In Oreo’s tribute to the “Game of Thrones” iconic opening sequence, winter has finally come… and it tastes like delicious creme filling. The Nabisco cookie brand teamed up with the HBO fantasy epic for its final season to create this clever ad that introduces a line of custom embossed Oreos. In order to realize this cookie-laden computer-generated version of Westeros, digital marketing agency 360i went to Elastic, the same production company that makes the actual main titles for “Game of Thrones.”
IndieWire spoke to Elastic’s Head of 3D Kirk Shintani, who collaborated with co-founder Andy Hall, about what went into this Oreo masterpiece.
“We wanted to make sure that we built a world of Oreos first and established this language of Oreo,” said Shintani. “And then we’d add our ‘Game of Thrones’ influences into that. The thing that we wanted to avoid is just taking Oreos and creme and then stuffing them into our existing main title.”
Far easier to learn than Dothraki, this “language of Oreo” has the simplest grammar consisting of only two parts. The first is the unique vegan creme — not to be confused with “cream” that has milk fats in it — that holds the cookies and the world of Oreo-Westeros together.
“As we started developing it, we decided that the creme should be the base for everything,” said Shintani about the Oreo world’s geographic elements. It’s creme that stands in for the earth, the mountains, and snow in this world. It’s the foundation on which the Oreo cookie structures are built upon. But conveying the stiff and thick texture of the creme through computer graphics is difficult, and Elastic turned to the cookie’s baking roots for a solution.
“Creatively that was the most challenging thing, to get the look of it and the feel of it right. You can’t just throw a bunch of creme down and expect it to look like anything. It might be a little lumpy or it might just look like a blob,” he said.
“So we actually went in and sculpted all of the surfaces to make them feel like they were sculpted with an offset spatula. At the end of each stroke is a little bump of creme. You see the spatula lines running through and they all overlap. For us, that was really important because it grounded the creme and it made it feel like something. Otherwise, it’s just kind of this white thing that looks nice.”
The second part of the Oreo language is the chocolate cookie. All the edifices and mechanical doodads seen in the classic “Game of Thrones” opening credits are replaced with the signature Oreo cookie. Even the opening shot of the blade of the astrolabe has been rendered in chocolate baked goodness.
“We built it to scale to one Oreo cookie,” said Shintani. “We wanted to make sure that as you’re going from location to location, they’re all related. Each location’s cookies are exactly the same size and they all feel like they’re all part of the same world.”
That also meant only using regulation Oreos, not Oreo Thins, Double Stuf, or any other variations. “They were pretty specific about trying to keep to the standard ones,” he said. “Initially we had thrown around the idea that they have those little Mini ones too, but I think they wanted to keep it to the more iconic standard, the ones that everybody knows and loves.”
Elastic was allowed to work with the Oreos though, and open them up to show their creme filling, break them in half, cut pie-shaped pieces from them, or crumble them on the “ground” to create dirt.
“The thing that we wanted to establish early on was that this was all prop. You can build this in the real world,” said Shintani. “The pie pieces and things like that, we showed that to the agency early on to make sure they were OK with it, and they were fine with us chopping them up a little bit as long as they still registered as Oreos. And I think the creme on one side worked really well for snow on the roof for some of the buildings.”
Now that Elastic had established what the building blocks of this world would look like, it had to determine which places in Westeros to reproduce in cookie form. This was determined by the four custom designs for the Oreos that represented the remaining players in “Game of Thrones”: House Lannister, House Targaryen, House Stark, and the White Walkers in the North.
“Their main thing was to highlight the four locations that related to the cookie that they were releasing, so they gave us King’s Landing, Dragonstone, Winterfell, and Castle Black as the four locations they really wanted to hit,” said Shintani. Fortunately, all of those locations had been visited before in the show’s real opening sequence and therefore provided a blueprint for what it would look like.
“We basically just pulled the asset to those locations from our original main title and used that as our guide to build it out of Oreos,” said “It went a lot smoother than it could have if you had to build all that stuff from scratch.”
“The tricky part was, ‘How few cookies can we use to actually make it feel like Winterfell or Castle Black?’ If we use too many, then it starts to look a little artificial. We had to make sure that it felt charming and kind of stop-motion and act as if someone could actually build it on the set.”
All told, there were approximately 2,750 Oreos used in the sequence, with 20 million crumbs scattered about, according to Stash. The end result is mesmerizing as the world of the black and white cookies stack, spin, and flip. Combined with Ramin Djawadi’s haunting main title score, it’s even invaded Shintani’s subconscious. “I’ve had dreams about Oreos, dreams about gears and cogs and I wake up and then I go to work and I stare at them again,” he said. “It’s kind of like a ‘Twilight Zone’ episode.”
Despite the use of computer graphics, it’s only responsible to report that many cookies were harmed in the process of making the sequence.
“We actually bought a couple bags of Oreos and cut them all up and took a bunch of references photos,” said Shintani. “We bought some Oreos for the modelers because we had to recreate all the Oreos in CG, and those disappeared for some reason. Then we bought more Oreos, and then those disappeared. So we had to actually take a bag of Oreos and hide them so that way people didn’t eat them all.”
Shintani apparently has the self-control of the High Sparrow himself, only eating four while on the job. But that restraint won’t last long. “I will be eating some Oreos on Sunday while I watch the season premiere for sure.”
To paraphrase Cersei Lannister, “When you play the game of Oreos, you win or you diet.” Or in more modern parlance, “That’s how the cookie crumbles.”
Take a look at the completed Oreos ad below:
”Game of Thrones” premieres Sunday, April 14 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.