Wizard People, Dear Reader
Wizard People, Dear Reader, released in 2004, is an unauthorized, alternative soundtrack to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, written by Brad Neely, a comic book artist from Fort Smith, Arkansas.
Wizard People, Dear Reader is a narrative retelling of the lives of the characters of The Sorcerer's Stone and the world in which they live. Presented in the form of a thirty-five chapter audiobook, this soundtrack is intended to replace the film's audio track.
Brad Neely, in an interview with Chief magazine, described the beginning of the idea as follows:
Anyway, we were at a bar and were getting a good laugh at a guy who was playing pool all by himself while wearing a hoody over his hat, sunglasses under that and headphones on the outside of all of it. So we started riffing on "What could he possibly be listening to?". Someone who I don't think was me said that he was listening to a book on tape of Harry Potter. And out came the Wizard People narrator. I joked that night that I was going to rush home and record an entire misinformed book on tape of The Sorcerer's Stone, because I had not and have not ever read any Harry Potter books. Once I started making notes for it I realized that an audio track alone could get boring, so I decided to sync it with the movie. Then I took a week or two and made the damn thing. I love it.
In 2004, the New York Underground Film Festival rented a print of the film from Warner Bros., screened it with the sound off, and played Neely's soundtrack instead. Shortly thereafter, website Illegal Art made Neely's work available for free download. In the following year, Neely also performed Wizard People live in several cities, until Warner Bros. took action against theatres that had rented prints, and forced them to cancel the shows. Rather than taking legal action, however, Warner Bros. reportedly told theaters which had scheduled a performance of the show that further movies produced by the studio would be withheld unless the dates were cancelled, possibly due to the protection allowed for by parody laws. Carrie McLaren, whose website Illegal-art.net promoted the work, claimed that Neely's use of appropriated plot, characters and themes interlaced with humor constituted a separate work of art in its own right.
Humor and writing style
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In Wizard People, Dear Reader, Neely's writing ranges from hyperbolic representations of the characters, to focusing on and forming bizarre explications of the tropes and clichés present throughout, to long-winded and mostly unrelated metaphors in the prose of Steven "Jesse" Bernstein (the poet whose voice and style of narration he imitated for the commentary), to over-dramatic philosophical speeches, to extreme renaming of a multitude of characters and places, to unreliable narrator character bashing (most characters that are not Harry, Ron or Dumbledore receive quite a bit of criticism), to several sexual and vulgar motifs placed throughout. Much of the humor connecting to the sexual and vulgar motifs and the philosophical speeches seem aimed at highlighting the childlike atmosphere and writing of the film in contrast to Neely's narration; and much of the humor connecting to the explications of cliches and to the hyperbolic representations of the characters is often seen as a form of critiquing on the part of Neely. There is a split on whether people think it's an affectionate parody or an ironic critique of the film, though there are suggestions that it's actually a bit of both.
Harry himself is repeatedly referred to as a god; references are made to the "stockpiles of nuclear-level energy" that are his powers, the resentment he feels towards his fellow man, his placement as an outcast of society, and so on. At one point, Harry calls himself a "beautiful animal" and a "destroyer of worlds". He also repeatedly affirms that he is "Harry fucking Potter". Numerous references are made to characters taking out unseen flasks or drinking alcohol, and Harry is mentioned as being "drunk every day before noon" and producing "many a Wine-Out-of-Nowhere spell". Hermione ("The Wretched Harmony") is repeatedly described as incredibly ugly yet talented and brilliant, Snape ("Snake") is referred to as a hideous woman that "seems like the type of teacher that paddles for fun", and at one point, Neely simply remarks that "Ron loves Twizzlers". (Ron is almost always referred to as "Ronnie the Bear".) A range of other insults and non-existent character paradigms see less consistent use, and Harry is also described with various symptoms of dissociative identity disorder, at one point "leaving his multiple personalities in the locker room". The use of spells receives similar twists, with Dumbledore ("Near-Dead Dumbledore") casting the "stand without effort" spell due to his advanced age, while Harry casts the "rarely used winter-begone spell" at a scene transition between winter and spring.
The work makes extensive use of simile: Professor McGonagall ("Hardcastle McCormick") is described as having a voice that is "chilling, like a piano made of frozen Windex", while her "eyes float like smears of fish-scales on her candle-wax stump of a head"; the face of Voldemort ("Wal-Mart") "moves like a marmalade baby just out of the womb".
Neely segues into multiple fantasy sequences that have nothing to do with what is actually going on in the film. One such scene is where Hagrid ("Hägar the Horrible") is explaining Norbert's egg. Instead of regaling Hagrid's encounter with a strange man in a bar, Hagar tells of how Val-Mart impregnated him with the egg, resulting in his survival of a shark attack. Another such scene is where the trio of young wizards encounter Fluffy for the second time and are about to jump down the trap door. Harmony is allegedly decapitated and resurrected without those events occurring onscreen. One of the most elaborate divergences is the sequence where Neville ("the boy known as Upfish") loses control of his broom. Neely apparently narrates Harry's present daydream climbing his parents' giant rotten wedding cake thanks to Dumbledore's body ("using his old ribcage, mouth sockets and such for footholds"). As Harry goes to retrieve a winged key at the finale, Neely narrates that Harry goes into a waking dream-like trance. The entire scene is dominated by a rambling vision of Harry's in which he conquers the American continent with a telescope, teaching the natives spells, "and they in turn teach him how to fly across the continent at ridiculous speeds. He learns to slay deer with laser beams from his eyes, and how to make all things around the house out of buffalo parts".
