The Harry Potter universe is finally returning to movie theaters with the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Harry and the gang won't be present for the film, because the movie serves as a distant prequel to the boy wizard's franchise and follows the adventures of Newt Scamander, a name readers of the Harry Potter books will recognize as the author of the fictional Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them textbook. The new film obviously takes place before the Harry Potter movies, but exactly when does Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them take place?
In case you couldn't tell by the fanciful dress of its characters, the movie takes place in the roaring 1920s. Specifically, it takes place in New York City in the year 1926. What was going on in 1926, you may be wondering? The year marked the birth of Marilyn Monroe, the death of Annie Oakley, and the exact midpoint of America's alcohol prohibition. Of course, none of these things figure much into the story of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (with the exception of some gangsters and a speakeasy), so why does the movie take place in 1926? And why in New York City rather than London or some other English locale?
Why not? The movie marks J.K. Rowling's debut as a screenwriter, and after writing seven Harry Potter books, you can't blame the author for wanting to expand the magical universe she's created in some new and different ways. Setting the story so far in the past also allows it to manage fan expectations better than a typical spinoff film would, because everyone knows going in that the events of the movie happened decades before their favorite characters from Harry Potter were even born. That may not have been Rowling's main motivation, but the '20s setting certainly lends itself to that purpose. Moving the action to New York City also allows for an expansion of the mythology Rowling has created, as fans can learn all about the history of wizardry in the United States and how it differs from England; especially with how it relates to the No-Majes (you know them as Muggles).
But despite their differences, Rowling hasn't ruled out the seeds for Harry Potter's story being sewn into the new franchise, which will consist of five films. The author (and now screenwriter) told the BBC's Iizo Mzimba that the new franchise is more related to Harry Potter than people know. "It's more preview-y I think than people realize," she said.
So to sum up, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them takes place in New York City back in 1926 — an ocean and a lifetime away from Harry Potter — but not so far that his spectacles can't still be seen if you look closely enough.
Images: Warner Bros. Pictures; Giphy