Much Merchandise for Muggles

When people recount the magical tale of Joanne Rawling, the author who brought the world Harry Potter, and exaggerate her dismal, they do not forget to relate that when the British author signed a film contract with Warner Brothers, she insisted that every detail meet her approval.

When people recount the magical tale of Joanne Rawling, the author who brought the world Harry Potter, and exaggerate her dismal beginnings (because the heights she has reached are hard to exaggerate), they do not forget to relate that when the British author signed a film contract with one of the big Hollywood studios (Warner Brothers), she insisted that every detail meet her approval. She would not allow an American actor to portray Harry; insisted that the film not be turned into an animated cartoon, demanded full control over the film until the last stage and even vetoed an advertising campaign in which Harry Potter (or rather, the actor Daniel Radcliffe, who plays Harry, or any picture of him) might be shown eating, drinking, wearing or playing with any particular company's products.

The author, who knows how much children love items emblazoned with their favorite characters - she is the one who invented the wizard cards that are collected and traded by youngsters - and how much adults love money, apparently understood that many would try to exploit the world that she had created. It seems the even she, however, did not realize just how many. Two weeks before the film is to be released in Israel the assault has begun, and this without any of the fast-food restaurants receiving a license to market the toys.

Harry Potter sticker albums drop out of copies of the newspaper Yediot Aharonoth. Anyone who has seen his or her children collecting stickers for Pokemon and Tarzan albums knows how frustrating a quest this is toward the end, when every purchase of a package of stickers yields duplicates. The Potter albums have special series. Coca-Cola (whose $100-million contract included a specific prohibition against putting Harry's face on a can or a bottle) has a silver card series, which can be obtained only with the purchase of a six- or eight-pack of drinks.

Sonol has 20 "special stickers" that can be obtained only at company gas stations (for an additional charge of NIS 1). Burger Ranch has seven Harry stickers, and even there it's not enough to just eat there to get the stickers - one has to pay for them. There are stickers made by the Globus Group, the gold series, and all the others are at your grocery store.

Harry Potter game cards. Imported by Hasbro. Available at toy stores. Cost: NIS 18 and NIS 60; Magic: the Gathering - NIS 150.

If you are already buying stickers, you might want to try a chocolate frog, just like the ones at Hogwarts, with cards underneath them bearing holograms, also taken from Harry's mythological world. In England there are even Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans. And that's only in the food department.

Toy stores are already proudly displaying Harry Potter Lego sets and new toys are joining them every day. Rawling's books are decidedly low-tech - there are no computers, no Sony Playstations and not even a Gameboy - but in the world of Muggles, without any real magic, even flashing lights and a few megabytes will do the trick.

The electronic game Magic: the Gathering offers three game options: a race against the evil sorcerer, repeating a sequence of sounds, lights and movements (like the classic Simon game), and the sound and light game against an opponent.

Harry Potter's Book of Spells - a computerized information encyclopedia (in English) that includes games, quizzes and tips (NIS 200), a frame of the fat lady that speaks and lights up (even when you don't want it to), a game with a three-headed monster dog named Fluffy, a hand-held electronic game: you press the dogs teeth to advance. If you make a mistake the jaws close on your fingers. There are also glow-in-the-dark key chains with Harry Potter characters, such as Hagrid riding a bicycle. Hasbro has also released a card game and a Harry Potter game board (These are not collectibles). The cards are in English, but children who don't read English should be able to enjoy the game by paying attention to the symbols on the cards. A large pack of 41 cards cost NIS 60 and a small pack, of 11 cards, costs NIS 18.

Wait, there's still more to come. Toy stores abroad are already selling a Harry Potter inflatable bed, soft dragons, Hogwarts schoolbags and lunch boxes and cutlery featuring Harry, Hermione and Ron. The market is expecting a success as big as that of Pokemon, the television series that grew slowly but eventually captured a respectable place in the child's world. In Israel, products emblazoned with characters from films are usually less successful than the ones bearing TV characters It will be interesting to see if Harry will really be the next Pokemon.