chapter  11
Children’s film culture
ByStephanie Hemelryk Donald, Kirsten Seale
Pages 8

It is a rainy November evening in Sydney and Donald’s seventeen-year-old daughter is preparing for exams. She is ten months away from her eighteenth birthday, legally adult. But this particular evening she has one thing on her mind. She has seen “George” (or it could have been “Fred” – they are after all identical twins) in Sydney’s Town Hall railway station on her way home. She and her friend pursued him, to no avail, through the station. “Mum,” she exclaims, “What was I supposed to do? It was George, that’s my childhood!” By now the reader may have worked out that George is George Weasley, a significant character in the Harry Potter saga. A seventeenyear-old, born in 1994, has indeed grown up with him. She has read and reread, seen and re-seen seven books and eight films, carefully spaced by the author and then the film producer to maximize expectation and identification since publication of the first volume in the United Kingdom in 1998. What may be surprising to the reader is the degree to which fictional entertainment premised on a nostalgic, even colonial, view of boarding school and Little England should so powerfully define contemporary childhood and adolescence across the world. In 2002, one year after the first film was released, children at a Beijing primary school informed us that their favourite fictional characters in film were Hermione Grainger and Harry Potter. If there was any remaining doubt that this franchise was not only spectacularly successful but that it also relied on the capacity of spectators to identify with characters at the various stages of their young lives, the decision by the distributors to restrict access to the films after 29 December 2011 and withdraw DVDs from sale except in specially packaged staged releases dismisses that doubt. Their decision re-engineers the status of the films as events within the temporal passage of new childhoods and new teens, and supports the observation that growing up with Harry Potter is both a transcultural experience and a commercially astute premise.