At the dawn of the 21st century, the world of fantasy was rocked by multiple major releases. In 1995, Philip Pullman released His Dark Materials; in 1996, George R.R. Martin released A Game of Thrones. And in 1997, the first Harry Potter story arrived, changing the YA market forever. The book series immediate turnaround to film was practically unprecedented. Now, Warner Bros. Pictures is celebrating this moment in history with HBO Max’s Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts, which debuts on Jan. 1, 2022.
Even with the fantasy series’ popularity, no one could have anticipated how big the franchise would become in its heyday, with the internet helping to propel Potterheads to one of the biggest online fandoms in history. And the hype has lasted; since the arrival of HBO Max, there have been whispers of Warner Bros. Television looking into the possibility of a spinoff TV series (or a TV series remake of the original novels.)
But first, there’s the 20th anniversary of the first film’s release. (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone officially arrived in theaters on Nov. 16, 2001.) To celebrate, HBO Max released the first look at the surprise 20th anniversary special with a teaser and a cast list that is as magical as the films were back in the day.
Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts Trailer
The first teaser trailer for the Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts didn’t present any footage from the cast reunion. Much like the teaser for the very successful Friends reunion special, it offered a mashup of clips from the original releases. That built to the most significant part of the announcement: The original trio of cast members who starred in the film will all be part of the reunion special.
Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts Cast
As the trailer promises, the three main stars of the original franchise, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson, will gather together, appearing as a trio for the first time since the movies ended. Although they were barely 10 years old when originally cast in the film franchise, all three have gone on to have successful careers in acting. Radcliffe is now a decorated and critically acclaimed stage and screen actor, Emma Watson has headlined massive blockbusters, and Rupert Grint currently stars in the indie space.
But they’re only the tip of the iceberg. The whole conceit of the Harry Potter series was to take these three unknown children and surround them with the most acclaimed British talent the films could round up. Now, they’re rounded back up; A-listers like Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Ralph Fiennes, Jason Isaacs, Gary Oldman, Ian Hart, Mark Williams, and Imelda Staunton are all returning to talk about their experiences for the special. Several other young stars whose careers were made by the franchise will also be back; the list includes Tom Felton, James Phelps, Oliver Phelps, Bonnie Wright, Alfred Enoch, Matthew Lewis, and Evanna Lynch. The man who directed the first two films, Chris Columbus, will also return.
Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts Details
The synopsis of the special suggests this will not just be a star-studded event, but also one that honors those who have kept the fandom going for all these decades:
The retrospective special Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts will tell an enchanting making-of story through all-new in-depth interviews and cast conversations, inviting fans on a magical first-person journey through one of the most beloved film franchises of all time.
Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts Release Date
Since their arrival, the Harry Potter films have become holiday classics, especially the early movies, which had major events centered around cooler-weather holidays. The special’s release is in keeping with this; it will come out on New Year’s Day 2022. HBO Max is billing it as “a capstone event of the holiday season,” debuting it exclusively on HBO Max at 12:01 a.m. ET.
For those who do not have HBO Max yet, not to worry. WarnerMedia will eventually make the special available on regular broadcast cable, with it slated to arrive on TBS and Cartoon Network sometime in spring 2022. It’s possible this arrival will be timed to the April arrival of the next film in the Wizarding World franchise, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore.