Fantastic Beasts and How to Film Them

Warner Bros. presents: The Film Adaptation of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Warner Bros. presents: The Film Adaptation of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

“I always said that I would only revisit the Wizarding world if I had an idea that I was really excited about and this is it.”

A little over a year ago, the Harry Potter fandom received enough news to send it into a frenzy, the likes of which has not been seen since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows hit theaters. The loyal readers of the Potter fandom from Reddit, Tumblr and MuggleNet have something to speculate on once again. Our heroine, J.K. Rowling, has taken up her Potter pen once again and set to work. In 2016, Rowling will once more grace us with the Wizarding world, but this time set in New York seventy years before the start of the series we know and love. With this information alone, the fandom can speculate with theories and thoughts that can only be fully satisfied once all three movies are out.

Harry Potter is a series written by J.K. Rowling. In the Potterverse, background information is given in the form of a companion book titled Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The book exists in the Potterverse too, so readers have the feel of reading a book Harry himself had read. The author of said book is Newt Scamander and he details the origin, habitat and capabilities of the magical creatures that inhabit the Wizarding world from a dragon to a unicorn and even creatures unique to the Potterverse like Dementors and Lethifolds. This film series is said to be an adaptation of that companion novel.

Warner Bros. Adaptation Rights

When Warner Bros. signed the adaptation rights for the movies, they gained rights to the story, not the actual characters. Due to the massive success of the original Potter series, it is understandable that they want to continue the franchise. They approached J.K. Rowling in hopes of making an extended partnership and permission to make a movie based on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Rowling is very protective of her characters so she refused at first. There are things about Newt, she said, that nobody else knows and if anyone was going to write about him, it would be her. Days later, she found herself writing a rough script with a story she could see making the screen. She relented under condition that she is given creative control and script writing privileges.

“It all started when Warner Bros. came to me with the suggestion of turning ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ into a film. I thought it was a fun idea, but the idea of seeing Newt Scamander, the supposed author of ‘Fantastic Beasts,’ realized by another writer was difficult. Having lived for so long in my fictional universe, I feel very protective of it and I already knew a lot about Newt. As hard-core Harry Potter fans will know, I liked him so much that I even married his grandson, Rolf, to one of my favourite characters from the Harry Potter series, Luna Lovegood.”

“As I considered Warners’ proposal, an idea took shape that I couldn’t dislodge. That is how I ended up pitching my own idea for a film to Warner Bros.”

Our Clues

All the Potterheads know is that the storyline of the film is a cryptic message Rowling posted on her Twitter account, originally an anagram, “Newt Scamander only meant to stay in New York for a few hours. Circumstances ensured that he remained… for the length of a movie, anyway.”

This is our first clue. The series that Rowling will pen will start off in the 1920s New York and will star Newt Scamander, author of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. This leads to questions: What creatures will be featured? Will we stick with New York the entire series or see other countries? And above all, what kind of a story can we expect? It can be discerned that New York will be the primary starting point but will it be the endpoint? Will the series take the watchers elsewhere, on the other side of the Atlantic or the Pacific?

From the cryptic teaser line, one can glean possibilities. This suggests that Newt is busy with something and what else could Newt be busy with other than the study giving rise to his coming book? So, it can be deduced that the film will feature Newt studying magical creatures and he remains in New York, at least for the first movie. From this spring more questions: Will it be limited to New York? Will it stick on one side of the Atlantic and never see the other side? In the economic capital of the United States, let alone in what came to be known as the ‘roaring twenties’, there may be plenty to explore in New York. Perhaps a new magical alleyway and a new Wizard school. As an official of the British Ministry, we may even meet the American Ministry and gain some insight into how it runs fifty states. Considering who Newt is, magical creatures will inevitably be featured.

Before one can expect anything, what the Potterheads knows of Newt Scamander must be recapped. He was a Hogwarts student, he was sorted into Hufflepuff and he later worked for the Ministry of Magic’s Creature Division. While there, he received the offer that made him famous: a chance to pen a detailed account and study of magical creatures worldwide. It is widely assumed that the film series will focus on that study. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was published in the 1920s and is not only a book that every Wizarding household has, it is a required reading at Hogwarts. Its publication date gives insight into what to expect.

Cast and Setting

Oce Stephen Hawkins, now Newt Scamander
Once Stephen Hawkins, now Newt Scamander

The fact that the book was published in the 1920s, the very decade the new trilogy takes place in, gives clues as to what will be seen. Newt Scamander is known for publishing Fantastic Beasts. Any movie, let alone a series, about him will feature them. What else other than a horde of magical creatures will suffice as a plotline for a series of films starring Newt Scamander in the very year the book was published?

