Unlocking ‘Fantastic Beasts,’ Part 4 – Five Merchandise Tie-Ins Revelations & Newsbreaks at Rowling’s Site & Twitter

fantastic-beastsAs we learned yesterday in Part 3 of this five part series on ‘Interpreting Fantastic Beasts: Finding the Text,’ the film and the published “original screenplay” was not the movie as written by J. K. Rowling or as shot by director David Yates and producer David Heyman. It had six significant cuts taken from it, cuts made for reasons of film dynamic and progression and which disregarded Rowling’s structural artistry and narrative release.

We learned about those six scenes in the myriad interviews given by producer, director, and actors in the run-up to the movie’s premiere and since its release. In the struggle to find Rowling’s actual “original screenplay” and Newt Scamander adventure with all its details and clues, it has been necessary to study what the players tell us about the shooting script that Katherine Waterston said was “like a book” in all that it told them about the story.

fb21Serious readers and Diagon Alley Irregulars learned a lot from these interviews but the search cannot stop there. Unlike Rowling’s Hogwarts Saga, in which the published novel was canon for Harry’s annual adventure and everything else, to include the author’s asides in interviews and articles, was ancillary and incidental, the film version of Newt’s story on screen and its mirrored published text has been supplemented by tie-in texts, film prop exhibits, and the author’s twitter feed and revived web site.

Today, in our efforts to come to grips with the story as conceived by Rowling, we will review the information we have from these deuterocanonical sources with short glosses about the relative importance of these details. In Part 5 of ‘Interpreting Fantastic Beasts,’ I will bring together what we have learned from published script, film, interviews, and the extras to offer some speculation about the series to come from our ad hoc assembled text.

After the jump, the five tie-in and exhibit revelations and the several Rowling answers to fan questions!

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Unlocking ‘Fantastic Beasts,’ Part 3 — Six Screenplay Scenes Deleted From Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them

cut2The most fun part of getting a DVD of a favorite film is watching ‘the extras.’ I love seeing the outtakes, the old trailers, and especially the deleted scenes.

I don’t think watching the deleted scenes of Fantastic Beasts, however, is going to be exciting or enjoyable that way. For one thing, we know about six of them already, so the surprise is gone.

cut1And, frankly, because what they cut were scenes that Rowling wrote in her actual “original screenplay,” we’re having to see what the producer and director decided “didn’t work” as extras rather than as the story Rowling imagined and wrote it. For Rowling fans, that’s a bit like learning there was a publisher’s error at the print shop and six chapters of her novel aren’t in the hard cover edition we paid for. Posting them online for us to experience six months later and separately from the film is not giving us the story as our favorite story teller wrote it.

After the jump, I’ve written up a list of the six cut scenes and the words of the film makers and actors about them (each change in color represents a change in source material; follow the embedded links for the original interviews and stories). I’ll close with the importance of two cut scenes in light of Rowling’s writing artistry and some thoughts on the other four. Enjoy!

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Unlocking ‘Fantastic Beasts,’ Part Two – The Filmmakers’ Choices: the Narrative

fb21If you’re a fan of Joanne Rowling Murray as I am, whether she’s writing under her J. K. Rowling pseudonym or the Robert Galbraith nom de plume, you were as happy as I was to learn that her first screenplay was to be published as a book. That pretty much guaranteed, I thought, that we’d be getting what Rowling wrote versus what the producer, director, script re-write, and editor chose to put in the film.

The excitement about even the possibility that Beasts would be an actual Rowling product rather than a “story approved by” and fan-servicing debacle a la Cursed Child was sufficient to make me shell out the cash for “The Original Screenplay.”

But, as learned in the first post of this five part series on ‘Interpreting Fantastic Beasts,’ “The Original Screenplay” is not the original draft. the second draft, or even the shooting screenplay from which the film was shot. The book we have is just a transcription of the film as it appears in the theaters.

fb67It is, in effect, not Rowling’s screenplay. It is the screenplay of the film that David Heyman and David Yates decided to release after making their cuts from Rowling’s work. In the third post of this series, we’ll review the six scenes, two of them crucial, that the filmmakers decided the movie didn’t need. Here I want to go over very briefly the narrative Heyman and Yates are giving the press about their being the decisions makers and how Rowling, as screenwriter, works for them and not vice versa.

It’s an interesting story they’ve decided upon, if they struggle to keep to the script. After the jump, David Heyman and David Yates on their successful efforts to get J. K. Rowling to write a decent screenplay.

