Westeros, writ small
In miniature and at warp speed, the history of Game of Thrones — the bloody battles, the shifts in power, the rise and fall of houses — is depicted in the series’ title sequence and its three-dimensional map of the Seven Kingdoms. In advance of the eighth and final season of HBO’s epic fantasy (premiering April 14), let’s take a closer look.
The original idea
The map was first developed for the pilot, but with the intention of using it for interstitials, which would keep the audience clear on where the action was taking place. “It broke up the narrative in the most horrible way,” title designer Angus Wall tells EW. “But we realized there was a need to tell the geography of the world — in the same way that a legend would for a book. That became the title sequence.”
The next dilemma was how to showcase it in its entirety; the choice to situate the map within a sphere came down to pragmatics. “We don’t have to worry about what’s outside of the world because we’re always going to be inside the world,” Wall explains. “It’s much easier to orient yourself spatially if you can see where you’re going.” Or, put more concisely: “It’s boring to have flat worlds.” (Pictured here: a flat concept.)
The long game
Yet Game of Thrones’ epic titles are part of the series’ evolution. Wall says he wanted to make the map interactive — “like the game of Risk.” (How very appropriate.)
Turn toward the smoky
Thus changes were implemented in step with the series — most notably, the burning of Winterfell, represented by smoky rubble. Many fans cheered, meanwhile, when the Starks’ direwolf sigil was revived in the titles for the season 6 finale, a triumphant marking of Ramsay Bolton’s defeat.
As the show went on, the map expanded, making the design team’s job more difficult. “The biggest debate is always what detail to leave in and what detail to leave out,” Wall says. “Would we have loved to show the movement of every army? Yes. But it’s an incredible amount of work just to create different locations and different versions of each location.”
Expanding and contracting
Winterfell and King’s Landing were pared down to their largest structures; some more minor locations were left out. But as the action has coalesced — building toward the final season’s great climax — the designs have become more intricate. Wall thinks viewers don’t even notice. (Okay, but have you met these fans?)
“The technology that we’ve used to create this has changed so radically over the course of all these seasons, so there are constant little technical upgrades that happen every season…. The definition has improved so much,” he reveals. As to what this means for season 8, Wall’s lips are sealed: “I can’t wait for people to see it.”
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