One way to guess correctly what the film may feature is the hints given out leading up to its release. Rowling hinted of the existence of a magical Wizarding school based partly off Native American culture. Due to plot reasons, she would not say what tribes are involved as it would give away the location. Being based off Wizarding culture debases the common assumption that the American Wizarding school was the Salem Witches Institute which was mentioned briefly in Goblet of Fire. With the directors reportedly looking for two American boys and two girls who are said to be educated at the unknown school, we can guess quite accurately that the American Wizarding school and possibly the wider Wizarding world will be featured.

Another way to tell what the series may be about is the casting. Eddie Redmayne will play Newt Scamander and Katherine Waterson will play as Porpentina, Newt’s later wife. So, not only will an American Wizard school be introduced, there will be romance. What the relationship is between Newt and Porpentina and how it develops remains to be seen but we can assume that by the end of the series, their romance will be in full swing.

The books and films have already shown a fair bit of creatures yet there is more to see.
The books and films have already shown a fair bit of creatures yet there is more to see.

The question that probably bugs Potterheads is what creatures will be featured? Every Potter fan has personal favorites out of the list of magical creatures written about. Showing those located only in the United States may get boring. Will Newt eventually travel outside the States? With three movies to tell the tale, one setting does seem rather bland and so it can be speculated that it is very possible that watchers will see the tropical regions or marshes. Only time will tell and during that time, Potter fans will do what they do best: speculate with each breath, and spin the most ridiculous theories from every word out of the author’s mouth.

The series has graced the readers and watchers alike with Hippogriffs, Dragons and Basilisks, but there are more that remain unseen. Many can only be seen if the film ventures across the Atlantic. Fantastic Beasts gives detailed accounts of the species of dragons and where they live, a very detailed account of a Lethifold which can only be found in tropical climates, and the sickening breath of a Nundu which is found only in Africa. If the film sticks to the US, it will be very limited in what creatures can be featured on the big screen.

Trusted Veterans

Aside from educated guesses is what one knows of the film. Once again, Potter veteran director David Yates returns to direct along with Steve Kloves who is working alongside Rowling on the script. J.K. Rowling herself already has script writing privileges and creative control so Kloves is certainly not getting the role he had in the original Potter films. It is also known that we will likely get a cast of new characters due to the fact that the characters associated with Dan, Rupert and Emma have not been born yet.

Knowing that David Yates is returning to direct of course has its upsides and downsides. For one thing, this new series has its old crew and they have more experience in this field and love working with it. For another, Yates is not the most popular director the Potter films had to offer, with most preferring Chris Columbus or Mike Newell. In fact, many Potter fans dislike Yates and his crew for delivering movies that were, in their opinion, unfaithful to the source material and choosing to leave out important details. This has the potential to split Potter fans down the middle once again.

However, there is one unifying factor. J.K. Rowling will be directly involved in the making of this film. The main criticism is that Yates and Kloves went against the source material. That is one thing Yates and Kloves will not be able to do with this series. In fact, the aforementioned criticism of leaving important details from the books out is moot because this will be completely original, only based off the book, split into three films, with Rowling practically in charge of the storyline with creative control and script writing privileges. The Potterheads, critics and lovers alike, can trust her to deliver a freshly told story aside from the main books.

Looking at the source book and the types of creatures it mentions and knowing that this series will adapt the book, gives more liberties than one thinks. It can be made into a story where Newt meets those creatures, it can be made into a study that takes place entirely in New York while our main character studies them from afar, it can be a documentary, (that’s the next section) and it does not have to be in the order the book mentions them. Some creatures are pets, some can only be viewed in certain climates, and some are rather violent and dangerously deadly which may ultimately risk our main character’s life (though all fans know he’ll live.)

What Type of Movie?

From what we know of the series, there is still one thing unknown. Will the story only start off in New York and travel later to other continents and countries as Newt discovers magical creatures and their habitats? If so, will this be a kind of documentary? Will there be an encompassing plotline? Will Newt be chasing after a specific creature and on the way end up meeting a host of others? These questions and more are what make the wait exciting and they are unlikely to be answered anytime soon. Bit by bit, fans may begin to piece the story together but there are upsides and downsides to each way of storytelling this series might have to offer.

An upside to filming the series as a documentary gives the watcher a feeling of non-fiction and fact. The watcher would feel as if he or she is observing the beasts alongside Newt and not separated by a screen, especially if it decides to release to 3D cinemas. The downside is that not everyone likes this kind of filming and it might make it seem boring and uninteresting. If they did go ahead, they would need to transcend the boredom. Plus, a camera and a narrator would not translate well to the Harry Potter realm, especially as Wizards are not exactly known to employ the use of cameras (with the obvious exception of Colin Creevey who was Muggle-born.) A video camera in the 1920’s would not be nearly as effective as it is nowadays so it might create a bit of an anachronism.

