WBHE Goes Beyond ‘Harry Potter’ Movies With Spell-Casting Smart Wand

Harry Potter movies continue to be among the best-selling catalog titles on DVD and Blu-ray Disc, both individually and as part of an eight-disc collection Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (WBHE) first released 11 years ago, just in time for holiday shopping.

This holiday season, WBHE has gone beyond discs with a motion-activated smart wand that through an app allows users to turn on the lights, speakers and TVs, as well as cast more than 50 spells from J.K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter stories to create a variety of light, sound and haptic effects through connected compatible smart home devices.  

The Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand retails for $149.99 in the United States and £149.00 in the UK. It is available in four versions, one of which is a limited edition reserved for Harry Potter fan club members. (The fan club wand has already sold out.)

“There’s a lot of excitement around the Harry Potter franchise and how to make it bigger and better,” said Mike Goslin, product lead for the Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand. “Obviously, it’s very strategic to do things in this universe for the company. The Magic Caster Wand is really our way of letting fans bring magic to life in the world around them. It’s the closest we can get to a real magic wand.”

Goslin is an entrepreneur and creative executive who has launched a number of award-winning products across games, toys, and theme parks. Prior to working for Warner Bros., Goslin for many years led innovation at The Walt Disney Co., where his credits include Star Wars: Jedi Challenges, a successful wearable augmented reality experience, and Disney’s Toontown Online, the first big multiplayer online game for kids and families. Goslin holds more than 100 patents covering AR, VR, Internet of Things and AI.

The wand, he said, is packed with the latest technology. “It has LED lights, it has a vibration motor, it has motion sensors, it has a touch sensor, and it has a battery with circuitry and a radio. The mobile device, either a phone or a tablet, is the hub, and we did that for a number of reasons. The No. 1 reason is simplicity. People already have smart devices, and it’s an easy way to update and have the wand evolve over time.”

The Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand is the latest entry in the Wizarding World, a group of products and experiences that in addition to the eight “Harry Potter” movies includes the three “Fantastic Beasts” films, the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child stage-play, several video and mobile games from Portkey Games, four theme park lands, exhibitions and other consumer products.

The Wizarding World also includes Harry Potter New York, Warner Bros. Studio Tour London — The Making of Harry Potter, Warner Bros. Studio Tour Tokyo, and the Platform 9 3⁄4 retail shops. 

Launch spells include Expelliarmus, Lumos, Incendio, Expecto Patronum, Colovaria, Cantis, Lumos Maxima, and Meteolojinx. The app will update automatically to reflect the latest spells when they become available. 

A phone or tablet with the free Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand app and registration for a free account is required to unlock the wand’s full functionality. The wand is compatible with a variety of smart home devices. Initial device compatibility includes iOS and Android smart phones and tablets; Apple TV, Fire TV and Android TV-enabled smart TVs; Phillips Hue and LIFX smart light bulbs, and most Bluetooth audio home devices including home-theater and standalone speakers. Additional smart home devices will be added as they become available.  

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Warner;
Fantasy;
Box Office $ 95.85 million;
$34.98; $39.98 Blu-ray; $49.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for some fantasy action/violence.
Stars Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Ezra Miller, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, William Nadylam, Callum Turner, Jessica Williams, Victoria Yeates, Mads Mikkelsen.

The third “Fantastic Beasts” movie will be of most interest to hardcore “Harry Potter” fans but won’t warrant much more than a casual glance to the majority of viewers.

Continuing the storylines from the first two “Fantastic Beasts” films, Secrets of Dumbledore finds the villainous Grindelwald scheming with corrupt forces within the hierarchy of the wizarding world in the early 1930s to clear his name of any crimes so he declare himself a candidate to lead the International Confederation of Wizards.

That Grindelwald is now played by Mads Mikkelsen highlights a couple of controversial casting choices that loom over the film. Mikkelsen is fine in the role, having replaced Johnny Depp, who was forced to step away due to legal troubles relating to his marriage to Amber Heard. Yet one of the central characters remains being played by Ezra Miller, whose own bizarre PR nightmares have been lighting up entertainment news channels as of late.

Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), knowing Grindelwald’s plan to declare war against the Muggles, the non-magical side of humanity, recruits a team led by franchise regulars such as Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), his brother Theseus (Callum Turner), and their Muggle pal Jacob (Dan Fogler) to prevent his election. Dumbledore himself cannot move against Grindelwald directly since the two were once lovers who made a blood pact to prevent one from attacking the other.

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Given the worldwide stakes and wizarding politics involved just raises more questions about why these “Potter” prequels are still focused on Newt and his circle of friends instead of, say, Dumbledore himself. But since they continue to carry the “Fantastic Beasts” title, Newt’s adventures they shall remain, and the screenplay (from “Potter” creator J.K. Rowling herself), endeavors to populate the screen with as many “fantastic beasts” as it can. Central to the storyline this time is a mythical Chinese deer-like creature called a qilin (pronounced like “chillin’) that can peer into a person’s soul and detect their goodness. Grindelwald wants to capture one that he can manipulate into convincing the world’s magic users that he is most worthy to rule them.

This then makes Newt, as the world’s leading magizoologist, an ideal choice for uncovering Grindelwald’s plan. Naturally, he spends most of his time trying to free his brother from a German magic-prison, while Dumbledore confronts Credence (Ezra Miller) about his true heritage as a member of the Dumbledore family.

The new creatures for the film are inventive and realized with some dazzling visual effects, but at this point it seems like these films just conjure up random creatures to give them whatever abilities are needed to either move the plot along or create a funny scene.

While Rowling allegedly had five of these prequel movies planned, this third one wraps up enough of the ongoing storylines just in case diminishing box office returns don’t convince the studio to move ahead with the final two.

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The Blu-ray includes five deleted scenes totaling just over seven minutes, mostly offering more world-building but not necessary for the plot.

The bulk of the extras are nearly an hour of behind-the-scenes featurettes, consisting of 10 different videos that might do a better job of explaining what is happening in the movie than the movie does on its own.

The seven-minute “Dumbledore Through the Ages” looks at the character’s history throughout the “Wizarding World” films, while the eight-and-a-half-minute “The Dumbledore Family Tree” examines Dumbledore lineage, and the four-minute “A Dumbledore Duel” looks at the making of a battle between Albus and Credence.

The five-minute “Newt in the Wild” looks at the film finding ways to return the character to his roots of studying and helping magical creatures, while the six-and-a-half-minute “Even More Fantastic Beasts” looks at how the creatures in the film were brought to life.

“The German Ministry of Magic” is a five-minute featurette about the production design for a key location in the film, while the five-minute “The Candidates’ Dinner” looks at the filming of a sequence there, while the five-minute “Erkstag Jailbreak” focuses on the prison set.

The six-minute “The Magic of Hogwarts” offers the cast and filmmakers a chance to opine on the chance to revisit the iconic Hogwarts school for wizards as seen in the other films.

Finally, the six-minute “Battle in Bhutan” focuses on crafting the climactic confrontation between all the characters.

On the fun side, “Magical or Muggle” is a four-and-a-half-minute game in which the cast members get to guess if a nonsensical term refers to something magical or not.

Rounding out the extras is “The Secrets of ‘Cursed Child,’” a five-minute promotional featurette about the “Harry Potter” stage production that serves as a sequel to the books and is the movie adaptation most “Potter” fans want at this point, rather than more “Fantastic Beasts” installments.

In the 4K combo pack, all the extras are on the regular Blu-ray, not the UHD disc.