“No wizarding household is complete without a copy of Fantastic Beasts, well thumbed by the generations who have riffled its pages in search of the best way to rid the lawn of Horklumps, interpret the mournful cries of the Augurey, or cure their pet Puffskein of drinking out of the toilet.”—Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them began its life as a fictional textbook, written by the enigmatic Newt Scamander, in the world of Harry Potter. In 2001, J.K. Rowling published an actual Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them under the pen name Newt Scamander. The book provided a chance for Harry Potter fans to learn even more about the world they loved, and 80% of the profits from the book went to Comic Relief, a charity based in Great Britain. Finally, in 2016, the film version, yet again called Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, was released. Its screenplay, written by Rowling herself, was completely new and shed light on the creation of the magical text. Below are 45 magical facts about the fictional book, the real one that you can actually read, and the first film to expand the Harry Potter universe beyond the original series.
Fantastic Beasts Facts
45. Escapism and Acceptance
At the world premiere of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the cast said that they hoped the film would provide both “escapist comfort” and “a message of acceptance” to the world. Just like she used the themes of good and evil, death and family in the Harry Potter series, Rowling infused the film with the themes of xenophobia and intolerance, and the dangers these things bring with them.
44. Invented a Word
J.K. Rowling specifically invented the word choranaptyxic for the film. A choranaptyxic creature is one that can shrink or grow to fit the available space. The Occamy, a winged, serpentine-bodied creature from the Far East and India, is one such creature, and it makes an appearance on screen.
43. Tense Relations
Throughout Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, relations between American Wizards and non-wizards are extremely tense. English actress Samantha Morton plays the leader of an anti-magic group called the Second Salemers, who want to track down and destroy all of the witches and wizards in America.
42. Magical Suitcase
Newt Scamander owns a magical suitcase, enchanted with an Undetectable Extension Charm, that allows him to house entire habitats and a shed for himself in the case while he traveled. In the Harry Potter series, Hermione Granger uses the same charm on her handbag, which allows it to hold dozens of large items at a time.
41. Grounded in History
Fantastic Beasts has a connection to real American history. Many of the American laws surrounding magic are derived from the Salem Witch Trials of the 1690s. In the Magical Congress of the United States, the names of those who lost their lives during the witch trials are noted on four golden phoenix statues in the entrance.
40. Chadwick’s Charms
In Tina and Queenie’s apartment, there are several brightly colored books on the shelf behind Jacob at dinner. The books are the seven volumes of Chadwick’s Charms, which are the American equivalent of The Standard Book of Spells used at Hogwarts.
39. Channeling Blanche DuBois
In the first scene, Queenie is dressed very similarly to Blanche DuBois from A Streetcar Named Desire. Queenie’s love interest is also named Kowalski, the last name of Blanche’s brother-in-law Stanley (He’s the one who screams “STELLAAAA”).
38. Mind Reader—Sort Of
Queenie’s character is a Legilimens—someone who can use magic to navigate the layers of someone’s mind. A legilimens can’t simply read a person’s thoughts, but they are able to gain an extremely deep understanding of a person through the use of their magical abilities.
37. Magical Accidents
The only character from the world of Harry Potter who seems to care about animals as much as Scamander is Hagrid himself. In fact, they were both expelled from Hogwarts for a very similar reason: a mysterious accident involving a magical creature. However, though we know Hagrid to have been framed by Tom Riddle, from what we know about Newt, his expulsion may have been justified.
36. Hedwig’s Theme
In the opening scene of the movie, the first notes of music reference John Williams’s iconic theme from the main series before changing into an original composition.
35. First Muggle Main Character
All of the Harry Potter stories were firmly centered on the magical world, and the central characters were all witches and wizards. Fantastic Beasts is the first movie in the franchise to feature a main character with no magical abilities or potential. Jacob Kowalski is regular, working class New Yorker who comes into contact with Newt during his American adventures.
34. Newt’s Niffler
A Niffler is a small treasure hunter that looks like a cross between a mole and a platypus and has a penchant for shiny things. In the Fantastic Beasts movie, it’s Newt’s Niffler that sets the story in motion. When the creature escapes from Newt’s briefcase, he goes on a stealing spree, and Scamander recruits the non-magical Jacob Kowalski to help him catch it.
33. Created from Scratch
Very little New York architecture from the period in which Fantastic Beasts is set still exists, so the designers decided to create a physical set from scratch. The set was an incredibly detailed version of 1920s New York, and it was built entirely in the UK.
