Featured in the January 2021 issue of The Rowling Library Magazine.

Goodbye 2020 – A year in review

1485 words.
By P. Tarantino. Illustration by Fausto Giurescu.
The Quibbler - by Fausto Giurescu
The Quibbler – by Fausto Giurescu

The year 2020 will be remembered for a long time for well-known reasons. An unprecedented pandemic in modern times affected the whole planet, but this is not the place to go over the sad things that happened in the Muggle world. We will, instead, go over what happened in the Wizarding World in this 2020 – and believe us, a lot has happened.

We could start by saying this is the first time J.K. Rowling (the primary reason for this magazine) has published two novels in the same year (the only time something similar happened was in 2001, when the Hogwarts textbooks Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through the Ages were published, but we don’t consider them novels). But instead of going directly to the main topics, we will start from the beginning.

We go back to January with Jim Kay, the artist behind the Harry Potter illustrated editions, sharing on his Instagram account a preview of the illustrated edition of The Order of the Phoenix, with a first glimpse of how Grimmauld Place would look like. In the same month, an exhibition based on the Fantastic Beasts films was announced, together with the official Harry Potter Shop based in New York. Probably the most important piece of news was that J.K. Rowling announced on January 25th that she had finished #Galbraith5 (she used that hashtag herself).

February followed with more news from Jim Kay. Using his Instagram account again, he confessed he was suffering from depression and, despite working non stop on the fifth book, he was unable to produce anything. “A minor miracle is now required to get this book done”; Kay stated. Meanwhile, MinaLima, the studio who designs props and sells related merchandising from the Wizarding World, revealed that they were working on a new (yes, another one) illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. And on February 19th, we got the name and release date for the fifth book in the Cormoran Strike series: Troubled Blood was going to be released on September 29th. The second month of the year had other news as well: an audiobook edition of The Tales of Beedle the Bard read by actors from the Wizarding World, such as Jude Law, was also reported to be in the making, alongside with news that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was planned to arrive in Tokyo in 2022.

In March, the COVID-19 pandemic was already affecting a lot of countries, and the Wizarding World as well. Performances of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child around the world were postponed, and the Universal Theme Parks remained closed. With schools around the world using Zoom and conference software to deliver lessons, J.K. Rowling and her publishers granted an open license to teachers around the world in order to allow them to post videos of themselves reading the Harry Potter books for their students in their e-learning platforms. The month ended with the release of the audiobook of The Tales of Beedle the Bard previously announced, and with a change in the publication date for Troubled Blood: September 15th.

April was a quiet month: Japan celebrated the 20th anniversary of the publication of the book with a new splendid cover art, and J.K. Rowling admitted having COVID symptoms on Twitter, but nothing else. For the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts in May, J.K. Rowling did not apologize for the death of any character (which made sense, considering people were suffering the death of real people), but instead she donated more than one million pounds, half to Crisis and half to Refuge, two non-profit organizations who are working to help those more affected by the pandemic. As May moved forward, the days brought more news and it was possible that it turned out to be the month with the most things going on for the J.K. Rowling’s readers.

Wizarding World Digital introduced a re-reading of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by celebrities, some of them related to the Harry Potter world and some were not. For this project, called Harry Potter At Home, Daniel Radcliffe read the first chapter, followed by Noma Dumezweni and Eddie Redmayne, but others like David Beckham and Dakota Fanning were also part of the announcement. The videos, in which the actors could be seen reading from their own copies of the Harry Potter first book, were available on the Wizarding World website until December 31st. The videos were watched by millions of people around the world.

If that was not enough for May, there was more: Jim Kay came back and showed more sketches for The Order of the Phoenix, this time of Kreacher, the old house-elf. Apart from that, J.K. Rowling, who was more active on Twitter at the time, started teasing something using the Twitter header functionality, and finally, on May 25th, she announced that she was going to share, online and for free, The Ickabog, the political fairy tale story that she mentioned several times throughout the years. Releasing one chapter per day, this new short novel for kids was available online and then it was going to be published in a hardcover edition. To keep the kids from all around the world busy at home, Rowling also offered them the chance to send their illustrations of the story, which had the chance to be picked and used in the physical copies of printed versions of The Ickabog.

Then came June and with it, not only a breaking point in the year, but also a breaking point in the Harry Potter fandom. J.K. Rowling spoke publicly and shared her opinion and thoughts on transgender issues, and she was rejected by a lot of fans of the Wizard Boy. The Harry Potter actors (from Eddie Redmayne, to Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint) also spoke publicly to support the LGBT+ community, separating themselves from Rowling’s sayings. Maybe because of that, Wizarding World paused the videos of the online reading of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by actors and celebrities. In June, we also knew the codename for Fantastic Beasts 3, which is Vermilion, but it was obviously outshone by the rest of the news.

The second part of the year was more focused on the third Fantastic Beasts film, and when it was going to start filming again. The COVID situation halted the production of the movie (yet untitled). However, during July and August, there were rumours that filming was going to return in September. It stopped being a rumour when actors, such as Eddie Redmayne, went back to the set, although under protocols and safety regulations. September also came with the news that the Hogwarts House Edition of Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows were going to be published in 2021. Granted, the release of new editions is always relevant, but the most important announcement for the Harry Potter fandom as well was yet to come.

Set in Hogwarts in 1800, Hogwarts Legacy was announced on September 16th. The long and awaited RPG (Role Play Game) based on the Harry Potter World is finally a reality. The release date is 2021, at least until now. Together with the title and a short synopsis, a trailer also was shown and it became a trending topic on Twitter very fast. The day before, Troubled Blood, the fifth book in the Robert Galbraith series, was published in the United Kingdom and the United States, receiving positive reviews, although some media tried to associate one of the plots of the book with J.K. Rowling’s essay on transgender issues and her own personal views.

In October, MinaLima finally published their marvellous edition of the first Harry Potter book, and they also confirmed they were working on a similar edition for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Moving forward, the hardback copies of The Ickabog, J.K. Rowling’s new story, were launched in October. The release also included digital and audiobook editions (the latter read by Stephen Fry). Those were not the only books published that month: the illustrated edition of Quidditch Through the Ages (which we reviewed in our past issue) also hit shelves in October.
The end of the year came with more news about Fantastic Beasts. Warner Bros. asked Johnny Depp to resign, and the studio replaced him with Mad Mikkelsen, who in December started to film some scenes as Gellert Grindelwald. Due to COVID-19, or maybe due to the last minute change of actors, Warner Bros. moved (again) the release date of the film, this time to July 2022.
2020 was a crazy year for everyone, and this craziness also impacted the Wizarding World in all its forms. We wish a better 2021 to everyone, and we hope to have a year of only positive news for all the Harry Potter fans, new and old alike.

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