Book Review: The Case of Beasts: Explore the Film Wizardry of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

One of the most beloved costumes to come out of the recent Harry Potter universe is Newt Scamander from Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. Doesn’t everyone want to don his peacock blue suit and leather suitcase that holds all of his magical creatures? When I saw The Case of Beasts: Explore the Film Wizardry by Mark Salisbury designed with his trusty case in mind, I knew I had to check it out!

When a new Harry Potter movie is created, amazing companion books are released at the same time so fans can get a deeper look into the movie. The Case of Beasts is one of several guides that came out to explore Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. Taking a deeper look behind the scenes, with interviews from the cast and crew, fans can get a bigger idea of just what a beast it was to bring 1920s New York to life on the big screen.

Did you know the Fantastic Beasts set on Leavesden Studios is the biggest set of the Harry Potter
world? Or what parts of New York City’s history inspired J.K. Rowling to choose the Woolworth building for the MACUSA headquarters? or how costume designer Colleen Atwood created her Academy Award winning wardrobe for Newt, Tina, and Graves? This book is filled with a lot of interesting tidbits about the behind-the-scenes.

Each chapter focuses on different characters, the production design, the ambition and process of how people came together to give the movie its adventurous look and feel. Almost every aspect of the movie is explored, providing insight into how the actors developed their characters – like Eddie Redmayne going to zoos to study animals and their trainers – to how the creatures themselves were created.

If there’s one magical quality that makes the wizarding world feel like a true place beyond our imaginations, it’s the extraordinary graphic design by MinaLima, who created the look of this book. Once again, they pull out all of the stops to bring the essence of the 1920s to fans with their props used in the movies. Included in the book are recreations of MACUSA ID Card, New Salem Philanthropic Society pamphlet, Newt and Tina Wanted posters - to name a few. The props make this book worth it to own. MinaLima is so gracious to be essentially giving away their graphics from these film guides, and it inspires you to check out more of their work and official workspace in London to see more pieces in person.

As much as I really like this companion book, I felt excited to watch the movie again and notice new details but was a little underwhelmed by the book itself. Quotes from the actors and director can become a little repetitive, and maybe as an effort to not spoil future installments, there didn't seem to be as much unique information about the characters as there was about the production design. I would've loved to have learned a lot more about Tina, Queenie, Jacob, the Barebone family, etc.

And most surprisingly, the last chapter of the book is about the creatures like niffler and demiguise, but only contains a page or less for each. Given the book's title, it does make readers think this might focus more on Newt's critters as well or even more than other aspects of the movie. Maybe I was expecting a lot more input about the animals and what went into design them, but there just wasn't a whole lot.

The briefcase design is what drew me to the book in the first place. Since Fantastic Beasts is set in the 1920s, and I’ve been looking for wizarding inspiration from that era, this was a really nice find. The author goes into simple but interesting enough detail about how the production was created and costume design. The photographs of the sets and all of the amazing artwork designed by MinaLima is absolutely stunning. The Case of Beasts contains is informative and visually impressive enough to be in anyone's Harry Potter collection, but also leaves a little bit to be desired.

Rating: ★★☆

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