Of course, it could have the conventional structure following a specific plotline, which is far likelier. The story would be the publication of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. This too might present a chance to see the beasts up close while also watching them in action. Instead of observing the Nundu eating its grass and strolling, it would be shown wiping out an entire village with its breath alone. Instead of hearing rumors of the Quintapeds off Scotland being transfigured humans, they would be shown up close with full history given, probably by effect of a dramatic flashback. The film could even address rumors of an Acromantula colony in Scotland without confirming it, only because the readers and watchers already know it is confirmed.

Easter eggs and the Important Conclusion

This boy in particular was born around the time the film takes place.
This boy in particular was born around the time the film takes place.

This leads to a bunch of possible Easter eggs, or hints, that the directors and Rowling herself may choose to place. As hard-core Potterheads know, the 1920s hold significance to the Wizarding world as well. The Pensieve moments in Half-blood Prince, the Gaunts and the arrest, the Love potion, and even Tom Riddle’s birth, all took place in the 1920s. While the story takes place in New York, it is not unlikely that these events may be mentioned in passing as nods to the original series. Whether these come to pass is interesting to think about, but in the face of the potential plotline, unimportant.

Magical creatures may seem very mundane to a lot of people, who do not realize how much more interesting they can be than the creatures that Muggles are used to. Depending on how this is pulled off, the film is in danger of flopping.

If it attracts a new generation of watchers who are not as familiar with the series as readers are, it may appear boring focusing solely on magical creatures. A plot is needed: A Nundu can wipe out an entire village and cannot be taken down except by the combined efforts of a hundred skilled Wizards (which could be enough to take up an entire film based on how difficult it is to subdue), the Quintaped history of two rival clans cursing each other until they ended up as four-legged carnivorous beasts make for a fantastic back story and possibly an entire film like the Nundu. In the end, this film series has the potential to go to places that no book or film based in the Wizarding world has gone before. The question: Will it pass that particular challenge?

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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Writing is my life, my love, my passion, my hobby. I was born in rural Kentucky, USA and now live abroad in Lebanon where I majored in English Language and Literature.

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  1. I’m so freakin excited for this. Gonna re-watch all the Harry Potters on Bluray in anticipation. Might even re-read the books.

  2. quentin

    I just hope it will be more in the spirit of the first HP movie/books rather than the overly dramatic CGI/greenscreen festival of the last movies.

  3. Sigh. Harry Potter was and is one the the most amazing and influential film series ever made.
    And it’s over.
    Please, flimmakers, just let it be over.

    • Adnan Bey

      In all fairness, Rowling is in control so we really can expect the best.

    • They are, this isn’t a harry potter film… oh and you should see more films if you think Harry Potter is the most influential film series ever made, lol… the series hasn’t even been finished for 5 years, how can you say it’s the “most influential”? Based on what? lol.

  4. Venessa

    C’mon Rowling, you should have made this a book! Excited about the movie though.

  5. Thanks for writing this post. I’ve been really excited about this movie coming out and it’s nice to have all the information in one place. Nice job!

    • Adnan Bey

      That really was why I wrote it, to gather all the information in a single place. With such little news about the film reaching our ears, it does good to finally have it in one place.

  6. You know this is a very spellbinding article!

  7. i loved reading the small red book on fantastic beasts and where to find them, i was particularly drawn to the nundu as i thought it was so badass. I would love to see a film on this topic, however, I also have my reservations of whether the film will deliver. I was not particularly impressed with the last few movies, but maybe thats why I should just stick to the books, then again, there is no real plot line to the book so this film may work out better then the last few potter movies.

    • Adnan Bey

      That’s one of the things the film has going for it. No plotline from which to work. Just a character and magical creatures.

  8. Aaron Hatch

    I’m really existed for this film, even thought I can’t stand prequels. Prequels just show us our favorite characters when they were young, and audiences really don’t want to see that most of the time. However, this movie works because the universe is so big, that it does not necessarily need the characters we loved from the Potter books to show up; except for maybe Tom Riddle and Dumbledore.

    Im really existed for this universe, and I really like the Idea of Native American wizards, as show how different cultures apply in this universe.

  9. Best case scenario, this movie is the Harry Potter version of Indiana Jones. Worst case, well, let’s just not talk about that.

  10. If Rowling wasn’t involved with this, I wouldn’t even bother.

  11. If only J.k. Rowling would do a book about the founders of Hogwarts. or even a Dumbledore origin story. That would be so badass.

    • Messenger

      I would love to see young Dumbledore and his story with Grindlewald. That would be way too cool

  12. JK Rowling has never struck me as anything less than genuine in her attempts to produce vivid, nostalgic imagery for a world we’ve never lived in.

