Late last week, Warner Brothers and J.K. Rowling made a joint announcement that a spin-off film from the Harry Potter series was being written by the books’ famed author. Centered around Newt Scamander, the author of one of the school books mentioned in the novels, the film will take place seventy years before Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone, and will at least begin in New York rather than England.
Fans of the Harry Potter universe know that in 2001 Rowling wrote a forty-two page copy of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, as well as another book mentioned often in the series, for the benefit of the Comic Relief charity, which benefited from all sales proceeds. When the two books first came out, Rowling admitted in interviews with the BBC and Raincoast that she was a huge fan of Fantastic Beasts and had so much extra notes lying around that she had more than enough material for the book.
In fact, Rowling is known to have extensive Tolkein-esque notes on every character that she writes, many of which have been culled for the trading cards distributed in Chocolate Frog candies promoting the films, and many others that occasionally pop up in the background of her website, or which are obsessively screen-shot by fans when she waves her notes around during interviews. There is no doubt that when she decided to pitch her story to Warner Brothers, Rowling already had a fairly comprehensive backstory written for Newt Scamander, who she says she admires so much that she married off one of his antecedents to her favorite character, Luna Lovegood.
The man himself, other than being the author of one of Harry’s school books, was a member of the Ministry of Magic, the governing power in the English Wizarding World, specifically a member of the Department of Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. Rowling has previously revealed a fairly detailed career path for Scamander, notably that he was commissioned to write the book in 1918—roughly seventy years before the main action of Harry Potter—which will likely be the focus of the film.
The contents of Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them are varied and extremely detailed, promising an interesting film on Scamander’s travels as well as further insight into the customs and culture of the Wizarding World. It is this, more than anything, that will be needed to draw audiences, as Harry, Ron and Hermione obviously will not be appearing in the film; though it seems that anything Rowling does is destined to do well, as her first adult novel, A Casual Vacancy, is being adapted into a miniseries for the BBC.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is available bundled with the second Comic Relief book, Quidditch Through the Ages at local booksellers as well as on Amazon.