Recently we took you through the Weirdest and Worst "Harry Potter" Products but, as "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2" prepares to apparate onto DVD & Blu-ray, it's important to remember that so much more good than bad has come out of the wizarding world, even here in the Muggle-verse.
It's in that spirit that we present the coolest, craziest and most generally awesome stuff inspired by J.K. Rowling's creation, from theme parks to fantastic foodstuffs to... um... sports. For real.
1. 'Potter Potter Potter Weasley' Song
Ah, the crossing of the memes. If you've been on the Internet for a while, you've no doubt been exposed to the "Badger Badger Badger Badger... Mushroom, Mushroom" song. It was weird and out of nowhere and, like most memes, had its day and then faded into the sunset. Or, rather, it would have, if one enterprising "Potter" fan hadn't adapted it to feature Harry and Ron. Oh, and of course, there's Severus Snape, who was a natural replacement for the original song's cry of, "SNAKE! SNAAAAAKE!" Okay, so your mileage on this one may vary depending on how much repetition your brain can put up with, but on the "We're-just-glad-this-exists" scale, it rates pretty high.
2. Potter Puppet Pals
"Harry Potter" parodies abound on YouTube, and it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, so here's a guideline: Always bet on the puppets. Launched in 2003 by Neil Cicerega, Potter Puppet Pals offers up a universe in which Ron is a simpleton, Dumbledore is a blathering idiot, and Harry spends most of his time walking around chanting his name, and sometimes, things explode. It was the Pals episode "The Mysterious Ticking Noise," capped, as it was, with a pipe bomb killing everyone, that launched this series to popularity, raking in over 84,000,000 views and winning a YouTube Award in the process. Not bad for a bunch of juvenile wizards with arms up their butts.
3. 'Harry Potter' Candy
Flying brooms are cool, hippogryphs are majestic; but if we had to put together our list of things from the world of "Harry Potter" we wish were real, magic candy would be right near the top. From the immortal chocolate frog to fizzing whizzbees, J.K. Rowling created a cornucopia of sweet treats that made readers drool. Muggle science has not progressed to the point at which we can re-create all those confections' magical properties, but various candy manufacturers have made their best attempts, and so it is that we in the real world can partake of a whole new range of gooey, chocolatey treats, which is something kids of all ages can get behind.
[caption id="attachment_18513" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="A World of Candy"][/caption]
4. 'Magic' Tours and the #5972 Olton Hall
J.K. Rowling describes a wonderful world of magic in her books, and the movies do a great job of bringing that to life... but, you know, most all of this takes place in England, which is kind of a real place. Fortunately, it's now possible for Potterite pilgrims to visit some of the places they've only seen all magicked up on the big screen. London's King's Cross railway station, for example, has a sign between tracks 9 and 10 for Platform 9 3/4, and anyone who's loved the vision of the old-timey Hogwarts Express presented in the flicks can charter a ride on that train's movie stand-in, the #5972 Olton Hall. Various travel agencies have also developed "Harry Potter"-themed tours, often in conjunction with fan sites like MuggleNet. It's the next best thing to being in the books.
[caption id="attachment_18516" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="flickriver"][/caption]
5. LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4
Video game developer Traveller's Tales has been cranking out LEGO-based titles for a while now, touching on properties from "Star Wars" to "Batman," and Harry Potter's world is the latest franchise to get the blocks-and-bricks treatment. Centering on our heroic trio's first four years at Hogwarts, the game delivers relatively simplistic third-person wizarding action, but it's the LEGO license that really brings the charm. Seeing Hogwarts and its denizens rendered as blocks and little yellow guys with few points of articulation is its own reward, but then Traveller's Tales also layers on some quirky, wink-wink humor that long-time fans of the books and movies are sure to get a kick out of.
[caption id="attachment_18518" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="LEGO"][/caption]
6. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Many Harry Potter fans have been dreaming of visiting Hogwarts, Hogsmeade and other locations from the books since "Harry Potter and the Sorceror's/Philosopher's Stone" was first published, but actually having the opportunity to do so would have seemed like a flight of fancy at the time. Not so these days, as Universal has basically created a Shangri-La for Potter dorks like us. Featuring themed roller coasters, a tour of Hogwarts and a gaggle of shops recreating "Potter"-verse experiences (down a butterbeer right before you head to Ollivander's to choose your wand), The Wizarding World of Harry Potter more or less serves as a living, breathing confirmation that the fanpeople have won. Excelsior!
[caption id="attachment_18523" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Universal Orlando"][/caption]
7. Muggle Quidditch
Quidditch, the official sport of wizards, is one of J.K. Rowling's coolest creations, but, given its dependence on flying brooms, it's sadly off-limits to real-world Muggles... or so one would think. In actuality, that most ingenious of demographics -- bored college students -- has adapted Quidditch into a reasonable facsimile that can be played on the ground, and it has, if you'll pardon the pun, taken off.
Muggle Quidditch, played by earthbound people running around with broomsticks between their legs, was begat at Vermont's Middlebury College and has since grown exponentially, spreading to some 226 schools and even spawning a World Cup (the fifth such event will be held this November in New York). Sure, the Quaffle is a dodgeball, the Bludgers don't actually clobber anyone, and the Snitch is a person dressed in gold that must be chased around the field... but the fact that this even exists is an awesome testimony to the power of fan imagination.
[caption id="attachment_18520" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Getty Images"][/caption]
8. Wizard Rock
People have been playing songs based on sci-fi and fantasy franchises for decades, but when two brothers from Norwood, Massachusetts, put on glasses and sweaters and dubbed themselves Harry and the Potters, a musical revolution was begun. The Wizard Rock movement took on a life of its own, and now boasts hundreds -- literally, hundreds -- of bands with names like The Whomping Willows, the Parselmouths and Wingardium Leviosa, all rocking out to tunes based on the Harry Potter mythos. The quality of the music is better than you'd expect, and the enthusiasm of both the musicians and their fans is pretty infectious once you start diving in. The Weird Sisters have nothing on Wizard Rockers.
[caption id="attachment_18524" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Wizard Rock"][/caption]
9. Wizard People, Dear Reader
Internet funnyperson Brad Neely has done some quality work in his day (surely you've all heard his George Washington rap by now -- if not, get ye to YouTube) but, for our money, his crowning achievement is this adaptation of the "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" film. Removing the sound entirely, Neely overdubbed his own narration on the movie, turning a simple story of a boy wizard into an epic yarn about a near-perfect new god, his hideous friends, and the Earth-shaking journey they undertake in their first year at magic school. It's profane and ridiculous and chock full of intentional malapropisms and non sequiturs, and it's absolutely hilarious and quotable all the way through. Even better, Wizard People, Dear Reader is available for free either as a download or in multiple parts on YouTube. Watch it, and thank us later.
[caption id="attachment_18525" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Warner Bros."][/caption]
Originally published November 16, 2010.