Creating the Zombie Polar Bear Attack in Game of Thrones
Back in late August, we shared this behind-the-scenes featurette that detailed the wild episode, “Beyond the Wall,” that included not only the massive battle between Jon and his guys and the Night King, but also that zombie polar bear attack. Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have been trying to get the zombie polar bear into a episode for years. Once they came to the script for “Beyond the Wall,” they realized they had the perfect opportunity to make this dream a reality. Now, HBO has released a new edition of “The Game Revealed,” a detailed look at the making of season 7, which shows just how they created the zombie polar bear, which included a mash-up of practical effects, pyrotechnics, stunt work and green-screen magic.
“Beyond the Wall” was directed by Alan Taylor (Thor: Dark World), a man with plenty of experience designing massive battle sequences and dealing with both practical and special effects. “Beyond the Wall” was very much like a feature film; it required a vast amount of visual effects, stunts, pyrotechnics, and green-screen work in order to pull off an episode that had so many different players involved, from the army of the dead to huge fight sequences. A large portin of the episode was filmed on location in Iceland, and while “Beyond the Wall” benefited greatly from the country’s sensational natural beauty, the zombie polar bear, a hybrid practical and digital creation, was largely created in GoT HQ— Belfast, Northern Ireland.
In the episode, once Jon Snow, Tormund, the Hound and the rest of the group left Eastwatch, they found themselves in the hinterlands beyond the wall in their attempt to snatch a wight to bring back to King’s Landing. The first horror they faced was the zombie polar bear, in a scene that the creators described as “very much like a shark attack.”
Taylor, VFX supervisor Joe Bauer, Jon snow himself, Kit Harington, stunt coordinator Rowley Irlam, and the Hound actor Rory McCann all discuss the approach to creating this scene. The zombie polar bear attack had major implications for the show, ending one character’s life (RIP, Thoros of Myr), reminding viewers of the Hound’s fear of fire, and proved that the ranks of the undead are not only human, but animal, giant, and, of course, now dragon.