By a show of wands, how many of you are beyond excited for November’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them?
It’s been over five years since we’ve had a film set in J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world. Although Pottermore has released a ton of exclusive content since then, and of course we can’t forget the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play, there’s nothing more exciting than seeing J.K. Rowling’s magical universe come to life on the big screen.
Luckily, we’re getting two more Fantastic Beasts movies over the next four years, in what will be the first wizarding world trilogy. Although much has been kept hush-hush about the details of the plot and certain characters in the films, there’s actually quite a bit of info out there to prepare us for what’s in store. Here are 15 Things We Know So Far About Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
15 The Basic Plot
Although there isn’t an official plot summary on the film’s IMDB page or official website, here’s what we’ve gathered so far, via an EW exclusive and J.K. Rowling herself.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the story of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a magizoologist who has traveled the world to study all manner of magical beasts. In 1926, he comes to New York City for an as-of-yet-unknown reason. However, according to a 2014 tweet by J.K. Rowling, Newt only meant to stay in New York for a few hours until something kept him there... Our guess is he came to look for, or return, a specific magical creature, unique to North America. If we refer back to the companion textbook by the same name, which is published the following year by Newt, our bet would be on either the Thunderbird, which can generate storms as it flies or the Clabbert, a monkey-frog creature that can help detect no-majs.
While he’s there, a no-maj Newt rooms with, Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), accidentally opens the magical case where Newt keeps all of his fantastic beasts. The rest of the movie likely involves the round-up of all of the creatures while under threat of no-maj detection and other potential dangers, like one of Newt’s deadly XXXXX classified creatures.
14 It’s Produced and Directed by Harry Potter Alum
Most fans of the Harry Potter films will recognize the name of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’s director, David Yates. From Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix onward, Yates was responsible for setting the dark tone of Harry Potter’s last four years at Hogwarts, when Lord Voldemort regained his power. However, you may not be aware that the film’s producer, David Heyman, headed up all eight Harry Potter films before jumping on board for Fantastic Beasts. Lionel Wigram, the executive producer of the four Harry Potter films Yates was involved with, is also on the producing team for Fantastic Beasts.
Originally, Heyman and Wigram (whom Heyman first sent the script for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to) entertained the idea of making Fantastic Beasts in a documentary style. Lucky for us, J.K. Rowling had other ideas and they stuck to what they knew best: narrative feature films.
Although we don’t know a lot of plot specifics for the film still, Heyman had this to say in an IMDB interview, “This film has a lot of colors. It’s got darkness, adventure, tender character moments, and it’s funny.” Judging from their work on the Harry Potter films, we’re confident leaving things in their capable hands.
13 It’s JK Rowling’s Screenwriting Debut
Remember how we said J.K. Rowling had something in store initially, rather than a Fantastic Beasts documentary? Well, that’s because she is particularly fond of Newt Scamander and couldn’t bear the thought of someone else writing his story. So, when Heyman, Wigram, and Warner Bros. suggested turning Fantastic Beasts into a film, Rowling countered with her own film pitch on the grounds that she would, and could, write the screenplay.
As such, it was announced she would make her screenwriting debut with a new film series set in the wizarding world. “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,” Rowling said in a 2013 statement on her website. However, Rowling wasn’t the only one excited about the new story. The news sent the internet into a frenzy, especially after her cryptic anagram on Twitter, which revealed a hint about Fantastic Beasts' plot.
Because the Harry Potter franchise started as a book series, many fans have been clamoring for new material in book format. After announcing the publication of the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child rehearsal script, Scholastic also revealed Rowling’s screenplay for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is set to release in hardcover and ebook editions on November 19, 2016.
12 It Has an Award-Winning Cast
Aside from a wonderful screenplay by J.K. Rowling herself, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is blessed with an incredibly talented and award-winning cast. In fact, most of the cast was built up around the movie’s star, Eddie Redmayne. “It was like putting a rock band together,“ producer David Heyman explained in a Pottermore interview. “We saw so many people. We got Eddie, he was our anchor and I knew once we’d got him, we had to build the world around him.”
