you rise up then break through, step up-KLOMP!, step up-KLOMP! It’s tiring, and it’ll drive you nuts.

Also a bit nutsy is my heat, or lack thereof. I have some sort of pipe heat. Is it steam? Or hot water? I don’t know. I do know that last week it only half-worked. The bathroom and bedroom got warm; the kitchen and living room didn’t. That mysteriously fixed itself. Now my heat melts the snow on the roof and it trickles down the drainpipe outside my walls. It’s like the Chinese Water Torture; I could record it and release a CD. Imagine a borderline psychotic living in my place… he just needs one more thing to go wrong…

Drip, drip, drip…

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