New ‘The Game Revealed’ clip brings a polar bear back to life

Raising a polar bear from the dead presents it own unique challenges, as explained in this week's episode of HBO's behind-the-scenes show "The Game Revealed."

Raising a polar bear from the dead presents it own unique challenges, as explained in this week’s episode of HBO’s behind-the-scenes show “The Game Revealed.”

Although the visual effects team hated the idea from top to bottom of a zombie polar bear, Game of Thrones creators and showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss had been yearning for one for years, grueling process be damned — and they got their wish in episode 6 of Season 7, “Beyond the Wall.” This week’s episode of The Game Revealed, HBO’s show about the behind-the-scenes magic of Thrones, delves into the process and visual effects work involved in bringing the massive bear to life — er, back to life?

The clip is riveting, showing the layers of computer-generated effects that were added to the real-life work done by the actors and stuntmen. It adds up to the harrowing scene of low visibility and the threat of something that can’t quite be seen, which visual effects supervisor Joe Bauer calls “very much like a shark attack.”

However, while the end result on the screen was a snarling, undead, half-rotted polar bear tearing into the group that had ventured beyond the Wall, the practical aspects of filming were less than terrifying.

Kit Harington (Jon Snow) called the process “weird,” since the scene was filmed inside of what amounted to a gigantic green-screen box and there was little sense of direction. And everyone’s favorite Hound (Rory McCann) suggested it was hard to feel the proper sort of motivation for fear, considering the method that was used to create the “bear” while filming.

“I had people going all, ‘When I’ll come toward you, I’m a bear,’ ” McCann said of the stuntman who dressed in a green-screen suit and held a bear-shaped head on two poles. ” ‘No you’re not. Your name’s Toby.’ It was pretty weird, to be honest.”

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    1. The showrunners have wanted to include a wight polar bear since the Battle at the Fist of the First Men, just as it was in A Storm of Swords. I’m happy they finally got their wish! After Hardhome and the Frozen Lake, that off-screen “battle” in 3×01 feels even more insufficient than it already did back in the day.

      I get that they didn’t want to go the cheap way out, but personally I’d have been fine with a lesser version, rather than nothing. The same goes for the Battle on the Green Fork, for which we could have followed Tyrion’s POV exclusively, with all the chaos all around him. That could’ve been achieved with a dozen extras instead of hundreds. Hell, they could’ve knocked him out early in the battle to avoid showing it in its entirety, just as they did in the aired episode, but during the battle, not before it. As for the Fist, I would imagine it’d be even easier to mask a low budget, with the snowstorm. Again, they could have done something not unlike what they did, following Sam’s POV, except taking it just a tad further, seeing more than a single wight, perhaps with silhouettes of Crows and Wights fighting in the background. With no closeups, they didn’t even need more elaborate wight makeup! That was a missed opportunity.

      But what do I know? I’m sure they considered this and found it wasn’t worth it. I just hope their decision not to show these battles at all was made because the budget really was so tight that not even reduced versions could be achieved, and not because they thought not showing them would be better than showing a lesser version than the one they or GRRM imagined. Personally, I’d be fine with the former; if it really couldn’t have been done, that’s it. But if it was about perfectionism… cutting the battles entirely felt less organic, narratively, than doing them cheaply would have, in my opinion, especially if there is a larger battle that’s implied to be going on around Tyrion and then Sam.

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    2. Its funny how people criticize the zombie bear without realizing it is from the books and then when told its from the books its …. crickets

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    3. The zombie bear was good – the special effects in this ep were spectacular. The acting and directing were great. The dialogue was generally very good. It’s just the plot line felt hurried and wedged (and sort of illogical). This episode is a very strange one for me as I feel it should be a favorite, but it ends up short. I was hoping to like it more on rewatch but nah.

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    4. Luka Nieto,
      I’m guessing that those battles and skirmishes are on their list of things they would like to be able to do over, simply because they chose to or had to limit them.

      The fight at the Fist is a questionable one. There was a large group of wights and several Walkers against a rather small NW force. How did they ‘win’ and/or survive when they didn’t do it by fleeing? Coincidentally, the other day I was talking to someone that just recently finished a binge watch of the series. One of the things that came up is how Sam wasn’t killed sitting by that rock and did the WW just decide to leave the fight after several Crows had been killed. All I could suggest is that while they wanted to have the encounter, perhaps they couldn’t figure out how to show them believably driving off the Walkers. I’m sure they wouldn’t want to at that point either as it would have reduced their danger to show them being ‘defeated’ by random Crows fighting without the use of Valyrian steel or dragonglass. It was effectively tension-filled having a limited and unseen skirmish. They could have shown more but I think they still would have had to cut it short of conclusion. *shrug*
      ———-
      Anyway… the polar bear was pretty cool. To me it would have been cooler to have Ghost there to fight it but I guess with how difficult it already was that was out of the question.

