You may think you’ve met (or at least heard mention of) every character worth knowing in Westeros, but there may be at least one character whom you’ve never even stopped to consider—and he could be the most important manipulator of all.
It’s impossible to hear the opening blare of the Game of Thrones title sequence without envisioning a world of wood-and-cog cities rising out of a clockwork map showing Westeros and beyond. As EW learned while previewing the new season’s credits sequence, there’s a whole backstory about a possible man behind the map.
“Imagine that somewhere in Westeros, there’s a mad monk in a tower who actually has created a map of the world,” says producer Greg Spence, recounting title designer Angus Wall’s original pitch for the Thrones title sequence. “He keeps track of where everything is happening and what’s going on on that map. We don’t know who or where this little odd person is who makes all these little automatons, but there’s a very Leonardo da Vinci thing to the original concept. It’s a weird little working machine.”
Wall and his team at design studio Elastic invented the backstory for this disquisitive monk. Its inception helped get the tricky titles off the ground, shaping them into the familiar sequence we know today. Wall explains: “I always have to invent a story behind stuff. The story we talked about was this group of mad monks who built this model of the universe that was constantly updating, almost like a very elaborate Risk board game.” The monks would theoretically meet to discuss updates on the goings-on of Westeros, as the map’s markers would “constantly change and show this group of monks what was happening everywhere.”
The approach is more than just theory—it’s helped dictate the work of the animators, helmed by Elastic’s Head of CG, Kirk Shintani. “It defined our language,” says Shintani. “That idea carried over into, well, if these monks were actually building this stuff, what would they have to actually build it? So we tried to stay away from modern technology and wanted to ground it. That was a way for us to make sure we were on point with our design.”
Ever notice how the map’s water is made of cloth? The pop-up cities made of handcrafted wood? The Wall vaguely ice-related or something? The materials that make up the clockwork locations are all actual materials that might be found in the real places themselves. Very clever, monks. Perhaps too clever.