In a recent interview with Gamespot, Thilo Kuther (CEO of Pixomondo) discussed how Daenerys’ pet dragons were created for Game of Thrones. He mentions that when the dragons were small in Season 2, it wasn’t that severe animating the dragons, but as the seasons went on “they began focusing exclusively on the dragons, as the beasts became exponentially more complex and demanding to animate.” This obviously caused a lot of discussion in the office and the animators turned to the real world for some inspiration of how these creatures might actually work as Kuther tells it:
“When they got bigger in Season 3 and 4, there was a lot of, ‘So if a dragon is this big, how can it lift itself up? What is it? Is it a bat? Or is it a bird? Is it an eagle? And the amount of energy that went into these discussions is beyond belief[.] That’s why they went to a Trader Joe’s and bought a chicken, and took it apart, and said, ‘So, how does that work?”
They also watched YouTube videos of bats and chickens for examples of flight. Then came the realization that these creatures were still growing.
“If the dragon gets 10 feet size in just the body, then you see every tiny tendon underneath, and that skin starts stretching, and if it breathes in and out, then you see how the skin starts stretching over, and it’s rolling over the muscle and the bones, and if you don’t do this—just the breathing, if it doesn’t breathe—you immediately feel there is something wrong.
There was a lot of discussions about even looking at elephants, on how skin rolls over the bones[.] It stretches, it rolls over the bones, so [the animators] went for reference to see how that would look on an animal of this size.
You have an expectation of what that’s going to look like[.] That’s why they looked at elephants, where there is rougher and harsher skin, but then you have, around facial areas, their skin is softer, and when you touch it with your fingers, it would actually give in. So you see the fingers pressing in a little bit. When they shoot it, they usually have a cushion where you can touch it and press your fingers in, so we’re taking that information and applying it to the skin.”
This is amazing to learn that chickens, bats, and elephants helped create some of the greatest looking dragons on TV.