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J.K. Rowling’s plan for ‘Potter’-inspired film franchise thrills diehard fans
First Published Sep 17 2013 12:40 pm • Last Updated Sep 17 2013 12:40 pm

Four years after publishing what was to be the last of the Harry Potter anthology, J.K. Rowling is bringing wizardry to America. Rowling surprised fans last week by announcing that she will be drafting a screenplay for a new wizarding world taken from her fictitious encyclopedia "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," which was published in 2001. Rowling said she will use New York City as a setting for the movie, which is expected to be the first in a series.

"Although it will be set in the worldwide community of witches and wizards where I was so happy for 17 years, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is neither a prequel nor a sequel to the Harry Potter series, but an extension of the wizarding world," Rowling said in a statement. "The laws and customs of the hidden magical society will be familiar to anyone who has read the Harry Potter books or seen the films, but Newt’s story will start in New York, 70 years before Harry’s gets underway."

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The series will focus on the book’s supposed author, Newt Scamander, who diligent fans know was mentioned in the series’ first book. And who also has the greatest name . . . ever?

Rowling diehards the world over are excited to see what comes of Scamander’s New York-set wizardry, so we talked to a few fans, asking them to elaborate on their thoughts and hopes for the series.

"It’s the best news for Harry Potter fans. It’s like welcome back to 2001!" said Melissa Anelli, author of "Harry, A History." "We think the books are done, the movies are done, we entered this calm coasting of Harry Potter phenomenon, but then she comes out with this!"

"This is the first time we had social media to squee about a new Harry Potter happening," said Heidi Tandy, a longtime Potter fan at FictionAlley.org. "I was on LiveJournal in 2003 when they announced Book 5. To be able to get on Twitter and get it trending now was just joyful."

To some, the decision to use New York as a backdrop seems like a reward to devoted American fans.

"I think people have always wanted to know about the wizards in North America. We loved England and Scotland, but when there were mentions of the Salem trials in the books, I feel like our hearts jumped and we wanted to feel like a part of that world," Tandy said.

"I’m born and raised in New York City, and nothing could make me happier," Anelli said. "It’s going to be earlier, like maybe the 1920s, so I’m kind of hoping it’s in that glamorous Jazz Age with wizards in flapper robes, which is very on trend."

"I’m really pumped. None of her stories, movies, anything had to do with America, so we feel like we’re a part of the story, and I feel like she did it for her fans over here," said Steve Petrick, who was named "America’s Biggest Harry Potter Fan" by Moviefone in 2010.

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Fans are seeing Rowling’s amphibian Scamander as an intriguing person with whom to begin a new series of adventures.

"I’m interested to see him as a character, because you can tell that she has a special affection for him," Petrick said.

"I feel like he could be like a wizarding Indiana Jones, like the wizarding Steve Irwin," a.k.a. the Crocodile Hunter, Anelli said.

With this new installation, fans can also hope for a cameo by a very special and much-loved headmaster.

"I would be over the moon and just out of my mind if Dumbledore showed up," Petrick said. "Even if he popped up in the side of the screen and gave a thumbs up, that would be worth it."

The decision caught just about everyone off guard, but what fans agreed upon is that they would be supporting Rowling on every endeavor.

"Honestly, there is nothing in my life that hasn’t been influenced by what she’s done and what I’ve learned through the books," Tandy said. "For me, she can do no wrong."

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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