["Hedwig's Theme" plays]
Andrew: Because Harry Potter spinoff series, this is MuggleCast Episode 270 for September 12th, 2013.
[Show music plays]
Andrew: Welcome to MuggleCast Episode 270.
[Andrew and Eric laugh]
Andrew: I, for one, did not think we would be doing an episode so soon after our final episode, which was just back on August 27th. Episode 269, we spent the whole episode talking about how the show was over. But we were very clear we would return when a big announcement was made, and today's announcement on September 12th certainly warrants it. Micah and Eric, hello.
Micah: Good morning.
Eric: Good morning. It is morning; let's be clear on that. Several of us were woken up to this news, and Andrew, you just happened to be up because you are a badass; you roll like that. But I don't think anybody expected today, or going to bed last night, to wake up to this Harry Potter news.
Andrew: No. Micah is coming to us from New Orleans, so we know he did not get a heads up warning about it.
Micah: Not at all. The MuggleCast news center is vacant right now. I mean, I know they're doing a little bit of remodeling in there, getting ready for the next podcast that's going to take over.
[Andrew and Eric laugh]
Micah: But yeah, no, this is cool news and surprising...
Micah: ...I would say. For sure.
Andrew: Well... so let's start... let's recap what we know today. So, JK Rowling and Warner Bros. at 9:01AM Eastern announced that JK Rowling is screenwriting essentially a Harry Potter spinoff series based on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the mini-book that she released in 2001 to benefit the Comic Relief charity. This book was... of course it was written by JK Rowling, but on the book it says it was written by Newt Scamander. [trying to work out the pronunciation] Scamander? Scamander? Scamander? And she is going to be writing the movie series! This is a movie series from Newt's perspective. Now, the other key part about this is that this is going to be set 70 years... I'm kind of shaking while I say this, by the way.
Andrew: This is going to be set 70 years...
Micah: Are you cold?
Andrew: It's a little chilly here in California this morning.
Andrew: It's going to be set 70 years before the first Harry Potter book, and it's going to be set in New York. Now, I did a little check on this. Newt was born... well, the first Harry Potter book was set in, what, '91?
Eric: '91-ish. So, that puts this in the heart of the roaring '20s in New York.
Andrew: And Newt was born in 1897, okay? So, that means Newt is going to be a strapping 20 year old-ish, around that age?
Andrew: Okay, so...
Eric: Twenty-three? Depending...
Andrew: So, I think that's an important point because now we know that this film series is going to be based around a young boy wizard. A new boy wizard!
Micah: In New York.
Andrew: Yes. And JK Rowling... here's what JK Rowling had to say:
"Although it will be set in the worldwide community of witches and wizards where I was so happy for seventeen years, 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them' is neither a prequel nor a sequel to the 'Harry Potter' series, but an extension..."
[fake coughs] Spinoff.
"...of the wizarding world."
"The laws and customs of the hidden magical society will be familiar to anyone who has read the 'Harry Potter' books or seen the films, but Newt's story will start in New York."
And then she gave some backstory on how this came to be.
"It all started when Warner Bros. came to me with the suggestion of turning 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them' into a film. I thought it was a fun idea, but the idea of seeing Newt Scamander, the supposed author of 'Fantastic Beasts,' realized by another writer was difficult. Having lived for so long in my fictional universe, I feel very protective of it and I already knew a lot about Newt. As hardcore 'Harry Potter' fans will know, I liked him so much that I even married his grandson, Rolf, to one of my favorite characters from the 'Harry Potter' series, Luna Lovegood."
By the way, Evanna Lynch very excited about today's news. She quoted that little line from the press release and was saying, "Hey, JK Rowling. Just saying. Come on. Get me back in there." [laughs]
Eric: [laughs] She wants to play old lady Luna.
Andrew: Yeah. So...
Eric: It's... yeah.
Andrew: ...final part, she says:
"As I considered Warners' proposal, an idea took shape that I couldn't dislodge. That is how I ended up pitching my own idea for a film to Warner Bros."
So, there we go. What do you think, boys?
Eric: There really is so much info right here.
Eric: In this statement. Of course, what we used to do is dissect statements like these. I mean, I guess one of the top questions I have is, could Warner Bros. have done a film without JK Rowling penning it? Because she said, kind of, the idea of having Newt Scamander "realized by another writer was difficult."
Eric: So, would they have gone ahead? And just what was Warner Bros. doing sitting to themselves, thinking, "Hmm, there's potential here. We didn't go over every page of every Harry Potter-related book."
Andrew: [laughs] Yeah!
Eric: "There's still Quidditch. There's still Fantastic Beasts."
Andrew: Beedle the Bard.
Eric: Yeah, Beedle the Bard. So, what does this really mean here, that this is happening?
Andrew: Well, Harry Potter is a cash cow, so yeah, of course they had to look through the other books and consider what they could draw out. But I have to emphasize something really important here. This is only a big deal because JK Rowling is writing the screenplay.
Andrew: This is the only reason we should be so excited. If, as Eric pointed out, somebody else was writing this, I would be excited because it is new Harry Potter news. But this is a JK Rowling Harry Potter spinoff. That is what makes this huge news.
