During The Last of Us season finale, Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) recreate an iconic moment from the critically acclaimed video game by stumbling upon a giraffe while looking for the Fireflies camp in Salt Lake City. Ellie is first to spot the creature, and Joel joins her as the two marvel at the sight while standing on the open ledge in a collapsed building. Soon, the two are feeding the animal and even petting in a touching scene that fans of the game were waiting for all season.
However, in a surprising twist, the giraffe in the scene is actually real. Audiences today are so used to CGI creatures that many suspected the animal was created in a computer, but not so much. While the giraffe’s surroundings were digitally added, Pascal and Ramsey were working with the real deal for the scene. According to production designer John Paino, it wasn’t easy task for him and visual effects supervisor Alex Wang while on a tight deadline.
“The trainers worked to get them to eat out of a stranger’s hand. So, when Ellie and Joel walk up at the enclosure, that’s the giraffe eating those branches of food,” Paino says. “That’s Hollywood magic of Alex isolating the giraffes and putting them on our set. That was probably the most complicated piecing of VFX stage, scenery and location I’ve worked on.”
Clearly, their work paid off. The season finale put up huge ratings for HBO and the giraffe scene has been almost universally praised in every review of the episode. They crushed it.
The Last of Us Season 1 is available for streaming on HBO Max.