32. American Counterpart
Hogwarts is unique to the UK, but it has an North American counterpart called “Ilvermorny,” which is on top of Mount Greylock in Massachusetts. Actress Alison Sudol, who played the eccentric Queenie, came up with lyrics to the school song, and there was actually a scene where Tina and Queenie sing it to Newt, but it was cut from the film.
31. Rappaport’s Law
Part of the tension in the movie comes from a magical law in the United States that prohibits fraternizing between magical and non-magical persons. J.K. Rowling actually developed an extensive backstory for the law, called Rappaport’s Law after Emily Rappaport, the 15th president of the Magical Congress of the United States.
30. Super-Secret Casting
Before release, it was announced that Johnny Depp was involved in the film, but nothing was said about his role in the hopes of keeping it a surprise. However, almost instantly, die-hard Harry Potter fans, based one what they knew about the era the movie was set in, inferred that a star of Depp’s stature was likely going to be hired to take on a major role like Gellert Grindelwald. Once the movie was released, they were proved right.
29. Stole His Heart
Of all the fantastic beasts in the film, Redmayne has admitted that the little Bowtruckle creature was his favorite. He loved it for its clinginess, and for the emotions that it reveals with every movement. At the movie’s premiere, he actually wore a bowtruckle in his breast pocket—the small prop had been made by a fan.
28. Vivid Detail
Newt Scamander’s life was planned in such great detail that a lot of scenes were cut from the final movie. Luckily for the fans, they many of these deleted scenes are available on the DVD.
27. Magical Congress
Magical Government works a bit differently in the United States than it does in the UK. Instead of the Ministry of Magic there is the Magical Congress of the United States (MACUSA), led by a Wizarding President. The Congress’ headquarters is hidden inside the Woolworth Building, a classic part of Manhattan’s skyline.
26. Dr. Doolittle
For his role in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Eddie Redmayne spent time in the wilderness tracking wild animals to learn more about them. He also worked with zookeepers at a zoo in Kent to better understand how people interact with animals.
25. Straight from the Source
J.K. Rowling wrote the screenplay for the first Fantastic Beasts movie, marking the prolific author’s screenwriting debut.
The grey and yellow scarf that Newt Scamander wears in the final scene of the film references the fact that he was in the Hufflepuff House when he attended Hogwarts—Hufflepuff’s colors are yellow and black.
23. The Perfect Choice
When it came time to casting the film, J.K. Rowling knew that Eddie Redmayne was her first and only choice to play Newt Scamander. According to producer David Heyman, “Not only does he look as if he lives in 1926, but he has all the elements required to be Newt: he’s smart, funny, utterly British, and immensely sympathetic—even as an outsider more comfortable with his beasts than with people.” Not only did he not have to audition for the film, but he took part in other casting decisions as well. Redmayne will also feature in the upcoming sequel, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.
In the Harry Potter Universe, Fantastic Beasts was first published in 1927, and became a massive bestseller. By the time Harry Potter and his friends use it at Hogwarts, the book is in its 52nd printing, and has the honor of its own Chocolate Frog Card. Newt Scamander says that he collected most of the information on the book’s 85 magical species through observations made while travelling across five continents. In real life, the first edition of the book was released in 2001, with a new version released in March 2017 with six new creatures and a foreword by “Newt Scamander” himself.
21. Why Beasts?
In an interview with her American publisher, Scholastic, Rowling stated that she chose the subject of fantastic, magical beasts because they were fun, and just from writing the regular Harry Potter books she already had a great deal of information on the topic.
20. Wizard Chose the Wand
In the Harry Potter books, the wizard does not choose their magical wand—the wand chooses them. For the cast of Fantastic Beasts, the opposite was true—they got to design their own wands from examples provided to them by the producers. The wand that Redmayne designed for Scamander was made of wood, with lots of nicks in it and a shell bottom. Queenie’s wand was dark with a simple pearl handle. Redmayne proved his own fandom when he found out that he got to design his own wand, saying “This is a big decision! Doesn’t the wand choose you?”
19. Earlier Jobs
Before being offered the chance to write Fantastic Beasts, Newt Scamander worked at the Ministry of Magic. For two years he worked in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, and then another two years at the Office of House-Elf Relocation before being transferred to the Beast Division.
18. How Do You Handle These Things?
The cast of Fantastic Beasts got some expert advice on how to handle their wands. Original Harry Potter cast members Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint gave them some first-hand wand-handling tips, and they watched the Harry Potter films to see them in action.
In an interview with NME magazine, Daniel Radcliffe joked that he was “jealous” of Redmayne’s costume in the Fantastic Beasts film. While Harry Potter’s costume mostly included either bulky robes or jeans and a zip top sweater, Redmayne’s character Newt has an elegant teal coat, a corduroy waistcoat and a “snazzy” bow tie.