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    5. Clob,

      Maybe the episode could’ve demonstrated the advantageous position the Night’s Watch had at the top of the Fist, by showing them throwing the wights trying to climb up. Of course, that sounds much more expensive. I don’t recall how any of the Night’s Watch managed to survive in ASOS, but I imagine it must have had something to do with their defensive advantage. And with the fire, of course, but at least they did show that in the show.

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    6. OK, I’ll be the dissenter here 😀

      I didn’t like the zombie polar bear scene. The bear just looked so fake and what exactly did it achieve for the story? That the White Walkers can wightify dead animals? But we already knew that. WWs ride undead horses, FFS! That conditions beyond the Wall can be harsh and challenging? We already knew that. That Sandor is still freaked out by fire? We already knew that. That dragonglass can destroy wights? We already knew that. And so on. Though maybe it was significant that the wight polar bear wasn’t as instantly flammable and destroyed as all other wights hitherto. 😉

      In the books, there’s a wight polar bear at the Fist of the First Men, so probably also in the future if GRRM ever publishes the last books, and D&D have been wanting one for years, and now they could indulge.

      Maybe storywise the most important result is that rezzie-automat Thoros died, so now Beric (and Jon) is on his last life.

      I dunno. For me that scene was clumsy and rather pointless. A polar bear? “No you’re not, you’re Toby!”

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    7. The wight polar bear didn’t work for me, either. Yes it looked very fake to me, but even if it didn’t the whole thing seemed unnecessary. It felt out of place for that episode and the whole attack sequence just seemed a little silly. I’d much rather have seen Ghost than that scene. They could have easily killed off Thoros with the wight army attack and no polar bear. I’d rather they left him alive, but dying against the wight army would have been much more believable to me.

      Thumbs down on the zombie PB…final answer.

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    8. Ever since I first saw the ‘Toby’ comment by Rory a few months back, I wished we could vote for alternate “best quotes” outside of the show. 😂

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    9. Luka Nieto,

      I don’t recall how any of the Night’s Watch managed to survive in ASOS, but I imagine it must have had something to do with their defensive advantage.

      In the books, they retreated, and only about half of the ones that retreated survived mainly b/c they had a few horses among them. The book gets really, really slow in the immediate aftermath of the battle going over every tiny detail of Sam’s suffering in the snow. All of the defenses they set up to fight wildlings weren’t any use against wights, though at one point they shoot fire arrows at them, which may have been what bought them some time. But on the whole, they completely lost at the Fist.

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    10. Pigeon:
      Ever since I first saw the ‘Toby’ comment by Rory a few months back, I wished we could vote for alternate “best quotes” outside of the show. 😂

      Yes! That was my reaction too:

      Stuntman: “When I’ll come toward you, I’m a bear.”

      Rory McCann: ”No you’re not. Your name’s Toby,”

      Add a few potshots like “Now f*ck off, you dumb c*nt”, and it could be Sandor talking.

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    11. Clob,

      “One of the things that came up is how Sam wasn’t killed sitting by that rock…”
      —————–

      I thought the mounted WW in the loincloth looked right at Sam, then turned around and kept going. I assumed the WW are like The Borg in Star Trek: The Next Generation: a lone human who’s not perceived as a threat can be ignored. Or, like in the very first segment of the series premiere, the WWs get their jollies leaving one terrified survivor behind.

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    12. Clob,

      PS: Out of curiosity, I’ve wondered why some WWs are only dressed in a loincloth, while others (eg at Hardhome) were stylishly dressed in leather pants, jacket and boots. If the cold doesn’t affect them, then why not just opt for the casual beachwear?

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    13. The wight polar bear was pointless self-indulgence, the time and funds for which could’ve been better spent elsewhere, in my opinion.

      We had a reanimated dragon by the end of the episode. We really didn’t need a zombie polar bear in the meantime just to kill a few unnamed Wildlings and mortally wound Thoros, who could have been killed off a million different ways.