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Unlocking ‘Fantastic Beasts,’ Part One – J. K. Rowling, Screenwriter: the Narrative

fb7I spent the better part of a day last week reading the transcripts and watching the videos of online interviews with Fantastic Beast actors, the director, the producer, and the principal screenwriter, The Presence. I stopped counting after the first fifty articles. My notes, essentially cut and paste extractions of the parts of each interview I thought memorable, ran to just shy of 7,000 words. Please note: I have never bothered to read any interviews with the stars of the eight Harry Potter movies or with the various directors, producers, or screenwriters involved with those blockbuster projects.

I did this for Fantastic Beasts not because I have lost my mind, or, at least I hope that is not the reason for or a consequence of this largely demeaning exercise. I spent a precious day searching and surfing the pablum of discussions between journalists assigned to the entertainment beat and celebrities using those journalists to create greater interest in their product because I wanted to understand J. K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

In the not so distant past, if I wanted a greater understanding of Rowling’s work, I re-read the text she wrote. With her Harry Potter adventures and Cormoran Strike mysteries that has proven to be a successful method: read, reflect, re-read, discuss with thoughtful readers, write about, reflect, re-read, chart, et cetera.

fantastic-beasts-book-coverBut with Fantastic Beasts that method won’t work. Yes, we have a text that purports to be “The Original Screenplay.” It is not, however, the Rowling screenplay used to shoot the film or in which she tells her story. It does not include the six deleted scenes we have been told about (I assume there are more). It does not include the explanations and information available only in exhibits and in the number of movie tie-in books that have been published for the Wizarding World fandom to purchase in the Christmas gift-giving season. There are at last count five revelations with important ramifications that have been discovered by fans in the last two weeks alone and Rowling is making almost daily supplements to what we know on her revitalized jkrowling.com website.

Interpreting a movie is a different thing than reading a book. I have said that before in the context of the difference between the imaginative and sense experiences one has in a book and at the movies. It is true as well because of the significantly different artistry and techniques involved in delivering such antipodal experiences. Here I mean something else.

fb21Reading a book and understanding it for the most part is me and the text as published and, sadly, too often as augmented by continued revelations of the author. ‘Reading a movie,’ especially a blockbuster movie involving hundreds of millions of dollars, I’m learning is a scramble to assemble the text, a definitive text, from the inputs and changes made to the screenwriter’s text by the many collaborators and decision makers involved in making the sausage, not to mention the designers, prop makers, and tie-in books writers.

Today I want to start a five part series on ‘Interpreting Fantastic Beasts’ with a review of all we’ve been told to date about Rowling’s writing process as a new screenwriter. In the next four posts, I hope to look at the filmmakers’ story about Rowling’s efforts, the six cuts we know they made to the original screenplay, the five tie-in story revelations fandom has discovered thus far as well as Rowling’s addenda, and, to conclude, a ‘So What?’ review of what we’ve learned and what it means in understanding and speculating about the five film series.

It starts after the jump!

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Guest Post: Wizarding World Names! Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them 

fb3A Guest Post from Wayne Stauffer — ‘The Names We Need to Understand in Fantastic Beasts.’

In the Harry Potter series a major theme Rowling explored was the tension between alienation and inclusion–characters who are excluded from a group and who work to be included or start their own group for including others.

In working my way through A Year with CS Lewis, the December 14 excerpt is from Lewis’s “The Inner Ring,” delivered at King’s College, University of London, on December 14, 1944. He makes this point, “… in all men’s lives at certain periods,… one of the most dominant elements is the desire to be inside the local Ring and the terror of being left outside….Victorian literature is full of characters who are hagridden by the desire to get inside that particular Ring which is, or was, called Society….” (italics mine). And he continues to develop this idea of yearning for one’s place amid one group or another. 

rh1It was the word “hagridden” that caught my eye because of the similarity to our Harry Potter friend, Rubeus Hagrid. (Many of you are already with me on where this is going.) Lewis’s context clues about its meaning give a broad understanding, so I went to the dictionary to find its adjective form. “Worried” and “tormented” are meanings for this word that dates to the late 1600s. Well now, Hagrid most certainly has that yearning for acceptance into the wizarding community, that Ring of his choosing, and suffers his share of torment for his halfblood status as wizard/giant and the semi-ostracism that accompanies it. As with her other choices of words, Rowling isn’t simply tossing it out there simply for the sound or exotic attraction.

fb8Now, in the Fantastic Beasts series, this theme of alienation and acceptance/inclusion continues. And names continue to play a part. During questioning by Percival Graves, viewers find out that Newt Scamander was expelled from Hogwarts for endangering wizarding lives with some allegedly dangerous beast or another. Outside the film, however, we are told that Dumbledore intervened to have the expulsion dropped.

Let’s look at the names in Fantastic Beasts to begin our exegesis of their literal meanings and how that fits into the named character’s role in the story. [Read more…]