16. A Better Idea
When producer David Hayman and director David Yates first approached J.K. Rowling with the idea of filming Fantastic Beasts, they presented her with a different idea. Hayman’s friend Lionel Wigram, who worked at Warner Brothers, proposed they film a documentary, following Newt around the world as he discovered the different beasts. Rowling had also been considering what to do with her character, but instead of a documentary, she had come up with the original story that eventually became the film.
15. Neither a Prequel nor a Sequel
J.K. Rowling has stated that Fantastic Beasts is neither a prequel nor a sequel to the Harry Potter books/films. While Newt’s story in the film does take place 70 years prior to the start of Harry Potter, Rowling considers it an extension of the wizarding world.
14. Currency Conversion
The wizarding currency used in the Harry Potter books is knuts, sickles and galleons, but apparently even wizards have to convert their money to American currency. In the film, Americans don’t use dollar and cents, but dragots and sprinks.
13. No Broomsticks in site
Fantastic Beasts is the the first Harry Potter movie that doesn’t feature that classic, wizarding mode of transportation, the broomstick.
12. Required Reading
In the Harry Potter books, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a required purchase by first year students. Why it’s on the first year reading list is a bit of a mystery, as the students don’t actually care for magical creatures until third year. It can, however, be used as an encyclopedia of the dark creatures studied in Defense Against the Dark Arts classes, and in his foreword to the book, Dumbledore notes that it’s an excellent reference for wizarding households.
Fans of Harry Potter know that the word typically used to describe non-magical people in the books/movies is “muggle,” which is why they might have been confused not to hear it used in Fanstastic Beasts. Just like with their different currency, Americans also have their own term for non-magical folk: “No-Maj,” short for no magic.
10. Comments and Doodles
The actual Fantastic Beasts book that was published in 2001 features handwritten notes from Ron, Harry and Hermione, as well as some doodles. Ron’s comments, which provide a little comic relief, seem to have been written around the time of Goblet of Fire, which would make sense because the two books came out around the same time. For an added degree of authenticity, the cover also looks like it has been clawed by an unidentified animal.
9. Order of Merlin
According to the book’s “about the author” section, Scamander chose magizoology because of his interest in fabulous beasts, and at the encouragement of his mother, who was a Hippogriff breeder. In 1979, his contributions to the field earned him an Order of Merlin, Second Class. Not too shabby, Newt.
In the first Fantastic Beasts film, the audience gets a glimpse of Leta Lestrange, a relative of Bellatrix Lestrange, through Newt’s photo frame. Zoe Kravitz, who portrays Leta in the picture, will play a much larger role in the upcoming sequels, and her relationship with Newt will be explored.
7. Next Stop: Europe
The first Fantastic Beasts movie takes place in Manhattan, New York, but the second film will see the wizards returning to Europe—specifically Paris and the UK. The film picks up months after the events of the first movie, with Grindelwald having escaped and gathering more followers to his cause.
6. A Nod to Harry
In the scene where Newt shows Jacob his collection of fantastic beasts, there is a Grindylow in a bubble of water. That’s a nod to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, where the creatures were featured in the Triwizard tournament’s underwater challenge.
5. Did You Catch That?
Newt Scamander is referenced multiple times throughout the Harry Potter movies. His name first appears in Philosopher’s Stone, when Harry and his friends have to purchase their textbooks for the year. In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, his footsteps can be seen on the Maurader’s map, but the character’s presence at Hogwarts is never explained, nor is he seen.
4. Second Most Dangerous
Grindelwald is a key character in Fantastic Beasts, and he’s mentioned throughout the film as a “dangerous force on the European continent.” He’s also a central figure in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, where he is often referred to as the most dangerous dark wizard in history, prior to the rise of Voldemort.
3. He Got Ripped
Eddie Redmayne worked out a great deal to prepare for a scene in Fantastic Beasts where Newt goes shirtless to show off the scars he has gained from years handling magical animals. Unfortunately for Redmayne, the scene was deleted in the final cut of the movie.
2. Sinister Associations
Carmen Ejogo wanted her character Seraphina Picquery to be left-handed, as left-handedness has long been associated with witches and dark magic. She also suggested placing rings on her dominant hand to further emphasize her left-handedness.
1. One of Five
The Fantastic Beasts series was originally reported to be a trilogy, but Warner Brothers has since confirmed that the series will contain five films, and that J.K. Rowling will write the screenplays for all of them. The second film has a release date of November 2018, and the third 2020. All of the titles will begin with Fantastic Beasts.
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24