Andrew: Micah, what do you think?
Micah: Yeah, I mean, I think the big thing is that... Eric mentioned Quidditch Through the Ages and you brought up Beedle the Bard, but there's a character here I think that she obviously feels a connection to and potentially thought about at one time writing more about. She even mentions in her quote, "[knows] a lot" about this character, so that was the primary reason as to why she didn't want to let somebody else kind of take the reins here. And so I'm looking forward to all this additional information that she has stored somewhere in her head that we're now going to be able see on a movie screen.
Eric: This is... another reason that this really, really much interests me is it's set in New York. The book itself is kind of just... it's a textbook. It's a school textbook. It's Harry Potter's...
Micah: I expect to be cast, by the way, in this movie now.
Eric: Oh, because it's in New York? Yeah. Well no, I... because the book itself is kind of like a textbook. It's just a list of magical creatures and where to find them. Apparently, now Where to Find Them is going to be on the big screen, which is really exciting. But a lot of them are located... a lot of the ones in the book are located across Britain and Ireland, I think, if I'm remembering correctly, so we're going to find out a lot. Here's another... I can think of at least five reasons why this is super, super, super awesome. Couldn't think of ten. Couldn't be a top ten segment.
Micah: All right. Five. Let's go.
Eric: I wouldn't want to step on Ben's shoes. But the thing is, this is an opportunity for JK Rowling to grow as a writer because this is her first screenwriting outing, so I'm sure it appealed to her for that reason. Two, it's not a Harry Potter sequel, nor is it a Harry Potter prequel, so it's kind of exciting for everybody in that respect. It's not going to have the traditional Harry Potter logo all over it, I don't think. It shouldn't. It really just shouldn't. It should just be called Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. People know these days that series are related when they don't have to share the same title. Like The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Everybody knows.
Andrew: I have a feeling it will be called JK Rowling's...
Andrew: ...Fantastic Beasts.
Eric: Yeah, something like that.
Micah: Or it could be something related to Newt Scamander. His name could take the title...
Andrew: Yeah, but they want to get that Harry Potter connection in, I think. So...
Micah: Yeah. No, that's a good point. I'm just interested to see how he gets from New York over to the UK, if that's the direction that this is going in. What kind of major events - somebody mentioned the Roaring Twenties earlier - is he going to play into? Is he responsible for the stock market crash?
[Andrew and Eric laugh]
Micah: Those things would be really interesting to know about.
Eric: Dragons in the stock exchange, or something like that.
Andrew: Well, I'm looking at... on the Harry Potter Wiki... it looks like Rowling is going to have to rewrite his history a little bit because there's a surprising amount of information about him here on this Harry Potter Wiki. They say that he went to Hogwarts, he graduated, and then he joined the Ministry of Magic. Spent two years in the Office for House-Elf Relocation, then he joined the Beasts Division and put his knowledge of magical beasts to good use. In 1918, Scamander was commissioned by Augustus Worme of Obscurus Books to write Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The book became a bestseller. He was then appointed to... he was the Headmaster of Hogwarts!
Andrew: Yeah. "In his personal life, Scamander married a woman named Porpentina and fathered at least one child. By the beginning of the 1990s, Scamander was retired and living in Dorset." But I don't think the film series will get that far. So, I mean, there's a couple of big elements here: he went to Hogwarts, he worked at the Ministry of Magic, and then he became Headmaster at Hogwarts.
[Andrew and Eric laugh]
Andrew: So, where does this all play into the movie series?
Eric: Just in my mind's eye, I think that perhaps the series will take place - or at least the first film - while he's kind of traveling on location. A bit like people who are researching indigenous species would do. They'll travel to their natural habitat. So, perhaps he's on a particularly risky assignment in New York for a creature that only lives in New England or something like that, and he's writing about it and studying it. He could still be on assignment writing this book, which I think would actually tie it into the title, if it's called Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
Micah: I think the big thing that's going to initially come out of this first movie is something that a lot of fans have been looking forward to, and that is some kind of insight into the wizarding world here in the United States.
Eric: Yes. Yeah, absolutely. I would say that JK Rowling has shied away from it in the past. There may have been a few passing references in Quidditch - possibly in Fantastic Beasts, I'm not quite sure - about the Salem Institute or something like that. The obvious references were all made to wizard school in America. But everything other than that? Nope, nothing. And we're going to see that firsthand through Newt's eyes, what the wizarding community is like, or at least was like, in the '20s here in America. And that is amazing.
Andrew: I'm... is this going to be taking place during the prohibition period?
Andrew: Because when was that? Whenever I hear '20s, I think of Boardwalk Empire, the HBO show.
[Andrew and Eric laugh]
Andrew: Are we going to have some cross-promotion between the two? Newt goes down to Atlantic City to get some alcohol from Nucky Thompson, the Boardwalk Empire character.
[Andrew and Eric laugh]
Eric: Prohibition was technically in place from 1919 to 1933, so this technically...
Andrew: Oh, okay.
Eric: If it takes place in the '20s, it was probably during prohibition. So yeah, that'll be... [laughs] that's pretty exciting.
