This post includes spoilers for ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’
A lot of hard, No-Maj work went into making the magical world of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” J.K. Rowling’s universe was transported to 1926 New York, and the filmmakers had to make period-accurate sets and make sure even the smallest of details was consistent with the rest of the “Harry Potter” franchise.
HarperCollins published three books that go behind the scenes of how the movie was made, and they’re chock full of interesting details. They include “The Case of Beasts: Explore the Film Wizardry of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” by Mark Salisbury, “Inside the Magic: The Making of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them ” by Ian Nathan, and “The Art of the Film: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” by Dermot Power, who was one of the movie’s conceptual artists.
We read all of them. Here are some of the most interesting things we learned.
In an earlier draft of 'Fantastic Beasts,' Jacob had a fiancée, Mildred (played by Sinead Matthews, who 'leaves him when he unsuccessfully returns from his bank meeting without a loan,' according to 'The Case of Beasts.' She handed his engagement ring back to him and walked out.
In that light, the relationship between Jacob and Queenie would be totally different. Jacob would still be a bit of a sad sack, but Queenie would become more of a rebound for him.
Director David Yates decided to cut the scene because the audiece 'didn't need a reason to fall in love with Jacob.' He's right!
At some point during the movie, the characters go to the Blind Pig, a speakeasy for wizards, to get some information about the escaped magical animals. There's a bartender who serves Jacob some Giggle Water.
Because the bartender is an elf, its face had to be animated. To cast the face, animation supervisor just picked a random electrician he saw on set.
'What a great face,' animation supervisor Pablo Grillo said when he saw the electrician, according to 'Inside the Magic.' 'Paul looks quite good, doesn't he?' he asked director David Yates. Yates told him to ask if he could scan the electrician's face.
'So they ended up scanning him in and 'Paul the spark' became their bartending elf,' Ian Nathan wrote in 'Inside the Magic.
Visual effect supervisor Christian Manz joked that 'he's going to dine out on that for a few years.' Unfortunately, we only get to see half of Paul's face. Elves are very short.
One of the early concepts for the interior of Newt Scamander's briefcase was for it to be a mysterious, all-expansive 'Eden-like environment,' according to 'Inside the Magic.'
'With hints of the wardrobe from Narnia, the steps would lead Newt into a perfectly realised forest, and across a certain boundary you could see rolling waves and surf, and the horizon going on forever. It was an entire world.'
J.K. Rowling pointed out, though, that 'it would take a wizard more powerful than even Voldemort to create such a place.' So the animation designers scaled it back, creating fewer habitats, making Newt's magic seem more rickety.
'What we came up with was this slightly dysfunctional magic,' conceptual artist Dermot Power said. 'Newt loves animals so much he's gone through great trouble of creating these worlds, but he doesn't see his career as that. He's just pleased the animals are happy.'
One of the film's subplots involves the Shaw family. Henry Shaw Junior, a New York Senator, is the son of Henry Shaw Senior, who runs The New York Clarion, which seems to be the equivalent of The New York Times.
The Second Salemers unsuccessfully try to get the Clarion to run a story about how witches and wizards are real. The scene where they visit the paper's office -- and the scenes where the Clarion is displayed on newsstands -- involve incredible detail.
The design firm MinaLima made 'several front pages using The New York Times as inspiration, printing 30,000 copies with front and back covers, as dressing inside the office and on newsstands throughout the New York set, with each edition featuring headlines and copy relating to the events of that particular day,' according to 'The Case of Beasts.'
While MinaLima made fake headlines for the magical papers, they didn't write body text for the stories. For the Clarion, they did. Each paper features fully-fledged stories on everything from the retail sector of the American economy to the activities of totally invented politicians.
Moreover, the detail invested into the newspaper office was extraordinary. Warner Bros. imported more than 80 bespoke desks from the United States onto the set in the United Kingdom. Every single one of the journalists clattering away on typwriters in the background was given a title, and the drawers in their desks were filled with material for stories.
'If you looked at the desks you'd see a travel correspondent, one for science, one for culture, one for New York local news. On the theatre reviewer's desk, there'd be programs,' designer Miraphora Mina said, according to 'The Case of Beasts.'
Nope, not even one of the 'Harry Potter' books. But Farrell, who plays the auror Percival Graves, said he was impressed by the magical world Rowling built in that script alone, and wanted to be a part of it.