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    14. Ten Bears:
      Clob,

      PS: Out of curiosity, I’ve wondered why some WWs are only dressed in a loincloth, while others (eg at Hardhome) were stylishly dressed in leather pants, jacket and boots. If the cold doesn’t affect them, then why not just opt for the casual beachwear?

      Status, I would imagine. The Night King has the fanciest dress, and those around him come close.

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    15. Didn’t mind the polar bear, but you know what I really like? Direwolves. I think they might have one or two of those in the books, as well.

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    16. Ginevra:
      Didn’t mind the polar bear, but you know what I really like?Direwolves.I think they might have one or two of those in the books, as well.

      I was trying to bring them up too without making it too obvious. 😛 How much cooler would have been if Ghost had charged in and tore the polar bear to shreds rather than Jorah simply stabbing it with dragonglass? Of course if they had put Ghost in that scene then they would have had to have him with them in the big fight, which probably would have led to the wight killing him.

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    17. Ramsay’s 20th Good Man,

      The wight polar bear was pointless self-indulgence

      Well, we were reminded of Sandor’s deathly fear of fire, it set up Thoros to risk (and ultimately lose) his life defending the man who’d never had a good word for him, and it contrasted with how Sandor pulled it together when Drogon and Viseryon flew in, laying down flaming ground cover so they could escape. It wasn’t “pointless” to me, but I know opinions can differ.

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    18. Didn’t liked the sequence. It looked clumsy and fake to me.
      It pisses me off everytime they say the direwolves visual effects are expensive and takes a lot of work and time to bting them to life, and then they come up with toby the bear… the direwolves are central to the story, would be nice to see them more often!

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    19. Fuck the zombie bear! I’m still waiting for the Ice Spiders to appear 🙂

      These have been mentioned several times in the show and probably also in the novels? Now, that would be cool having one of those, but guess now the NK has a new beast (Viserion) to ride, I guess seeing an ice spider or two is now wishful thinking?

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    20. I wonder if the new prequel show(s) they come up with to follow GoT is going to be provided with a massive budget and other allowances right out of the gate because of the success of GoT. One would think it would be an advantage in trying to live up to the predecessor if they don’t have to start ‘on the cheap.’

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    21. Black Raven:
      Fuck the zombie bear!I’m still waiting for the Ice Spiders to appear 🙂

      These have been mentioned several times in the show and probably also in the novels? Now, that would be cool having one of those, but guess now the NK has a new beast (Viserion) to ride, I guess seeing an ice spider or two is now wishful thinking?

      I’ve said that myself before, but while the idea sounds good, giant spiders has been done quite a bit before. It’s also tough not to get too cheesy with that sort of thing, which the SYFY channel movies are so ‘good’ at achieving…
      https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-ArGvWvK_XzE/WF3e4rs6KcI/AAAAAAAAT58/mIl30HPzzxQ7eo7wU2FY8PLoGmERVFunwCLcB/s1600/Ice-Spiders.jpg

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    22. Pigeon,

      It was hilarious. Rory is so funny. I love him!
      Another good quote in the show by the hound but not mentioned enough: “All the lords I know are cunts. Don’t see why the lord of light would be any different.”

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    23. Clob,

      Yep, very true – but in sci-fi movies like Ice Spider they tend to attack in swarms and need the firepower of the armed forces to destroy them! I’ve yet to see a movie where such fearsome creatures carry riders on their backs!

      Seeing what GoT can do with CGI these days, I wouldn’t have thought it was so difficult to achieve? Some more info here –

      http://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/Giant_ice_spider

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    24. Inga:
      Ten Bears,

      It looks like the WW started to wear armor right after Sam stabbed one of them with a drgonglass dagger.

      “So if he got armor on…he’s a Knight King?”

      – Hot Pie

      [Sorry…]

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    25. I didn’t care for the wight bear. It looked fake and I fast-forwarded its scene in subsequent re-watches. Hope the show doesn’t get too hung up on the CGI aspects for the final season. More focus instead on making sure the motivations and actions of the actual human characters are clear.

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    26. I think the scene was fantastic and from my viewer prospective well worth it. I forgot to breathe for a second when I seen the bear that is Toby hehe.

      I looooove Rory’s dryness 🙂

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    27. Direwolves….. Direwolves…. I’ve heard the name… Somewhere…

      Okay, peace Ladies n Gentleman time for me to go back under my bridge.

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