The Beginner’s Guide to the ‘Harry Potter’ Spinoff ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’
When it was announced that a new movie set in the Harry Potter universe was in the works, the internet erupted into cheers. When the din died down and everyone realized that the film wouldn't feature the legendary boy wizard with the lightning bolt scar, there was a big collective "Huh?" Suddenly, a whole bunch of people started wondering what the heck 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them' is and why we should care about J.K. Rowling's newest hero, Newt Scamander.
Well, look and wonder no further! Although the project is still in its earliest stages, he know enough about the finer details of the Harry Potter universe to make some educated guesses. Here's everything we know, both in the real and fictional worlds, about 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.'
As you'd expect from a series that takes place predominately at a school, the Harry Potter series is filled with books. Since this is a fictional, magical world, this means that these are all fictional, magical books. Harry first picks up a copy of Newt Scamander's 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them' in 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone,' where it is listed among the required reading for first year students. The book remains part of the school's curriculum for the remainder of the series, never playing a pivotal role in the actual story, but frequently being mentioned as a resource for our heroes (and acting as background color). It may not be a major player in the war against Voldemort, but Scamander's book is cited throughout the series often enough that even a casual fan will recognize the title.
So 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them' is a fictional textbook used by young witches and wizards. How exactly is there a movie there? Simple: the film will follow the adventures of the book's author, Newt Scamander as he adventures around the world collecting information for the book. Although the exact details of the plot remain under wraps and Scamander himself remains something of an enigma, the series has offered just enough clues to get the basic gist of it.
Here's what we know: Newt was a Magizoologist for the Ministry of Magic who dropped out of his bureaucratic job when he was offered a book deal in 1918. He travelled the world researching magical creatures, finally publishing his book in 1927. He spent the rest of his life working to help the wizarding community to better co-exist with magical animals, creating the Werewolf Register and helping to enforce a ban on experimental breeding. Oh, and he eventually became the Headmaster at Hogwarts.
As far as we know, nope! Although Newt Scamander would become headmaster at Hogwarts later in his life, 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them' will take place in the 1920s, when Newt was a young man traveling the world. In fact, according to the only official information released so far, the film will begin in New York City, an entire ocean away from the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
And you know what? Maybe that's for the best. We've spent eight movies getting to know Hogwarts and the magical underside of England, so it's time for a change of pace. The wizarding world outside of Great Britain is only briefly glimpsed in the original books and movies, so this will be our chance to see the magical world in a different era on a different continent.
Although 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them' is a fake textbook in the Harry Potter universe, it's also a real book. Written by J.K. Rowling and published in 2001, the "real" version of Harry Potter's fictional textbook is a guide to the various creatures and monsters found throughout the series. In addition to chapters on individual beasts (what they are, where to find them, etc.), the book provides a deeper look at the Harry Potter world, with entries on the wizarding world's history with magical creatures. The book is written as if it was torn right out of the magical world: Rowling herself receives no credit on the cover, with the authorship seemingly belonging solely to the fictional Newt Scamander.
Although currently out of print (expect that to change really fast with the movie on the way), the book was written to raise money for England's Comic Relief charity, with 80% of the proceeds going to assist poor and disadvantaged children all over the world.
The Harry Potter series has featured countless creatures, many of them drawn from folklore and many others simply torn out of J.K. Rowling's brain. The printed version of 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them' lists 75 magical animals, but the possibilities for what will appear on screen are endless.
Considering that Newt Scamander's mother bred hippogriffs, expect to see some of those eagle/horse hybrids pop up. Since Scamander worked for the Office for House-Elf Relocation early in his career, expect to see plenty of them. And, of course, expect a dragon or two, especially since he did extensive work with the Dragon Research and Restraint Bureau.
One of the most intriguing aspects of this film is the direct involvement of J.K. Rowling herself, who will be making her screenwriting debut. Although she had a hand in the eight Harry Potter movies, Rowling never had a role in their day-to-day production, only getting involved when asked or when she strongly disagreed with a particular creative choice. That makes 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them' the first movie in the Potter universe to directly benefit from the talents of its creator. It'll be interesting to see how she adapts to this medium (screenwriting is about as different from writing novels as you can get) but we know one thing for sure: she's certainly not lacking in imagination. And at the end of the day, that's really the most important thing you need.