In response to the news that J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. are teaming up for a series of films based on Harry Potter Hogwarts textbook Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, some have expressed doubt -- our own Katey Rich included -- about the choice of source material for the spinoff. Fantastic Beasts could prove to be a fantastic series for more than one reason.
It's not a sequel or a prequel to Harry Potter.
I won't argue against the potential of a prequel series that focuses on familiar characters featured in the original series. In fact, I'd put Dumbledore, Tom Riddle and Snape at the top of the list of characters I would love to get to know better, either through prequel books or films. But Rowling has already said this Fantastic Beasts movie series is neither a sequel nor a prequel to the Harry Potter series. Rather than dwelling on the missed opportunities that might exist in doing anything related to the Harry Potter universe that doesn't involve characters directly related to Harry Potter, we can choose to see this as an opportunity to return to the rich magical world Rowling has created from an entirely new perspective. In short, let's put aside what this series is not and focus on what it is, or what it's expected to be: the adventures of the fictitious author of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Newt Scamander.
Born 1897, Newt's mother was Hippogriff breeder, which may have kindled his love for magical beasts. He attended Hogwarts and got a job working for the Ministry of Magic's Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. He started out working in the Office for House-Elf Relocation, after which he was transferred to the Beast Division. In 1918, when Scamander was twenty or twenty-one, he was asked to write the first edition of Fantastic Beasts, an authoritative compendium of magical creatures. From that point, he spent his holidays traveling the world looking for magical species. All of that information comes from the Fantastic Beasts book.
Rowling says the film's story will pick up in New York, "seventy years before Harry's gets underway." It's unclear if she's referring to 70 years from when Harry was a baby (around 1981), or 70 years from when Harry first found out he was a wizard (1991), so assuming Rowling's planning on sticking to the timeline referenced in Fantastic Beasts, the film will either begin in 1911, when Newt is about 14, or 1921, when Newt is about 24. Since he would have been at Hogwarts in 1911, it might be safe to assume the latter, and that Newt Scamander will be in his twenties in the film.