It all started in December of 2018, with a sneak peek on social media from the author and screenwriter of the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them franchise, J.K. Rowling, who, after announcing the completion of her newest screenplay, posted the following phrase on her Twitter: “Rio de Janeiro had better brace itself.”
A month earlier, Rowling had already made a mention about 1930’s Rio de Janeiro in a tweet that led to curious speculation from Brazilian fans of the franchise: what did old Rio have to do with the creator of Harry Potter?
In the following weeks, it was discovered that the author had set her newest film creation in the marvelous city of Rio. The project’s production team, following her lead, began to plan trips to Brazil in order to film certain older areas of downtown Rio and use them as backgrounds for the 3rd episode film of the film series. And Brazil Production Services was the Brazilian production company chosen to head the production unit in Brazil of this international mega-blockbuster.
When Warner Brothers contacted BPS, the job at hand involved the mapping and scanning of dozens of buildings and areas in downtown Rio de Janeiro, where several buildings from the city’s colonial, imperial, and turn-of-the-century periods are located. This material would then be used by the film’s visual effects team to digitally reconstruct the city circa 1930 by way of computer graphics. The idea was to do something big, exploring the city’s beautiful backdrop that could transport the fans to a magical version of Rio de Janeiro of that time.
However, the coronavirus arrived in Brazil in March of 2020, causing the production plan and the script to undergo dramatic changes.
Actor Eddie Redmayne, in an interview, spoke about the final version of the film that was released worldwide in April 2022: “The whole section that is set in Bhutan was meant to be set in Brazil … we were meant to travel and go and shoot there. Then COVID hit.” The actor lamented the cancellation of Rio as a main location – and so did we at BPS…
And so, what was supposed to be an intricate shoot in Rio showcasing some of its most interesting architecture turned out to be a production with only one of these locations. This location was a quick shot at an iconic location in Rio, in which the magical community of the city celebrates the victory of Vicência, a character played by the Brazilian actress Maria Fernanda Cândido.
The location in question was none other than the big house at Parque Lage in Rio de Janeiro, a world-renowned location with that also features Rio’s famous statue of Christ the Redeemer in the background.
The beautiful house was scanned by the BPS team using LIDAR technology, which, according to the company’s Executive Manager Valéria Costa, is a tool widely used for building digital environments nowadays. The technology captures and measures properties of reflected light falling upon structures and, from that data, accurately documents a building’s 3D characteristics, providing the post-production team with high quality raw material to work on for the creation of digital backgrounds.
Anyone who blinks might miss the lightning-fast appearance of Rio in the final version of the film, but at least it gave a taste, however small, of Rio’s beautiful scenery. In short, after months of doubt as to whether or not Rio would be the setting for the film, the image below was what was left of the author’s original conception in the final form of the film.
Although disappointed with the shrinking of Brazil’s participation in the project, we look back on the experience philosophically affirming that one scene is better than no scene at all, right?