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Fantastic Beast and Where To Find Them will bring Harry Potter fans back into J.K. Rowling's universe. Back in December, when the movie was in production, thanks to Warner Bros., we had the opportunity to visit the set of the production. Full disclosure, as a proud Harry Potter nerd, this experience did not go unappreciated, and I made it my mission to dig up as many clues and tidbits from the set to share with you.
This article contains some descriptions and things we saw and heard on the Fantastic Beasts set, some of which may be construed as spoilers.
Newt's Brother is a Powerful Auror
Colin Farrell spoke a bit about the connection his character has with Newt, through his brother Theseus. In the process, we learned that Newt's brother is a very powerful auror...
I've corresponded with Newt's brother who's a very, very powerful Auror also. At the other side of the Atlantic called Theseus who's commander and so, I don't know Newt but knowing his brother-- initially there's a fondness and then there might be a little bit of tension.
It's a surprising fact, given that Newt seems like such a timid guy. But very cool to know there's a connection between Graves and Newt through his brother. Given that this story takes place in New York, it seems unlikely that we'll meet Newt's brother in Fantastic Beasts, but perhaps he'll turn up in the sequel.
Chaos Ensues In Central Park
We know that something happens at a lake in Central Park, and more specifically, there's mayhem in store at the Central Park Zoo. The trailer shows a quick glimpse of something light up and swimming (or slithering?) beneath the surface of the lake people are skating on (see screenshot above). We saw that lake on the set. What the trailers haven't revealed is the mayhem that happens at the zoo. On set, we got to see what's become of the Central Park Zoo, as that set was pretty torn up, to put it mildly. The animal cages had bent metal bars and there was demolished brickwork. It looks like something got in there... and maybe more than a few somethings got out.
Something Big May Be Going Down at the City Hall Subway Station
The City Hall subway station is one of my absolute favorite semi-hidden NYC locations, so I was beyond ecstatic to learn that it would be featured in the movie. What's more, we were able to walk through the set version of it, which might be as close as I'll ever get to visiting the actual station, which is closed and no longer open to the public. It's not even necessarily accessible to filmmakers. Stuart Craig told us they applied for permission to go into the closed station to take photos, but were denied.
We get a glimpse if the City Hall subway station stairway in one of the trailers, and another peek at it from the inside when we see Colin Farrell's Graves sending a spell in someone's (or something's?) direction. Based on the set, and some concept art we saw, revealing a messed up ceiling, it looks like some mayhem may play out in that location.
MACUSA's Headquarters Is Probably Huge
One of the best parts about looking closely at some of the Fantastic Beasts sets was seeing the attention to detail as it relates to the props. When you watch a movie, you want to believe that everything on the screen is real. That the world created for our entertainment is as detailed as reality, even though we know it's not really real. I admit, I was surprised by how much detail was put into the props on the Fantastic Beasts set, particularly as I wandered through the MACUSA set. It really added a layer of realism to this make-believe location. There were also signs that the place is pretty big. Like, hundreds of levels big.
There were MACUSA forms and paperwork on the desks, and not just random paperwork with random nothing words on them made to look like important forms, these were actual MACUSA forms. One of the forms I saw had something to do with the MACUSA surveillance department, and another noted that there's a Young Wizards Daycare Center on Level 200 (level 200!). Also, for the Harry Potter fanatics out there who can appreciate those tiny, random details, there's a MACUSA organization called the Federal Bureau of Covert Diligence and No-Maj Obliviation. The more you know.
MACUSA Uses Tubes To Send Interoffice Letters
From what we heard on set, it sounds like MACUSA uses some kind of magical pneumatic tube system to transmit letters throughout the departments. That sounds very different from the Ministry of Magic's paper airplane method, but from what Katherine Waterston told us, it's a fitting system for the time period, and of course, there's some kind of magical element tied in with it.
You probably saw the tube things coming off the desks so, we're like using delivery systems of the period but in a much more magical way.
We can't wait to see how this looks in the movie, and learn what the magic aspect of this method involves.
