It may not have triumphed at last night’s Bafta Film Awards, but it’s safe to say that Harry Potter prequel/spin-off Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was a feast for the eyes, especially when it came to the weird and wonderful magical creatures created by the skilled visual effects artists working behind-the-scenes.
And now, one such artist has lifted the lid on some of the work they put into creating the magizoological world of Newt Scamander and friends – and more specifically, the magical creatures they created that never actually saw the light of day.
“We designed up to about 200 creatures,” Framestore creative director of film Christian Manz told the crowd at London’s VFX festival last week. “Out of the book, from the script. Stuff we made up.”
However, the moviemakers were keen to avoid adding any creatures who didn’t have a unique feature to offer the story, as Manz went on to explain.
“Story is important in moviemaking, and we didn’t want a creature there for its own sake,” he said. “And in this scene, you’d see creatures once. So we wanted everything to have a gag, something that would make you remember it.”
Scrapped ideas included a tree-forming lizard, which saw hundreds of small reptiles forming and reforming large plant-like structures (an idea tried out at the visual effects stage) and a deceptively good-looking fish, which actually held a secret…
“We came up with this idea for a fish that looked like a beautiful fish – and then it leapt out of the water and you realise it’s a bit of a crap-looking fish, but surrounded by beautiful fish that are making it look like a big one,” Manz recalled.
However, while some creatures were cut by the production team, there was another important voice who suggested that one or two creatures shouldn’t make the finished movie – Harry Potter author and Fantastic Beasts screenwriter JK Rowling, who vetoed one particular idea that would give icebergs a magical explanation.
“The ice turtle – another thing of trying to explain away natural things as, maybe that is hidden under there,” Manz told the crowd.
“But as it says here – I think that was Jo Rowling thought film 3 maybe, but it’s a bit too much for Newt. Too huge a scale for the sort of film we’re doing."
He concluded: "We did this for lots of stuff that wasn’t in the film. But as David [Yates, the director] was saying to me only two days ago, the best ideas will out in the end. They were better ideas."
Oh well – looks like we’ll just have to keep our eyes peeled for the ice turtles and any of these other scrapped creatures in future Fantastic Beasts films to come, and try not to think too hard about what this all means for the plot of Titanic.
Knowing Jack and Rose were accidentally offed by a magic turtle doesn’t have QUITE the same emotional impact, after all…
Christian Manz was speaking at The VFX Festival run by Escape Studios. The company teaches students the art of film-making and specifically VFX/animation.