Sunday, October 16, 2016

Fantastic Beasts Fan Event (and Where to Find Us)

You're probably well aware by now by my posts about the regular visits to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter, and my numerous posts about how and why a Harry Potter RPG would be a great thing, that the wife and I may be a little obsessed with JK Rowling's Wizarding World.

Just because you're allowed to do magic now doesn't mean you can whip your wands out for every tiny thing!
(Me and Debs in the queue - any excuse to wear the Hogwarts robes)

Press interviews the group at the
front of the queue
Last week we were lucky enough to be invited to the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them "Fan Event" in London, at the Cineworld Empire in Leicester Square. It was one of those things that they advertise on the film's social media pages - they get you to sign up for updates and you never really expect to get tickets. But, miracle of miracles, we had the email saying we had tickets reserved for us, and we hurriedly set about booking the necessary time off of work to make a quick trip to London.

We got there in plenty of time, but considering the event we were surprised to be about fifth in the queue with only a couple of hours to waste before they started letting in. Security was high, but the press presence was even higher, with them targeting all those who had made an effort to dress up for the night (as suggested on the invitation). We were interviewed by Sky News Germany, a website for Japan, and Good Morning Britain where our bemused and startled mugs graced the TV screens across the country the following morning.

Then, the doors opened and we were let in. Checking our names off of a list, we were given our tickets and had a UV mark made on our hands. Then it was into the entranceway to take in the cool decorations they'd done. Astounding considering they weren't even showing the film, just a few bits of it.

In the main hall, we handed our tickets over to get a specially produced Newt wand, and an even more special silver foil bag. That would be an essential item later... the drinks stands had been decorated with wanted posters of the cast, and there was a couple of booths where you could wave a wand and make a video of yourself doing magic effects.

Also on display were the costumes as worn by the cast for the film. We had just enough time to take in the sights before the doors opened to the auditorium and we were let in. A quick check of the UV marks on our hands, and double checking we had a silver bag each, and we were let into Cineworld's IMAX screen. 

Costumes as worn by the cast!
Once inside there was the decision of where to sit. We knew we were there to see footage from the film, but that was purely secondary. I mean, let's face it - we're going to see the film when it comes out anyway. Possibly more than once. No. The important thing is getting to sit at the front to get a good view for the interviews with the actors. 

We managed to get seats on the front row, to the side. It was only when we really settled into our seats and looked around we noticed that we were near the doors where the cast would emerge and walk to the stage for the event! 

With the audience settled, a guy came out to warm up the audience, to get them suitably worked up into a state of complete fan-frenzy. He got everyone cheering, ran around the audience doing some quiz questions to give away tickets for the London premiere, and hosted the fancy dress competition to determine who would win the big bluray boxed set of the Harry Potter movies. 

Then our real host, Edith Bowman, came out and took to the stage. She explained that it was a worldwide fan event, and the screens would be syncing up with audiences worldwide and live on Facebook. 

You can see the whole video online here -

As you can see from that, the main cast of the film were in London on stage (Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterson, Alison Sudol and Dan Fogler) along with director David Yates and producer David Heyman. They were joined via video from LA by Colin Farrell and Jon Voight.

They answered questions, and it really came across that everyone involved really got very into their characters and loved being part of the wizarding world. Despite the huge names involved, they just seemed to enjoy their time on the film, and the meaning of their characters, and the heart behind the story. I've been to a number of press conferences and you can tell when someone's faking it, or a bit cheesed off with having to do the press junkets. None of that was apparent here. It bodes very well for the franchise.

Then, of course, was the big moment when they brought out the extra chair. Debs was about five feet away from where JK Rowling was standing waiting to take to the stage. I'm surprised she didn't just jump over the railing and hug her right then.

JK Rowling took to the stage, and announced that Fantastic Beasts wouldn't be a trilogy as originally thought, and that it would be five films. The audience went nuts. 

Then the celebs left, the live feed ended, the press cameras were taken away and we were asked to put our phones in those special silver bags, to ensure we didn't video any of what was about to be shown. Security stood at the front of the cinema with nightvision goggles to try to catch any acts of piracy, and they screened the first ten minutes of the film.

I won't go into many details, but I will say that it starts just like a Harry Potter movie, with the music, the dark clouds, the camera flying through the logo. Then, with an epic explosion of magic, we see Gellert Grindelwald, one of the most dangerous dark wizards of all time, defeat a group of wizards. Headlines from newspapers whiz by before we join Newt Scamander...

Epic stuff. And an interesting tie into the history behind Harry Potter - events covered in the books but not put on film. 
The T-shirt and wand we had in the goodie bags!

The ten minutes was over way too fast (everyone's going to want a toy Niffler) and we started to shuffle out of the screen. 

We were collared by some of the publicity people for the film and they recorded our reactions for possible use in some advertising, then headed over to the exit where they gave us all goodie bags that contained our tickets again (so we could keep them as a memento), a poster and a t-shirt (far too small for my lardy arse, but a very cool t-shirt all the same). 

The back of the t-shirt, the ticket and the free bag of popcorn everyone got!

Very much looking forward to the movie, and had a real blast at the fan event!

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