[The following contains light spoilers for The Last Of Us]
One of the most famous moments, probably THE famous moment, apart from the ending – from the original The last of us video game is when Ellie excitedly leads Joel, the player character, through an abandoned building so she can show him something cool. It turns out to be a herd of giraffes that had presumably escaped from a zoo in the many years since the zombie mushroom apocalypse, with one of the animals getting close enough to Joel and Ellie to all have a good time together. Then the game just lets you live in that moment a bit, enjoying a bit of beauty and peace in an otherwise gruesome world (something that modern video games are probably better at than any other storytelling medium, for the record).
people who played The last of us So waited a long time to see how and if the HBO adaptation would tackle the giraffe scene, and they finally got the answer in last night’s finale: They tackled it by… tackling it. They did the thing. But how they did it is the most interesting story, with Variety explaining that they actually used a real giraffe for the sequence. Hey, if you’re going to do a live-action version of a video game, you might as well go live-action.
Decorator John Paino explained that they could have made a full CG giraffe if they had the time, but they didn’t, so they worked with the Calgary Zoo to see if they could get real giraffes used to being fed by strangers. The zoo had an indoor enclosure with a balcony for the handlers, so the The last of us the team installed green screens and spent a month and a half working with the animals and “making sure the giraffes were comfortable”. (We really hope they were, because the good thing about using video game giraffes is that you don’t risk harming a real animal in any way.) Paino notes that it was “Hollywood magic” from visual effects supervisor Alex Wang, and was “probably the most complicated assembly of stage, set, and VFX location” he’s ever worked on. never worked.