The first beast to escape from Newt’s case, the Niffler is a mischievous, greedy critter obsessively drawn to stealing shiny objects whatever their monetary value, not caring whether they’re buttons, sink taps or pure gold coins, just as long as they’re sparkly.
‘The Niffler’s a cheeky, beautiful, odd, ferrety little guy who has got a very tricky relationship with Newt,’ says director David Yates. ‘Newt’s always chasing him everywhere.’
Agrees Eddie Redmayne, ‘The Niffler is the bane of my life. He’s one of my favourite beasts but he wreaks havoc. He’s a canny little fellow and an agile one. He has this rapacious appetite and will eat anything. But he loves shiny things. So anything that glints or sparkles is right up his street. Newt has a kind of love/hate relationship with him. The Niffler is such a character Newt can’t help but love him, despite the fact he is endlessly causing him trouble.’
Described in the Fantastic Beasts book as ‘British, fluffy, black and long-snouted’, the Niffler’s filmic look was conceived by concept artist Paul Catling as a cross between a duck-billed platypus and a mole, helping establish both its form and subsequent personality. ‘Looking at certain animals, like a platypus, you tap into a charm and mischief that already exists in their faces and absorb those elements into a design,’ says animation supervisor Pablo Grillo.
Once the Niffler’s design was fixed, it became about defining its movement, inspired in part by the speed, slapstick and energy of Warner Bros.’ Looney Tunes cartoons. ‘Creating some very entertaining, very energetic movement pieces,’ says Grillo. ‘The next phase was understanding an anatomy that would permit the action, permit the humour, putting it through its paces. And through that you start to develop the gags, the motions, that feed back into what the character needs to look like.’
Read more behind-the-scenes facts in The Case of Beasts: Explore the Film Wizardry of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, from HarperCollins.
Need more Nifflers in your life? Here's our case on why Nifflers should have their own spin-off.