“Game of Thrones” featured two maps in the season premiere beyond its iconic opening credits. Both Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) used the maps to study and plan for their eventual conquest of Westeros.
Although we’ve seen the 3-D map at Dragonstone before, the one at King’s Landing in the Red Keep was brand new to fans, and wasn’t even complete on the screen. Cersei needed a map to match her outsized ambitions and the one she commissioned covered the entire floor a large courtyard. At the beginning of the scene, a craftsman is seen working on the almost-finished map before the queen dismisses him.
“It’s what we’ve been waiting for our all lives,” Cersei tells her brother Jaime (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau). “It’s ours now. We just have to take it.”
In the scene, the Lannister twins are seen walking and standing on the map, as if they’ve already conquered every region on which they set foot. In one chilling fan theory, the scene could provide some foreshadowing. Whether the map means anything beyond just what it’s depicting or not remains to be seen, but its impact was dramatic. Measuring 28.6 by 34.3 feet (8.71 by 10.46 metres), the giant map sits in Titanic Studios in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
IndieWire spoke to graphic designer Jim Stanes to find out how the map was made.
“When the map was first commissioned, there were no specific instructions other than the size of the floor, which the map was required to fill, and that it should show Westeros surrounded by sea,” Stanes said. “Artwork I developed for the map was discussed and altered. At one point I had to start again, after the decision to make this floor map relate to the map in the opening title sequence.”
Because “Game of Thrones” is set in a vaguely medieval time, Stanes says that design drew upon “multitudinous medieval references but from nothing specific. I’ve been doing medieval style maps for ages, and have much reference. The map was designed at my desk in the Set Dec office in Belfast. This was painted artwork and digital artwork, small scale.”
Stanes then sent concept images seen in this story, done with watercolor paper and digitally, to the scenic painters for reference.
“Two scenic painters, Dave Packard and Greg Winter, came to Belfast to paint by hand the full size map from artwork provided by myself and Rhiannon Fraser in Graphics,” said Stanes. “The actual map was more or less painted in situ, on the floor of a sound stage in Titanic Studios… with acrylic paint on MDF tiles at 60cm square. These were painted vertically and then laid into the floor.”
Altogether, the map require the efforts of many people over the course of six weeks to make Cersei’s vision come true. “There would have been some carpenters and painters involved in the making of the 60cm tiles,” he said.” The painters provided a marbled background to each tile before the main image was painted onto it. Two scenic painters and two graphics, not to mention designers and producers. So maybe six people directly and maybe 10 or so generally.”
And while Cersei and Jaime may trample all over the map itself, the map will fare far better under the Lannisters’ boots than Westeros itself.
“It was designed to be walked on,” Stanes said. “I haven’t seen it since last year, but again it was designed to be tough, any damage, etc., can be painted back. It’s still there, but can be removed, as it consists of movable tiles.”
“Game of Thrones” airs Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.