It’s no surprise Redmayne was the rock upon which this film was built, after his 2015 Oscar for The Theory of Everything and 2016 nomination for The Danish Girl. However, he isn’t the only Oscar winner on the cast. Jon Voight, who plays Henry Shaw, Sr. in Fantastic Beasts, won an Oscar for his role as Vietnam vet Luke Martin in Coming Home (1979). Voight also holds four Golden Globes and shares the honor with fellow cast members Ron Perlman for Beauty and the Beast (1989), Colin Farrell for In Bruges (2008), and Samantha Morton for Longford (2008).
11 We Get Our First Intro to Ilvermorny Trained Wizards
This past summer, J.K. Rowling published the final story on the history of magic in North America, featuring its Hogwarts equivalent, Ilvermorny. Since the founder of Ilvermorny, Isolt Sayre, was inspired by tales of Hogwarts from her murderous aunt, Gormlaith Gaunt, Ilvermorny too has four houses like Hogwarts. Each member of Isolt’s little family chose their favorite magical creatures and named a house after them: Thunderbird, Wampus, Horned Serpent, and Pukwudgie.
Our knowledge on the character traits of each house is still limited, but according to Rowling’s story, Thunderbirds represents the soul and are adventurers, Wampus’ represent the body and are warriors, Horned Serpents represent the mind and are scholars, and Pukwudgies represent the heart and are healers.
Sisters Porpentina, AKA Tina (Katherine Waterston), and Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol) are American witches, and according to J.K. Rowling, all of the American magical folks in Fantastic Beasts attended Ilvermorny. Thus far, however, the only Fantastic Beasts character whose Ilvermorny house we actually know is Seraphina Picquery, who is in Horned Serpent, but more on that in a second...
10 MACUSA's President is a Woman and She’s Kind of a Big Deal
America’s Ministry of Magic equivalent is called the Magical Congress of the United States of America, or MACUSA for short. Interestingly enough, the president of this governing body during the timeline of Fantastic Beasts is Seraphina Picquery. While obviously, she has to be a talented witch in order to achieve such a position, Seraphina is special for another reason as well.
Whereas Hogwarts students are sorted into a house by the Sorting Hat, which takes each student’s preference in mind, Ilvermorny’s sorting is more democratic, with enchanted statues of the four houses reacting to a student if they deem them worthy. Serafina was the only Ilvermorny student during her generation who was offered a place in all four houses. Talk about bragging rights.
We also know a little about her wand, which Pottermore revealed is from the North American wandmaker, Beauvais. Described as purple with a large gem in the handle, because it’s a Beauvais wand, it also contains the hair of a dog-headed swamp monster called a rougarou and is especially proficient with dark magic. “There’s going to be something very, very powerful coming out of that wand when it’s needed," warned Carmen Ejokgo who plays Seraphina, in a Pottermore interview. “The wrath of Seraphina is yet to emerge from it. But it’s elegant and regal, which probably reveals something of her personality.” Is it possible then, that Seraphina may be one of the villains of the film?
9 Newt Scamander is a Hufflepuff
In the same tweet where J.K. Rowling revealed all of the American characters in Fantastic Beasts attended Ilvermorny, she also gave away Newt Scamander’s Hogwarts house: Hufflepuff. “In many, many ways, Hufflepuff is my favorite house,” Rowling told Pottermore. It’s no surprise then that she sorted one of her favorite characters into it.
Famous Hufflepuffs from the Harry Potter series include Cedric Diggory, Nymphadora Tonks, and professor Pomona Sprout. While some may say Hufflepuffs are eccentric, mostly they’re described as hardworking, honest, loyal, diplomatic, modest, and kind almost to a fault. Their common room is also next to the kitchens, often associating them with food, although it’s likely to be the company they enjoy most.
As for Newt’s Hufflepuff qualities, in the official character descriptions from Warner Bros., via EW, Newt is described as “an eccentric globe-hopping English ‘magizoologist’ wizard who’s far more comfortable around beasts and creatures than he is around other people.” That’s about as Hufflepuff as you can get.
8 Newt’s Creatures
Obviously, since the film is called Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, we know Newt’s creatures are going to play a major role in the film. So far, there are eight confirmed creatures:
Billywigs is a blue beetle-like flying insect with wings on the top of its head. Native to Australia, its sting causes giddiness and levitation. Dried stingers can be used for potions and are reportedly found in Fizzing Whizbees.
