‘The Last of Us’ Was Almost an Animated Show
With The Last of Us, HBO shut down everyone who insists on the “video game curse” discourse, despite many great movies and series derived from games already being released. The series is an absolute success by any metrics, with rave reviews and viewership records. The Last of Us is such a great adaptation that it’s hard to imagine the series starring anyone else but Pedro Pascal as Joel and Bella Ramsey as Ellie. However, as Jeffrey Pierce (who voices Tommy in The Last of Us game) recently revealed during an interview with The Direct, before being developed as a live-action series, The Last of Us almost became a mo-cap and CGI animated series. And while we can only imagine what an animated The Last of Us series would look like, this reveal actually makes us appreciate even more the work done by series’ creators Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin.
An Animated ‘The Last of Us’ Series Could Have Amped Up the Action
Pierce has a long history with The Last of Us franchise, providing voice and motion capture to bring Tommy to life in Naughty Dog’s games. And even though Gabriel Luna took over the role of Tommy for the live-action adaptation, Druckmann and Mazin have created a new character for Pierce to play in the series. It’s no wonder that the star was involved with The Last of Us adaptation since the early stages of the project, giving him unique insight into the process that eventually led to the live-action show. Pierce said, “there have been a couple of different iterations over time. There was a movie at one point. There was a motion-capture cinematic animated series at one point.”
The idea of an animated series is intriguing, as HBO could use the games as a direct inspiration for their adaptation. It would be easy to reuse the game’s original voice cast to ensure the adaptation would stay faithful to what Naughty Dog has previously created. And since the games already used mo-cap to bring its characters to life, HBO could reuse some of Naughty Dog’s technical resources. Finally, during the early stages of The Last of Us adaptation, HBO was probably considering how some of the best video game adaptations of all time were made in animated format, including Dota: Dragon’s Blood, Arcane, Castlevania, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, and even the many Sonic: The Hedgehog TV shows.
An animated The Last of Us series could have made it more manageable to include more Infected in the show. One of the main differences between HBO’s series and Naughty Dog games is the sheer number of enemies Joel and Ellie face while crossing America since video games need constant challenges for players to overcome. With animation, it would be easier to shoot inventive combat scenes that include many Infected instead of putting the fungi pandemic in second place. However, even though animation has advantages compared to live-action, HBO ultimately made the right choice by sticking with a live-action series format.
HBO Was Right to Opt For a Live-Action ‘The Last of Us’ Series
While the world of The Last of Us finds new ways to deal with the zombie apocalypse genre, the franchise stands out for its unique cast of characters and the complex relationships it develops. HBO’s The Last of Us works well enough without many Infected, but it couldn’t move millions of viewers without its human core. So, it wouldn’t be worth it to create more action set pieces, as the best way to make sure each episode hits like a truck is to keep the focus on the characters, their internal struggles, and their morally ambiguous choices.
If HBO’s The Last of Us is so successful, it’s because the audience can relate to the people they see on the screen. All of the show’s fantastic elements are secondary to Joel, Ellie, and everyone else crossing their paths. And while animation can definitely explore the depths of the human soul and live-action, many people still struggle to get attached to animated series. So, developing the adaptation as a live-action series ensures HBO would reach the biggest audience possible. And while it’s interesting to learn how things change behind the scenes, the result of The Last of Us’ development couldn’t be better.
All episodes of The Last of Us are currently available on HBO Max.
Find out everything we know so far about Season 2 of The Last of Us, including how much it will connect to The Last of Us: Part II.