Here's how 'Fantastic Beasts' will feel different than the Harry Potter films

Credit: Jaap Buitendijk

Our Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them cover story is on stands now. Ahead are six surprising things we learned during our recent London set visit about the Harry Potter prequel coming to theaters next year.

1. The movie is actually about four heroes, not one. Ever since it was announced that a movie was being made loosely based on J.K. Rowling’s 2001 book, fans have naturally assumed the film was all about Newt Scamander’s adventures. And he is the star of the show. But much like how the Harry Potter books are about a trio of heroes, Fantastic Beasts is about four characters working together: Newt (Eddie Redmayne), Tina (Katherine Waterston), Queenie (Alison Sudol), and Jacob (Dan Fogler). “The assumption is Newt’s front and center, but it’s a quartet,” Redmayne told us. “So that feels like it slightly takes the [pressure] off. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.” Here is a gallery giving some details about each character.

2. The whole film is set in 1926 New York. Originally filmmakers planned to make a globe-trotting documentary-style movie that’s more in the style of the book, which chronicled various magical creatures Newt has encountered. The creatures/beasts are definitely a huge part of the film, and their natural habitats are magically shown via Newt’s case. But the film’s setting is firmly in New York, with scenes in different iconic locations. (Here, the film’s story line is described for the first time, and here are some of the creatures likely to appear.)

3. Fantastic Beasts might feel more modern than the Harry Potter films — despite taking place 90 years ago! This is strange, but it makes sense when you think about it. Production designer Stuart Craig notes Fantastic Beasts feels more modern in some ways than the earlier films because it’s set in a large bustling city. The Potter movies were mostly set in an 1,100-year-old Scottish castle, with much of the cast wearing monkish robes. “So funny enough, the period movie has a greater sense of [modernity] than the modern movie that’s medieval in style,” Craig says.

4. The American wizarding community in 1926 is quite different.The wizarding community is very much underground. There’s a lot of fear of Muggle (here called No-Maj) persecution. The Salem witch trials are a major historical tragedy and there’s a new group called New Salem Philanthropic Society (a.k.a. the Second Salemers) led by Mary Lou (played by Samantha Morton) that is looking to expose the wizarding community. Instead of a Ministry of Magic, there’s a Magical Congress of the United States of America led by a wizarding president and hidden inside the very real Woolworth Building — only it’s largely hollowed out all the way to the top floor, creating a beautiful atrium of light. Here’s a photo and breakdown of the MACUSA building.

5. Fantastic Beasts will be slightly more “grown up” than previous movies. Director David Yates, who also helmed the final four Potter movies, told us that the new film feels “a wee bit more grown-up” than the rest of the canon. “There are no kids in this movie,” he points out (well, not among the core cast, at least).

6. There is already a plan for several more films. Okay, so this one is not so surprising, but we did get some details: Rowling, who also wrote the first film’s script, has the next two films mapped out. While there are no familiar names from the Potter stories in this first film, due out next November, one or two might appear in the sequels. Given that the film is set in the 1920s, the franchise is presumably limited to only the oldest characters in the Potter tales — so let the speculation begin!

To continue reading about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, pick up the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands now, or buy it here.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (film)

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 132 minutes
  • David Yates