Andrew: By the way, 1919 to 1930: one era of American life that I do not want to ever transport back to. But if Newt is going to be there, okay, I'll watch a movie about it.
Andrew: I think the other big aspect of this, which we already touched on, but the fact that this is a movie series. Warner Bros., of course, always looking for big new franchises. Harry Potter was huge for them up through 2011 when the final Harry Potter movie came out. By doing this, it follows in their long line of extending franchises as far as possible. Of course, they split Deathly Hallows into two movies. The Hobbit, you look at The Hobbit, that was one book. They initially decided to split it into two movies. Then they talked to Peter Jackson into turning it into three.
Andrew: I mean, they want to take full advantage of franchises. In a way, we shouldn't be shocked by this. But on the other hand, there's an important question here I want to pose to you guys. Did you guys... did it ever cross your mind that the next step in the Harry Potter franchise would not be the encyclopedia, would not be a new Harry Potter book, a sequel or prequel, but be a film series penned by Rowling? [laughs] I don't think anybody guessed that.
Eric: That's... yeah, definitely not. But that's why I think it is so appealing. Nobody could have thought of it. You could sit a thousand monkeys down and tell them to come up with ideas, and in five years they may not have come up with a new Harry Potter movie. Because we thought all the literature was used up, or at least all the viable literature that could be turned into a movie. Also, JK Rowling's support for this is shocking to me because we thought she was done and used up with Harry Potter. Although, there is a quote here in the statement and it's true that she's always said that if an idea came to her she would never say never, essentially, in terms of writing more Potter content.
Eric: Or something like that.
Eric: Because it's growth for her as a writer, she's going to be a screenwriter now for this series, it's just so... it's enough different, enough things different that it's appealing to her. And I think it's enough of the same for us because it's still her that it still interests all the fans.
Andrew: I also genuinely hope that she is thinking she is going to write every movie.
Andrew: Because, like we said, this is going to be a film series. She has to write every one, right? I would be a bit bummed... [sighs] I mean, she will always be involved to some extent, but let's just go crazy here. Let's assume we get to Film 6.
Andrew: Is JK Rowling going to be writing every single one of these?
Eric: Why not, right? She can determine... she has all the power right now. She can determine how many movies there are and her involvement in each and every one of them. There's such a huge difference between something being authorized by JK Rowling and something being - like Book of Spells - and being written by JK Rowling. [laughs] You can tell the fan excitement is just going to be insane. We're going to be waiting in line again for this...
Eric: ...movie now. [laughs] It's unbelievable.
Micah: I think the big question though now, too, is who comes back into play from Potter? Will you see David Heyman be brought back in?
Micah: Will you see David Yates potentially, depending on what else he's working with... working on, I should say. I think really going back to the question that you asked, I would never have thought that it would be so soon after. Because you mentioned 2011, we're only two years later here, almost three, from the last movie being released and now here we are with the potential for really another Potter type of movie. So, I think though that what you are seeing recently is... and I know that the whole Cuckoo's Calling thing was not supposed to happen as quickly as it did, but you're starting to see a lot more of JK Rowling. You're starting to see her, in my opinion, really start to ramp things back up after taking some time off post-Deathly Hallows. So, that should be exciting for fans, I think, that you're getting a new book series. It's not Potter, but you know that it's going to be a series and now you have a movie and you know that this is going to be a series. So, you have more of her moving forward...
Micah: ...than you did before.
Andrew: Right. Oh, man. In this announcement today... this was only part of an announcement between JK Rowling and Warner Bros. They also announced that Fantastic Beasts will be developed across the studio's video game, consumer products, [laughs] and digital initiative businesses, including enhanced links with Pottermore.
Eric: Oh, gosh.
Andrew: So, you can expect a full line of merchandise to go along with your brand new Fantastic Beasts movie.
Eric: You know what? Some of those... and I don't know that we've ever spent time specifically on Fantastic Beasts throughout the run of MuggleCast, but there are some really cool creatures and really cool ideas. Of course, as always, JK Rowling provides quality with her work. But it's just so very interesting now, having this book get the spotlight on it.
Eric: It's not a narrative, but she'll be writing a narrative that... about the character who writes this book.
Andrew: Yeah. I think one important thing, also, to people who haven't read Fantastic Beasts is you shouldn't go buy it and assume it's going to be a story in any capacity like Harry Potter. I mean, I haven't read it in a while, and correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't it... [laughs] it's kind of an encyclopedia of sorts, right?
Eric: Well, yeah. It's always humorous, of course. It's always... but it's JK Rowling writing as Newt Scamander. It's basically just a list - and I recall it being alphabetized - of fantastic beasts. So, it's an index and...
Micah: Where to find them?
Eric: ...essentially it's a little bit of information about... [laughs] thank you, Micah. And it just has their danger level, which is the first thing. So, all the... a lot of the dragons are between four and five X's. It has their danger level and a little bit about them, like short biographies, what they do, what area they live in, and how to... well, not how to find them necessarily, but you get it. It's just a small description of each of the beasts that happen to be so fantastic enough to warrant the book.
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