Austin man strikes fancies of some, nerves at Warner Bros. with alternative soundtrack...
An artist spoofs on CD the first 'Harry Potter' film, much to the chagrin of the studio behind the movie series.
In a dimly lit corner of an otherwise lively bar in downtown Austin a year ago, a man was playing a solo game of pool, engrossed with his shots and the flow from the sonic accessory in his ears.
At a nearby table, a group of friends was sharing drinks and speculations on what he was listening to.
"I bet he's listening to Harry Potter," one friend surmised.
Another, Brad Neely, bellowed, "I am Harry Potter!" Then Neely broke into impersonations of Potter characters.
Most bar humor is just that — verbal exchanges never given much thought the next day. But not one to let good fun die, Neely, a 27-year-old Austin comics artist and toy store employee, scribbled down a few notes at home, turned to his four-track recorder and worked for nearly two weeks to give the first Harry Potter movie a fresh comedic kick through his own voice.
The result, "Wizard People, Dear Readers," Neely's narration of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," full of expletives and exaggerated wordplay, has garnered national attention. With screenings at the New York Underground Film Festival, the Boston Underground Film Festival, recognition in The New York Times and tours in Chicago and Seattle on the way, Neely has found audiences for what he originally intended as just a tape for friends. The 2 1/2-hour spoof is devoid of background music and full of deliberate ignorance.
"I am creating this persona of a narrator who is (telling the story of) Harry Potter like a book on tape that just happens to sync up with the movie," Neely said. "He is getting the names wrong on purpose. That's why it's funny. A lot of the humor comes from the narrator expounding on the movie and blowing things out of proportion."
Commentary such as: "Mouthoil (Malfoy) is called to face the grinding hat. But before his (buttocks) can even start to pancake out on the stool, he is assigned to Slytherin." And "Dumbledoor (Dumbledore) casts his 'stand-without-effort' spell following it up with his most pleasing 'food-of-plenty' spell. If ever a room full of children has looked like little hyenas that have come upon a dead family of zebras, it is now."
Summer Burton, a fan of the Harry Potter series and a friend of Neely, said fans will enjoy the alternate dialogue more than people unfamiliar with the Potter names and plots.
"If anything, being hyper-aware of the mistakes in ('Wizard People, Dear Readers' adds to the humor. It's funny because it is just so wrong," Burton said.
The studio behind the Harry Potter movies was not pleased to hear about the spoof and a spokesperson e-mailed the American-Statesman: "Warner Bros. Pictures is very concerned about this unauthorized and apparently commercial exploitation of our valuable motion picture. If it continues, we will certainly consider appropriate legal action."
Neely said he has not been contacted by anyone with Warner. To avoid legal problems, he said he made his sound CD unattached to the movie DVD. (It is played simultaneously, with the movie's sound on mute). Neely said he gives copies to local stores such as Vulcan Video to hand out free and has put the recording online for free downloading.
"Anything that has been charged for screenings has been venue or festival fees," he said. "I will even have to pay for my own flight and board costs when I tour."
The disc's rise to fame came when a fan of Neely's Creased Comics requested he convert one of his comics into a painting for her. Neely did and threw in an unsolicited copy of his Potter spoof.
The fan was Kendra Gaeta, director of the New York Underground Film Festival, who put the disc in her CD player and played it with the movie video. Gaeta, a Potter fan, said she was surprised that the alternative soundtrack was funny without putting down the film or its fans.
"We were all laughing hysterically," she said. "Nobody could believe what we were seeing. It's just a sight to behold."
Gaeta said she entered "Wizard People, Dear Readers" into the festival and "it was definitely the talk of the festival."
Kier-La Janisse, programmer for Austin's Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, where Neely's version of the Potter movie will be shown July 23-25, said the venue is not worried about legal problems.
"We have the 35mm film booked from the distributor and pay a rental on it like we would any other film. So admission will be charged as usual to cover this film rental," she said. "Legal ramifications had not even occurred to us as a logical outcome because we are playing the film 100 percent legally."
Neely said not to expect version 2.0 of "Wizard People, Dear Readers" anytime soon; other projects, such as an anthology of his Creased Comics that is due out in September, are on his top priority for now.
A fan of the Harry Potter films, Neely said "Wizard People" was conceived solely from the bar incident and not meant to ridicule the movies.
"I just like to make people laugh. The project was about the writing, not about snobbery," he said. " 'Jaws' could have been mentioned and I would have gone with it."
Wizard People, Dear Reader
Wizard People, Dear Reader is an unauthorized re-envisioning of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, by Brad Neely. To experience it, viewers need to get a copy of the first Harry Potter movie (which is known as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in Europe) and watch it with the sound off, replacing Neely's narration with the original soundtrack.
After spreading rapidly among Neely's friends in Austin, Wizard People made its theatrical debut at the New York Underground Film Festival, to rapturous applause. We think Neely has crafted an as-of-yet-unnamed new art form, one everyone should experience for themselves.
Wizard People has no affiliation with Warner Brothers or the creators of Harry Potter.
IF IT'S SLOW, CHECK BACK LATER. YOUR DONATIONS HELP KEEP "WIZARD PEOPLE" ACCESSIBLE. THANK YOU VERY MUCH. -- CM, JULY 14, 2004
Very large mp3s. Please be patient.
Disc 1 (69 mb)| Disc 2 (73 mb)
Disc 1 | Disc 2 - at Digital-prophecy.com (best bet)
Disk 1 | Disc 2 - at Webfeedcentral.com
Download both Wizard People mp3s and convert each into audio CDs. Label the CDs discs 1 and 2. Get a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (aka Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in Europe), preferably on DVD. Insert Wizard People disc 1 into a CD player. Push PLAY then PAUSE so that disc 1 will have no delays when the PLAY button is pushed again. Make sure that the counter reads all zeros.
For DVD (preferable) - After the main menu on the DVD appears, click PLAY on DVD AND CD simultaneously. The audio is told in chapters that correspond exactly to the scenes of the DVD. If you need to stop the DVD, you can queue it back up by pressing play at the point where the Wizard People narrator begans to speak that chapter number.
For VHS (if DVD isn't an option) - After the FBI warning and commercials, you'll see the golden image of the Warner Bros. Studios that ripples and becomes the Warner Bros. logo in the clouds. Rewind and pause at the first second you see the image of the Golden studios before they ripple. Then hit play on both devices.