  13. I think this could flop. Both financially and critically. Thing is, while it’s a story within Harry Potter, it has NO relation to the series overall. None of the original characters will be there. Some may be mentioned, such as Dumbledore, but other than that, a no go.

    • Somesoul

      What sort of daft thinking is it that would seriously suggest that not having Harry Potter characters would influence critics? Critics do usually tend to be adult and most would generally try not to advertise that they they could be that shallow and dumb. And that FBAWTFT is effectively of the same brand (JKR), in the same world, will be enough to generate enough interest to make it a very significant new franchise. How well the films actually do, though, will depend on how good they are and how well they capture imagination. And there’s no way of knowing that in advance.

    • The logic in your post with regard it being supposed to be both a financial and critical failure only because it’s not including Harry Potter characters is just ridiculous.

  14. Cecille

    Yates and screenwriters RUINED harry potter. No emotion, no magic, no love. Just comedy and terrible skipping over huge storylines. He ruined the lsat movies so why not ruin this as well?

  15. I am super excited for these films!

  16. Any true Harry Potter fan would be EXCITED about this!!!

  17. I’m British and I have a fantastic love of HP, huge respect for JK and a healthy dollop of envy that I didn’t think of the story first…. Don’t tar us all with the same brush, please.

  18. dreamingair

    Whoa, I did not know this was happening. Obviously I have been very out of the loop. Well count me as one of those very excited to see this out in theaters. I thought the Harry Potter adventure was over but apparently not, and it’s going to be exciting to see America’s magical society.

  19. I don’t care if they’re cashing in, I still want to return to the Potter universe so I’m excited.

  20. I’d rather her either do a prequel on dumbledore.

  21. The HP fans will always care and JKR shouldn’t simply give up on it. HOWEVER, rather than making three movies of a book that actually has very little to do with HP, she should have done what nearly all the fans want which is a book/movie that focuses more on the Marauders era. We all know she has more than enough material already written about it, she could easily make it into a prequel and everyone would be ecstatic about it, it would also make for an amazing movie especially if Cuarón directed it.

    I care about HP more than most things in the world (I wish I was kidding) but I simply don’t care about FBaWtFT, whereas a Marauders movie would make me the happiest person in the world.

    And I know I’m not the only one, and I know that JKR knows how happy that would make the fans, which is why I’m surprised she hasn’t done anything about it.

  22. Macie Kirkland

    Hope that they don’t write in uselessly stupid cameos or references to the HP series, as they’ve stated it’ll be seventy years before Harry Potter.

    • Some references will obviously be there (like Dumbledore or Hogwarts appearing, who knows?) but yeah, I hope it may be able to stand on its own too…

      And I’m pretty sure it will be better written than the movies, because this time Steve Kloves is just advicing JK on her first screenplay.

  23. I love Eddie Redmayne, but I was really hoping they would cast an unknown. It would have been like experiencing the first movie all over again, where we didn’t really know what Dan, Rupert, and Emma could do or would be like.

  24. Only reason this film is getting made is because Hollywood cry at the fact there’s no more Harry Potter movies to make. That’s what happends when you don’t make original ideas.

    • Carrion

      Yeah, but since Rowling herself is scripting this movie, I think it’s entirely justifiable.

  25. David Huntley

    As long as Steve Kloves is not on this,aka the devil of the HP franchise!

  26. Order of the Phoenix was a bit overblown with filler, but she recovered for Half-Blood Prince, Deathly Hallows, Casual Vacancy and the Cormoran Strike books. And Yates… well… is a hit or miss. With more misses than hits. Anyway, he worries me more. At least this time Steve Kloves is only producing.

  27. Lol I knew she’d be back. This is her money maker. I don’t know if it will be as good as the original series but one thing is for sure… She’s getting paid!

  28. “The film could even address rumors of an Acromantula colony in Scotland without confirming it, only because the readers and watchers already know it is confirmed.”

    Hagrid hasn’t established it yet. He was born in 1928, two years after Voldemort.

  29. Nice work, loved the read. How well the films actually do in practice is something that will obviously be found out in due course.

  30. Not too sure if I am excited about a new trilogy, too few of these types of films ever replicate the magic of their originals. At least Rowling will have a hand in its production so it is off to a decent start.

  31. I love this world and all of its inhabitants.

  32. While I’m excited for this film, it’s not really what I want. It’s awesome J.K. Rowling’s popularity has allowed her to write whatever she wants. That’s a writer’s dream, isn’t it? But some fan service would be nice. Because I know a lot of people in the HP community really want some Marauders or post-potter stuff.

  33. Nice to know that there is an expansion of the Harry Potter world (in prequel form) and that Tom Riddle appears within.

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