Farrell told SFX Magazine earlier this year that he was a big fan of the 'Harry Potter' movies.
'There are a few films where (when) they're on the television, I just can't turn them off, they're just so comforting; and any 'Harry Potter' series qualifies as one of those films,' he said.
In the last scene of 'Fantastic Beasts,' we enter Jacob's bakery. Though his memory appears to be erased, his shop is filled with pastries that look like the Demiguise, Niffler, Occamy, and Erumpent.
'I don't know, I don't know -- they just come!' Jacob answers when a customer asks where he gets his ideas from.
Unfortunately, the pastries were synthentic, even though they looked delicious. Maybe we'll see real ones in Orlando's Wizarding World of Harry Potter?
The movie's animals were created with a mix of computer-generated effects, motion capture, and elaborate props to create realistic movements.
Some of it was also just old-fashioned puppeteering. Newt's Demiguise was created, in part, by a guy dressed up in a furry suit. Animation later smoothed it into a more realistic, ape-like creature.
Instead of making Demiguises simply turn invisible, the filmmakers opted for a more chameleon-like effect, according to 'Inside the Magic.' The look was inspired by Liu Bolin's 'The Invisible Man' photo series, where he blends himself into the background, but it's just barely perceptible.
The movie's animation designers created a concept design for a Sasquatch that would be spending the night in a MACUSA jail cell, unwilling to engage in any conversation while Tina and Newt awaited their interrogation by Graves. It wasn't used in the final film, but it would have been funny. He's the classic 'fantastic beast' no one can find.
'The Art of the Film' includes a lot of different drafts for every magical animal that eventually appeared in 'Fantastic Beasts' (and a lot that didn't). The Graphorns were originally rendered as large, stalking beasts of the plain, like tigers. That's basically how they came out in the end.
But the final draft includes a few rows of smallish horns on their heads. Originally, there were just two horns, but they were huge. The animators slimmed them down because they wanted to make the Graphorn more distinct from the Erumpent.
The Erumpent, which Jacob and Newt have to capture in Central Park, was one of the trickiest animals to design. Some of the early concept art looks like everything from a warthog to a triceratops.
The oddest version, though, was a sort of giant seal. It stood on four legs, but it had a huge, thick neck that made it look like it was standing upright. And it had a big ivory-looking tusk pointing up from the middle of its face, like a unicorn.
'They did not pass the audition,' Dermot Power wrote in 'The Art of the Film.' 'It happens.'
The way Newt's briefcase works in the movie is, it opens up and you walk right into it, stepping down a ladder into a magically-created environment where Newt keeps his animals and all of his tools.
There were several alternative prelimenary designs for the mechanism of entering the case, and they're fascinating.
'The Art of the Film' features six different concepts that were almost used. One had the case opening up like an accordion binder, stretching so that people can climb into it. Another gave the case teeth like a bear trap, to be used to keep the animals from escaping.
And then there were some steampunk-like concepts. One consisted of a clattery elevator that rose out of the open briefcase, to take people in and out.
Eventually, they settled on something simple that worked with the plot. A simple staircase that made it easy to walk right in, and for animals to sneak straight out.
Newt's case was fitted with a false bottom. So that when he steps into it, the bottom fell away into a pre-built hold in the ground. Eddie Redmayne, who played Newt, just stepped down a stepladder hidden under the floor.
Doing that let the filmmakers capture the magical moment in one unbroken shot, without any digital elements.
A lot of the creative elements of the film were up to the principal cast. There were small but important ideas, like Eddie Redmayne choosing his character's wand. And then there are some of the more important details.
Redmayne, for example, also came up with the idea of using a spell that turned the wizards' wands into umbrellas. It's an elegant visual idea, and it's key in one of the most beautiful scenes in the film, when Queenie shields Jacob from the rain that would wash away his memories.
When designing the throne of Seraphina Picquery, MACUSA's president, supervising modeller Pierre Bohanna wanted to reference the first 'Harry Potter' film, when Harry first sees Dumbledore in Hogwart's Great Hall. There, Dumbledore is sitting on a grand golden throne.
'There were props designed to connect the film back to the 'Harry Potter' series,' Bohanna said in 'Inside the Magic.' 'Seraphina Picquery's throne was a riff off Dumbledore's original throne in Hogwarts. It's a Gothic-inspired piece, but much more regal and finished fullyin gold leaf.'
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