There are also many references to other works throughout the soundtrack: Professor Flitwick is referred to as "Professor Ugnaught" in reference to his similar appearance to the Ugnaughts of Bespin in The Empire Strikes Back, while Val-Mart is made Harry's true father à la Darth Vader. At one point Harry puts on the invisibility cloak and Neely exclaims "Invisibility ON!", as per the Human Torch of the Fantastic Four. In an early appearance, Hägar introduces himself as "gatekeeper and keymaster", a reference to Ghostbusters. Neely even refers to future Potter films when he claims that the children are on their way to the Chamber of Secrets.
Heavy descriptions are also a large part of the commentary. During Harry's stay with the Dursleys ("the Porktown family") at the beginning of the film, he is described as being lost in his own world in a drunk stupor; "the uncle is beginning to feel the pressure. Harry, in a spiral of depression, turns to the escape of the world of miniature equine aficionada". Similarly, many of the moments throughout the commentary redundantly describe things that we can clearly see: "Then, dear readers, Harry notices a tear in Snake's pants, and blood all over her leg, and Snake notices that Harry has noticed, and he notices that she noticed that. I mean, there is a trade of noticing going on that is just bewildering!" and "Blam! Blaam! Blaaam! at the door. The Porktown family scuttles into position, but what busts in the door is far more than expected. It is Hägar the Horrible, the nightmare of hair, a wall of a man". It focuses on acute descriptions of easily apparent situations for the sake of noting the simplicity of it.
A recurring theme in Wizard People is the changing of characters' and locations' names.
|Original||"Wizard People" Name|
|Albus Dumbledore||Dumbledore the Half-dead / Near-Dead Dumbledore|
|Minerva McGonagall||Hardcastle McCormick / Softcastle McCormick|
|Rubeus Hagrid||Hägar the Horrible / Hägar the Nightmare of Hair|
|Harry Potter||H.P., Master P, and others|
|Dudley Dursley||(ragtime) Roast-Beefy Weefs / Roast-Beefy O'Weefy|
|Vernon Dursley||various names with a pig theme (e.g. Saltporker, Porkstar, Uncle Baconface, Gigglesnort)|
|Professor Quirrell||Professor Queerman|
|Mr Ollivander||Ed Vanders|
|Voldemort||Val-Mart the Scar Maker / Scar Artist / Dracula|
|Ron Weasley||Ronnie the Bear / Ronnie the Effing Bear / Ron Weasel / Ron The Mighty|
|Molly Weasley||Irish lady|
|Hermione Granger||The Wretched Harmony / The Wretch|
|Marcus Flint||Joey Lumbermouth / Woodpile|
|Draco Malfoy||Mouthoil / Malfoil|
|Argus Filch||Dazzler (Man-servant to Bloody-eyed Cat of Security / the Cat's man whore)|
|Mrs. Norris||The Bloody-eyed Cat / Head of Security|
|Severus Snape||Snake, Hideous Woman, Wicked Woman|
|Hedwig||Turkish Massage Owl, Post Office Bird|
|Madam Hooch||Catface Meowmers|
|Oliver Wood||Major Wood|
|Professor Flitwick||Professor Ugnaught (The Happy Pizza)|
|Nicolas Flamel||Nick Flannel|
|Remembrall||Ball filled with mother's blood|
|Diagon Alley||Calgon Alley|
|Gringotts Bank||The Goblin Bank of Wobble-Columns|
|House Cup||Stanley Cup|
|Prefect||RA (Resident Assistant)|
|Hospital Wing||The nurse's zone of awesome bedtime succors|
|Restricted Section||Adult books|
|Nimbus 2000||Necro-B-Nimblo Alla Fassa Gosso|
|Quaffle||The "big ball"|
|Gryffindor common room||Gryffindor parlor|
|Owl||Post office bird / Turkish massage owl|
|The Mirror of Erised||The Gate of Heaven|
|The Sorting Hat||Oogity-Boogity hat / grind-dancing hat|
|The Bloody Baron||The Count of Reeds|
|The Fat Friar||Little John|
|J. K. Rowling||J.K. R-Dogs|
|Unknown||Tony the Shrimp|
This soundtrack is composed of two audio CDs, which were made available for free download in MP3 format. The CDs must be played simultaneously with a DVD of the first Harry Potter film, preferably the North American DVD, muted or at low volume.
Two versions of the CD set have been released: the first in summer 2004 and the second in early-mid-2005. As of February 2007, only the second version is available on the Illegal Art website, while the original is available at Brad Neely's website, Creased Comics. The two versions are very similar: differences include "fixing" the weaker lines from the first version, and a more polished and thoroughly-rehearsed performance by Brad.
The first version's CDs can be played completely continuously, and there is no need to alter the discs' timing or volume. In order to play the second version continuously, a delay of approximately three seconds must be inserted between the CDs, and the tracks' volume must be normalized, as the first disc is significantly quieter (approximately 7.7 decibels less) than the second.
Since the CDs are designed to synchronize with the North American release of the film, played at 24 frames per second, the PAL video transfers of the film (used in most of the rest of the world) suffer from a technical incompatibility, meaning that they run at 25 frames per second, so the MP3 files must be sped up by 4.2% (or the movie slowed down) in order to retain synchronization. The Canadian release of the film also uses alternate takes to refer to the titular stone as the Philosopher's Stone (the original name) rather than the Americanized "Sorcerer's Stone", and as such, the audio may get slightly out of sync as the film progresses on the Canadian DVD.
- "'Features: Brad Neely'". Archived from the original on 2008-05-16. Retrieved 2008-06-03.
- "Wizard People, Dear Reader". Illegal Art. 2002. Archived from the original on 2012-01-28. Retrieved 2007-05-20.
- BILL WERDE (2004-06-07). "Hijacking Harry Potter, Quidditch Broom and All". New York Times. Archived from the original on August 21, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-07.
- Joel Rose (2005). "'Wizard People': The Underground 'Potter'". Retrieved 2007-09-12.
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