Bowtruckles are twig-like creatures that guard wand-wood trees. They’re mostly cute and docile unless their habitat is threatened, in which case they have long, sharp fingers to attack with.
A demiguise is an ape-like creature with silvery hair that’s used to make invisibility cloaks like Harry Potter’s. When threatened, it can turn invisible and is rarely found in its natural Far East habitat.
The niffler is the funny mole-like creature whose claws we see poke out of Newt’s suitcase in the trailer. They’re native to Britain and love shiny things, which makes them excellent treasure hunters.
Occamys are an Indian bird-serpent hybrid, with feathers and wings. They produce silver eggs, which Jacob is seen holding in one of the trailers.
The swooping evil is a brand new beast exclusive to the film, which isn’t mentioned in Newt’s future textbook. It’s a large, blue and green butterfly-like creature that emerges from a cocoon or similarly small object.
Thunderbirds are closely related to the phoenix and can create storms as they fly. They’re also one of the house creatures of Ilvermorny.
7 There's a Device that Measures Magical Exposure
In one of the trailers for the film, we get a glimpse of some sort of measurement device in one of the main foyers of MACUSA. Resembling the clock in Grand Central Station, the device actually measures magical exposure, not time. American wizards are under constant threat of detection and persecution so they created this device to measure danger, much like the Homeland Security terror threat system.
A special feature on Pottermore revealed the threat levels and other measurements on the device. Green is a low-level threat, blue is high, yellow is danger, orange is severe unexplained activity, and red is an all-out emergency. There are also three inserts near the top with the numbers of witch hunts, exposures, and obliviations, which is the spell that wipes a person’s memory.
Since there isn’t too much information yet on the film’s plot, we’re not exactly sure how the magical exposure device will play into the film. However, it’s likely that the release of Newt’s creatures from his suitcase will cause the threat level to increase substantially, putting American witches and wizards in danger.
6 American Wizards Need Wand Permits
One of the biggest reasons why American witches and wizards are so paranoid involves an incident, described on Pottermore, that occurred in the 1700s. Dorcus Twelvetrees, the daughter of the then Keeper of Treasure and Dragots (basically the Secretary of Treasury), fell for a no-maj and, quite stupidly, spilled the secrets of the magical community to him.
Although MACUSA managed to clean up most of Dorcus’ mess, the after-effects lingered for many years. Thus, MACUSA enacted a series of restrictions called Rappaport’s Law, named after then president, Emily Rappaport. Witches and wizards could no longer befriend or marry no-majs and were penalized severely if found doing so.
Additional legislation was introduced at the turn of the twentieth-century, which required all witches and wizards to carry a "wand permit." Much like gun control in the no-maj world, the permits were seen as a means to identify wands and their owners, further keeping track of all magical activity.
As Director of Magical Security, Percival Graves (played by Colin Farrell), is responsible for wand regulation and utilizes his own magical exposure device to track any slip ups. Both Tina and Queenie Goldstein also work in the wand permit office of MACUSA.
5 There’s a Group Called the Second Salemers
In the second installment of J.K. Rowling’s “History of Magic in North America” stories, we learned there was a band of wizard mercenaries in the 1600s who called themselves Scourers. Known for hunting down criminals with a price on their head, whether wizard or no-maj, Scourers became increasingly corrupt. They tortured and trafficked anyone they could for a bit of gold. In fact, the Salem Witch Trials were orchestrated by two known Scourers who were passing as Puritan judges.
Although eventually MACUSA persecuted the Scourers they could find, several disappeared into the no-maj community. While Scourers were indeed magical themselves, they passed on to their children a firm belief that wizards, witches, and magic in all its forms, be extinguished.
As a result, a deep-seated, multi-generational hatred was passed on that lingered into the 1920s. In the EW article mentioned, where the Fantastic Beasts character descriptions are revealed, we learn that Mary Lou Barebone is part of an anti-wizard group called the "Second Salemers." Officially called the New Salem Philanthropic Society, their banner is shown briefly outside a rally for senator Henry Shaw, Jr., in one of the trailers.
