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Twelve years after the cinema release of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, fans were thrilled to hear the news that J.K. Rowling will be writing a series of spin-off films set in Potter’s magical universe. Taking place seventy years before the adventures of Harry and his friends, the new movies will focus on Professor Newton Artemis Fido ‘Newt’ Scamander, author of the Hogwarts textbook Fantastic beasts and where to find them. This book was written and published in 2001 for the British charity campaign Comic Relief as Harry’s own copy of the textbook, which was introduced in the first novel of the Harry Potter series. The textbook has humorous handwritten notes by Harry, Ron and Hermione throughout, making this publication a popular addition to many Potter libraries across the world.
The new movies, however, will not be a prelude to the events that occur in Harry’s own lifetime. Rowling has stated on her Facebook page that they are ‘but an extension of the wizarding world’, a world that is already well known to devoted readers. The plot has not been revealed for the first movie yet, but it has been speculated that it will follow Newt Scamander in his endeavours to write the textbooks used at Hogwarts while living in New York—and this will allow a number of animals introduced in the Harry Potter oeuvre to take their place on screen for the very first time. Within hours of the announcement made by Warner Bros., Potter-heads had rallied to discuss their choice of actors for the new roles, and had even made suggestions about which already well-known characters should make cameo appearances in the film.
It is perhaps significant that the Newt Scamander movie series will signal Rowling’s début as a screenwriter. It is no secret that he is one of her favourite Harry Potter characters, despite the fact that he is hardly mentioned in any of the books. Indeed, she eventually married his grandson, Rolf Scamander, to Luna Lovegood, who became a famous wizarding naturalist in later life and travelled the globe in search of strange creatures. It will therefore be very interesting to see how Rowling presents the elder Scamander in these movies, given her own particular fondness for him and his links to the magical universe of the future.
Potter fans now eagerly await confirmation of the plot, characters and actors to be used in the films. As the series is to be set in New York, we should expect American actors to enter the predominantly British cast, but further than that is anyone’s guess. Nevertheless, the one thing that can be predicted with absolute certainty is that the popularity of Harry Potter’s wizarding world is due to sky-rocket still higher over the next few years.