Ultimate Year in Review: 1999–2001
For MuggleNet’s 20th anniversary, we are looking back at the past 20 years in Harry Potter history to bring attention back to its most significant moments. This is a series of articles that will run over four months.
This week, the Time-Turner takes us all the way back to the years 1999–2001, years that saw United States President Bill Clinton being acquitted, the euro being introduced as the new currency across countries in the European Union, the new Star Wars trilogy hitting theaters, and the PlayStation 2 and Apple’s first iPod being released, as well as the launch of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia and the terrible terrorist attacks known as 9/11.
In news surrounding Rowling, the Harry Potter franchise, and MuggleNet, 1999–2001 were years with many releases.
After previously being released in the United Kingdom and winning the Children’s Book of the Year Award at the British Book Awards, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was published in the US, hitting shelves on June 2, 1999. Only about a month later on July 8, the UK saw the release of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which was published in the US by September of the same year.
Following the quickly rising hype for the Harry Potter books, MuggleNet was founded on October 1, 1999, by Emerson Spartz, a 12-year-old homeschooled student from Indiana. Spartz’s passion for Harry Potter would pay off, for within a year of its founding, MuggleNet became very popular, reaching an audience of hundreds of thousands of fans.
MuggleNet distinguished itself early on by its unique and extensive content. The early site introduced discussion forums, editorials, and reference sections, such as “Name Origins.” It even launched an interactive flash site called MuggleNet Interactive, which immersed fans in Harry’s world further by incorporating role-playing games. Along with the standard reporting of the latest news regarding both the books and the upcoming films, MuggleNet also created a fan fiction website and a weekly caption contest.
With the new century also came a new and much-anticipated Harry Potter book. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was published, and midnight release parties were born. The popularity of the books had become so extreme that fans came together in bookstores to celebrate the release of the latest installment by taking part in quizzes, dressing up as their favorite characters, and counting down to midnight together when they could get their hands on the latest book.
Following the release of Goblet of Fire, the Harry Potter books were listed on the New York Times Fiction Best Sellers list for the last time because the New York Times created a separate list for children’s books due to Harry Potter’s popularity. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone maintained a spot on the adult list for 82 consecutive weeks, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets maintained a spot for 57 consecutive weeks, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban maintained a spot for 43 consecutive weeks.
In October of 2000, J.K. Rowling discussed the surprising success of Harry Potter on Larry King, talking about how she got the idea for Harry Potter and plotted out the whole series, the upcoming film installment and the differences between films and books, the casting of Daniel Radcliffe, and how the fame has affected Rowling herself.
Dan is great. It was a very difficult process. Finding Harry was very hard. It was like trying to find Scarlett O’Hara, this one. And I think everyone was getting slightly desperate. And I was walking down the streets of Edinburgh and London and looking at boys who passed me in a very suspicious looking way. I was thinking, ‘Could it be him?’ And then the producer and director walked into the theater one night, and they found Dan. And Dan is an actor. And he’s just perfect. And I saw his tests, and I really had everything crossed that Dan would be the one, and he is.
2001 started off with the publication of Quidditch Through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, two companion books to the Harry Potter series. Rowling had mentioned both in the first Harry Potter book, and they would later become part of the Hogwarts Library, with all three books’ earnings going to charity.
The year ended with the much-anticipated release of the film adaption of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. As expected, it was an immediate hit with fans all over the world, making the three young actors Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson famous overnight. Work on the second installment began days after the release of the first film.
On December 28, 2001, the BBC aired the television special Harry Potter and Me, an interview with J.K. Rowling about the Harry Potter books, writing, and the early years of the creation of the magical world.