The Last of Us had to fill 350 dump trucks of snow for Waterton, Alberta episode

The new 'Making of The Last of Us' special reveals several fun tidbits about the Alberta production of the HBO series

The Last of Us Joel and Ellie on horse

HBO has released a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of The Last of Us to coincide with the March 12th season finale.

The featurette, appropriately titled Making of The Last of Us, reveals several tidbits about the province, which took place between 2021 and 2022 across Alberta. Naturally, the cast and crew had quite a few anecdotes to share about the province.

*Warning: light spoilers for The Last of Us Season 1 to follow* 

Perhaps the biggest fun fact had to do with the series’ eighth episode, “When We Are In Need.” With Joel (Pedro Pascal) wounded, Ellie (Bella Ramsey) is forced to hunt for food and resources, putting her in contact with a deadly group of survivors. While this takes place in Colorado, HBO actually shot these scenes in the beautiful Waterton Park.

However, things didn’t go so swimmingly.

“We went to Waterton because it was known to have a massive amount of snow. And what happened was there was no snow,” said Joel Whist, special effects supervisor, with a laugh.

“There were drifts up against some buildings but all the roads, all the grass — everywhere you looked — the snow was gone. You couldn’t bring snow from outside the park. I had to use whatever was in the town. So in three days, we did 350 dump trucks of snow — shoveling, brooming, raking, snowblowers — to cover 10 city blocks. That night, it snowed.”

Pascal added that there were “three or four house-sized wind machines” to help sell the stormy weather.

Elsewhere, the crew talked about the big human-infected battle in the fifth episode, “Endure and Survive,” and the work that went into building an entire town onto a large Calgary parking lot.

In particular, we see some neat behind-the-scenes looks at all of the human extras who played clickers and the digital effects work to enhance them, as well as a spotlight on Toronto’s Skye Cowton, a young contortionist who plays the child Clicker that tries to kill Ellie in a car. “She could move her body very, very effectively and do all sorts of Clicker-y, kind of stuttery motions,” noted Sean Nowlan, VFX producer.

Another highlight has to do with the finale, “Look For The Light.” One of the key emotional beats of the episode, which was lifted straight from the game, is when Ellie excitedly discovers a group of giraffes in the middle of the overrun city. It’s a tender moment between the teenager and Joel, and Ramsey said it was “like a spiritual experience” to shoot.

Notably, the crew reveals that the giraffe, Nobu, was actually real. “Yes, you can create a giraffe in visual effects, but it’s just not the same,” noted Matt Palmer, location manager for Episodes 8 and 9.

“Fortunately, the one thing Alberta does have is a zoo with giraffes,” added production designer John Paino. “And we spent quite a while putting things in the enclosure so we could shoot it and get the giraffe acclimated. Like, panels with blue screen so that we could get just go in there and shoot the giraffe and have Ellie feed the giraffe.”

On the whole, the special offers a fascinating look at just some of the work that goes into such a big show. (With a reported Game of Thrones-esque budget of over $100 million USD, The Last of Us is believed to be the biggest TV production in Canadian history.)

The full 31-minute Making of The Last of Us featurette and the main nine-episode season are both now streaming on Crave.

In related news, series creators Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin have confirmed that they’re planning to adapt The Last of Us Part II into at least two seasons.

Image credit: HBO