Not All The Magic In Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore Was Done With CGI

A brand new entry in the Wizarding World has arrived in the form of "Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore." It took a little longer than certain fans and certainly Warner Bros. would have liked, as the sequel to 2018's "The Crimes of Grindelwald" and the third entry in the "Harry Potter" spin-off series was delayed several times due to the pandemic. But it's here now and it is trying to bring the magic back. Part of what might make this particular entry even more magical is that not all of the actual magic playing out on screen is accomplished with CGI, as many viewers might assume. It turns out that certain bits of the cinematic magic were actually accomplished using practical, old-school methods.

Practical magic

Dating back to the earliest days of bringing the world of "Harry Potter" to life on the big screen, computer-generated visual effects were a big part of the equation — which obviously makes sense. This is about wizards and, in the cast of the "Fantastic Beasts" series, magical creatures, as well. So naturally, the latest entry in the franchise leans on that, too, making it feel visually in line with what has come before. But cast members Dan Fogler (as Jacob Kowalski) and Callum Turner (as Theseus Scamander) shed some light on some of the more grounded and practical methods that were used to create some of the magic this time around. Speaking with The AU Review, the actors revealed the following:

Dan Fogler: I come from theatre where you literally don't even have furniture, you just imagine everything. So I had that coming into this, and thank God they have the technology where it can be a lot less technical. It used to be that you'd have to look at the tennis ball, and if you didn't it's completely thrown out the window. But now, they put in the effect where you're looking. I learned that on the first movie. I can look wherever and they'll just paint it in there. That was such a huge relief.

Callum Turner: Also, the fun thing about these movies is that we have the technology and we have the people at the top of their game. They're brilliant at making these effects, but there's also the old-school movie magic. If a door is opening by itself as we are walking towards it, guaranteed there's a guy or girl on the floor pulling it open. It's all about that timing.

Dan Fogler: You know what's great? In the scene where Jacob has the wand and the hurricane is happening, that is a combination of me doing mime work from college and all these special effects. I love that. It's the simplest acting combined with the most technical of medium. It's pretty great.

This paints a pretty interesting picture of what it's like to work on a gigantic movie like this. Yes, actors are asked to use their imaginations a lot, but the days of having to stare at a tennis ball largely seem to be over. Things have evolved and actors now have a bit more freedom to perform in a bit less constrained manner. But Turner reminds us that some effects are still achieved practically, helping to immerse the actors into the narrative and hopefully giving the audience a sense of tangibility that would be missing otherwise.

A combination of CGI and practical is magical

After "Jurassic Park" helped to establish CGI as an effective method of making the impossible possible, it's not at all surprising that it quickly became an industry-standard practice for special effects. The only problem is, especially in the modern age when so much can be accomplished with a laptop and some simple software, it's easy to lean too heavily on computer-generated visual effects. The art of practicality is so often an afterthought, even in situations where it might actually make sense and look better to do it for real.

Much like "Jurassic Park" and many other successful blockbusters that came after, the real key seems to be blending CGI with practical effects to make the world feel as real as possible. The first "Iron Man" still looks great because a lot of those suits and effects were real, with CGI making a lot of the superhero business of it all possible. In the horror realm, "The Conjuring" movies have done a great job at mixing in pretty impressive practical effects work as well. And let us not forget "Mad Max: Fury Road" on the pure action side of things. It's not a guarantee, but the pattern often follows that if movies can successfully do both, the end result is all the better for it. So it's good to know that the Wizarding World is trying to achieve that mix, even on large-scale movies like this.

"Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore" is in theaters now.