4 The Barebones are Scourer Descendents
Mary Lou Barebone’s family will most likely play a pivotal role in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. In the “Rappaport’s Law” piece of writing on Pottermore, J.K. Rowling reveals the name of the no-maj whom Dorcus Twelvetrees spills the beans about magic’s existence to: Bartholomew Barebone, a Scourer descendent.
Although no one in his family at the time was magical, due to the purging of magical children by his Scourer ancestors, he still carries the magical gene. It’s entirely possible that some of the non-magical Barebone family members, were in fact, Squibs, those unable to perform magic, but could still function within the wizarding world had they so chosen.
Not much is known about Mary Lou as of yet, but we do know she has two daughters, Chastity and Modesty, along with an adopted son, Credence. If her daughters are biological, they could potentially have some magical ability. In a 2007 chat transcript from Bloomsbury, J.K. Rowling stated “Muggle-borns will have a witch or wizard somewhere on their family tree, in some cases many, many generations back. The gene re-surfaces in some unexpected places.” But of course, since Credence isn’t Mary Lou's by birth, he too could have in herited yet-to-be-revealed abilities from a current magical family.
3 There are magical ties with the mob in New York
A lot of new information is revealed in the latest trailer for Fantastic Beasts, including the existence of an American goblin speakeasy. In the trailer, we see a female goblin jazz singer surrounded by a band and tables of witches and wizards. The next frame shows a particularly nasty looking goblin with a cigar in his mouth, while Tina and Newt sit behind him at a table.
Although the 1920s was known as the Prohibition Era for its ban on alcohol, the magical community self-regulated. In the “History of Magic in North America” stories, J.K. Rowling states that MACUSA allowed witches and wizards to drink alcohol. In fact, President Picquery was quoted as saying, “The Gigglewater is non-negotiable.”
However, because of Prohibition, crime became organized in America, and we saw the appearance of the Mafia and associated gangsters. If we look at Fantastic Beasts’ IMDB page, there are a few credited gangster and criminal extras, even one labeled very specifically as "Blind Pig Criminal." Blind Pig is apparently the name of the speakeasy, according to this official Fantastic Beasts phone case, and that cigar-wielding goblin is likely Gnarlack (voiced by Ron Perlman), the owner.
2 Queenie is a Legilimens
An article recently released on Pottermore delves into Queenie Goldstein’s special ability; Legilimency. Similar to mind-reading, Legilimency allows a Legilimens to navigate someone’s mind and correctly interpret what they see. The most famous instance of Legilimency is Hogwarts' Sorting Hat, which was bewitched with the spell by Salazar Slytherin so that it could see inside students heads and even respond to their thoughts.
Aside from Slytherin, some of the most powerful wizards in the magical world possessed this ability: Severus Snape, Lord Voldemort, Albus Dumbledore, and even Harry Potter demonstrated Legilimency. There is also a means to shield the mind from a Legilimens, called Occlumency. Snape tried to teach Harry this technique in The Order of the Phoenix.
Since Queenie is a known Legilimens, her ability must serve an important purpose to the story. Perhaps there is someone whose mind she cannot read due to Occlumency, or maybe she isn't the only character in Fantastic Beasts with the ability.
1 1.Tina is Newt’s Future Wife
In Tina’s character description, she’s described as being “relegated to an office well below her abilities after she stood up for the wrong person. She longs to fight for what's right.” Could this ‘wrong person’ be Newt? Tina is shown in the trailers rushing into a MACUSA courtroom, although we don’t know if this is before or after she’d been demoted.
Although some may regard this as a spoiler, fans of the Harry Potter series already know the outcome of Newt and Tina’s meeting in New York. The two eventually marry and produce at least one child, most likely a son, who continues the family name. J.K. Rowling revealed Newt’s grandson in the 2007 Bloomsbury chat mentioned earlier, as Rolf Scamander, who marries Luna Lovegood sometime after leaving Hogwarts.
While the main plot of the film definitely involves Newt’s creatures, his budding romance with Tina will most certainly be a subplot-- if not in this film, then in one of the sequels. At some point, she does move to Britain with him before starting a family. It will be interesting to see where they find common ground and how the unfolding chaos in the film undoubtedly brings them together, as crisis often does.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them hits theaters November 18th, 2016.