Angus Wall of the company Elastic got Emmy nominations for Big Love’s and Rome’s title design and a win for Carnivale, plus a Social Network editing Oscar. But what’s hotter now is his genius opening title sequence for HBO’s critical smash Game of Thrones, currently screening on M-Net on Mondays at 9.30pm.
HBO wanted something like the map that begins books like The Lord of the Rings.
“We wanted to do something different from the standard tropes for fantasy maps,” Angus said. “So we came up with the idea of a world inside a sphere.”
The sphere idea came from a 1960s sci-fi space station with terrain inside – yet it had to look non-futuristic, to evoke the Middle Earth-ish setting of George RR Martin’s book.
“It had to look like it was made in that time, so we immediately referenced Leonardo da Vinci’s machines,” says Angus. “We wanted it to look like a real place photographed with a real camera.”
The computer-illusion “camera” swoops from kingdom to kingdom, focusing on the family crest that sits atop each place – the “sigil”. “The sigil becomes the main cog that triggers the animation”– the Da Vinci device, full of interlocking cogs. “The model of the place emerges out of the floor of the map and comes to life.”
Like the show itself, the title sequence strives for realism in a fantasy setting.
“In the shadowed areas beneath the surface of the map, there are cogs in there.
“If you look carefully, you’ll see they’re all working with the cogs that are exposed above the surface.”
And is this cog-filled Da Vinci war engine a metaphor for the many hidden, interlocking machinations of the show’s families fighting for the throne – the houses of Lannister, Baratheon and Stark?
“Absolutely,” says Angus. “And the map reflects the attitude of each place. Winterfell is a lot more rustic. And each place has its own climate.
“Southern Westeros is more temperate. To the east, Essos is almost Mediterranean. As you go north, Winterfell gets harsher, and further north, the Wall is a continent-wide wall of ice.”
If you watch the title sequence closely, you’ll see the feuding families’ back story told in pictures.
“In the middle of the sphere there’s the sun, and in the middle of the sun there are bands around it, relief sculptures on an astrolabe which tell the legend of the land,” explains Angus. “We cut to those three times in the title sequence, so you actually see a history of Westeros and Essos.
“The third time we see all the animals (representing) the different houses bowing down to the Baratheon stag, which brings us to the present, where there’s a Baratheon king (played by Mark Addy).”
Got that? George RR Martin’s 15 million readers are likelier to get it than casual viewers. Angus is bowing down to them.
“We wanted to be faithful to the book because we knew there would be a large fan base that will be looking at this very carefully,” says Angus.
In The New Yorker, Laura Miller writes that angry Martin fans call themselves “GRRuMblers” and Martin tells her: “If I f*** it up… they’ll come after me with pitchforks and torches.”
Even if you’re a peaceable newcomer to Westeros carrying no torch for Martin, Angus thinks the title credits will help you get oriented.
“It’s not vital that the audience understands every detail at first. But you have a sense that there is an internal logic.
“It’s one of the most fun projects I’ve ever worked on.” – Hollywood Reporter