There's no "clucking" around on HBO's Game of Thrones, and it turns out that the show used the anatomy of a chicken to design Daenerys Targaryen's dragons.
With dragons clearly being mythical creatures, it was always going to be a challenge to base them on any real-life animal from the pages of history. Unable to decide what kind of winged creature should influence those scaly fire-breathers, it seems that everyone involved with Game of Thrones eventually settled on a chicken.
Special effects company Pixomondo have brought the dragons to life since season 2, and CEO Thilo Kuther revealed to Gamespot what came first, the chicken or the egg:
"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?'"
Most people would struggle to imagine a chicken that could spout fire from its beak, but with the movement of Dany's dragons, you can start to see where the chicken analogy comes in. Doing some serious hands-on research, the company looked at downward pressure, how tendons move, and what sort of force would be needed to get the dragons off the ground.
While it would be pretty hard to get chickens the size of Drogon, Rhaegal, and Viserion, the show has had to adapt its chicken-sized creatures as they have grown with the show. As the dragons multiply in size each season, Pixomondo has always kept the science at the forefront of the SFX team's mind. However, when Jon Snow came face-to-face with the formidable Drogon in season 7, Kuther confirmed that they went for an animal that was a little more comparable in 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."
Whether chicken, elephant, or bat, there is no denying that the Game of Thrones dragons are the best representation of the mythical monsters that have ever graced our screens. As the "A Song of Ice and Fire" ramps up both elements for its final season, Dany's remaining two dragons (*sob*) will be sure to be key in the war against the White Walkers. At their biggest and most ferocious, Pixomondo will have quite a challenge to deliver a showstopping swansong for the Mother of Dragons' brood. Given that Drogon and Rhaegal are expected to take on the fallen Viserion, let's hope the SFX team have been studying cockfights ahead of season 8.
Game of Thrones season 8 doesn't have a premiere date yet.