It's Christmas in New York
There's no major evidence that Fantastic Beasts is in any way, a Christmas movie. You can comb the trailers and while you might see signs of winter in the overcoats, hats, ice skaters on a lake and traces of slushy-looking curb snow, the holiday season isn't particularly apparent. A December date stamp on a newspaper featured in at least one trailer, and a quick glimpse of some wrapped presents being overturned (screenshot above) may be the only real give-aways that the holidays are approaching during this story.
That said, we did see signs of Christmas on the set, including some decorations in a diner set, and a holiday-themed storefront window on one of the New York City street sets. The holiday season may only be part of the backdrop, which is fitting given the November debut of the movie. Still, New York is always a bit more magical around the holidays.
Dan Fogler's Character Jacob Has Been Through Hell
Dan Fogler told us a few things about his character Jacob, who's a baker, and who just got back from World War I. According to Fogler, Jacob has been through a lot. He's seen some monsters, and it sounds like that's affected his mindset as he returns to New York. As a No-Maj, Jacob is the odd man out, but from what Fogler says, Jacob goes with it. And he's a loyal guy...
I felt like when he was in the war, they gave him an order and he just-- no matter what it was or how ridiculous it was, he did it. He focused on it and he put his intention on it and he just finished it no matter how hard it was. So, then you bring this character who's like this lovable guy that's been through hell, who really doesn't have anybody and then, suddenly he has this motley crew of a family. And for the first part of it, he thinks he's dreaming. He can't believe that (chuckles) any of this is going on and then he slowly realizes, whoa, he's not normal. This is real, you know. And I think that he's such a loyal guy that no matter what happens to these people-- No matter how magical or fanciful or ridiculous, he's just gonna stick with them to the end, you know.
I have a feeling Jacob's going to be awesome.
There Are Wanted Wizards
It's entirely possible that this has no direct relevance on the plot, but it's one of the things that caught my eye when viewing the concept art for the movie. There were wanted signs for a handful of wizards, all involved in crimes against muggles (err, no-majes). Here's what I wrote down about the reward posters I saw among the concept art...
Lancaster Pike - Described as older man, wanted for embezzlement of spells and no-maj murder
Jeremius Wardwart - warned that he's bearing wand, most menacing & extremely dangerous
Ernestina Abutor - a no-maj kidnapper and murderer.
Again, we don't know of these are actual characters (IMDB has no listing for these names). There's a good chance these are just wanted posters, meant to illustrate the tension between witches and no-majes in this time period. Still, it's interesting to see some of the law violations MACUSA is facing among the wizarding community.
Newt Keeps A Bowtruckle In His Pocket
At least, we think it's a bowtruckle. Eddie Redmayne told us that Newt keeps a little stick man named Pickett in his pocket. So, we're going to assume he's referring to a bowtruckle, as those are pretty likable stick-like creatures, which were featured in the Harry Potter books. Redmayne told us a little bit about Pickett, and how they made that effect work during production:
He has attachment issues, so, he always has to sort of be in my pocket. And when he comes up on to the shoulder-- I started by having a puppeteer come with literally a finger puppet-- doing it-- feeling what that was like. And then they had a long, sort of, pole with Pickett, and made out of wire on the end and then, eventually, when we actually film he's not there and but by now, you have a sense of him and you can play with him.
Queenie and Tina Are Extremely Close
Alison Sudol spoke to us a bit about her character Queenie, and the close connection she has with Katherine Waterston's character Tina. The two sisters are also roommates, and from the sound of it, have been close since tragedy struck when they were young. Sudol said...
I think it's a really beautiful relationship. It's two sisters that have basically raised each other because their parents died when they were very young. So, there's a kind of mutual caring for each other. It's not like older sister-younger sister because I think in some ways Tina is more grounded and an adult, in some ways. But then, Queenie has this deep empathy and such an unbelievable amount of just perception about everybody but especially about Tina. So, there's a real care and a warmth.
This summer, Alison Sudol revealed further information about her "deep empathy." She's a natural Legilimens, which means she's essentially a magical empath, able to read people extremely well. It sounds like that ability is further enhanced when it comes to her sister. It'll be great to see how their bond comes through on screen.
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them arrives in theaters November 18, 2016.