One Controversial Last Of Us Addition Comes From A Scrapped Animated Short

Slash Film

This post contains spoilers for “The Last of Us” season finale.

“The Last Of Us” capped off an excellent first season this week with a finale that hewed closely to its source material in major ways — with one obvious exception. Before Ellie (Bella Ramsey) and Joel’s (Pedro Pascal) story could end (for now), viewers were given a look at how Ellie’s story began, with a harrowing childbirth sequence starring none other than the games’ original Ellie voice and performance capture actor, Ashley Johnson.

Johnson plays Ellie’s mother, Anna, who dies just after giving birth to her daughter and getting bit by a feral infected person in the process. While Johnson’s guest appearance is very welcome, fans may balk at the scene’s potential explanation for Ellie’s immunity, which comes at the last minute and is never scientifically explained. It turns out, though, that the Anna sequence has been a part of “The Last Of Us” story for years, even if we didn’t see it. According to game creator and HBO series co-creator Neil Druckmann, Anna’s story was originally created for an animated short that didn’t end up seeing the light of day.

/Film’s Ben Pearson attended a press event with Druckmann and co-creator Craig Mazin ahead of the finale, and there, Druckmann explained just where the birth scene came from. It turns out it was conceived around the same time as the 2013 comic book “The Last Of Us: American Dreams,” as an additional story meant to promote the first game’s release (as if it needed the help).

‘That Deal Fell Apart’

“The short story of the origin of that little sequence is that when we were wrapping up the game, there were these opportunities to do these other pieces of art or storytelling to help promote the game,” Druckmann said. “So we did this comic book called ‘American Dreams,’ and that’s where we developed Riley, which later turned into the ‘Left Behind’ additional chapter.” Storm Reid played Riley on screen this season in an episode that folded the downloadable content from “The Last Of Us: Left Behind” into the show’s main story.

“And there was an opportunity to do an animated short,” Druckmann continued. “So trying to come up with a story, I wrote this short script about Ellie’s mom and how she gave birth to Ellie and was bitten at the same time and wasn’t sure if she was infected during that birth.” Druckmann says that the scene “became this little character drama that I felt like spoke to the same themes of parental love for their child and how much you’re willing to do, even when you’re on death’s door.” We see that theme again and again, for better and worse, throughout the show’s first season.

“That deal fell apart, and then we were talking to another game company to potentially do [Anna’s story] as a whole other game,” Druckmann shared at the press conference. Eventually, he says, “that deal fell apart to tell that story.” At one point, Druckmann even considered doing a live-action short, and says he spoke with Johnson about the idea of her starring in it. That, too, didn’t happen because they “both got busy.”

‘More Weight And Maybe More Tragedy’

Anna’s story finally bubbled back up to the surface when Druckmann met with Mazin about the potential outline for the HBO show. Mazin was excited to include the Anna sequence, and it ended up slotted into the finale — at a moment when Ellie’s immunity is about to come back to the forefront.

As for the purpose behind the additional scene, Druckmann doesn’t think it outright tells us exactly why Ellie is immune. Rather, like everything else in “The Last Of Us,” it serves the characters and their relationship. “It does hint at and give some theories about why Ellie’s immune, even though we don’t answer that conclusively,” Druckmann says. He continues:

“But I think more importantly than that, it builds the relationship between Marlene and Anna so that when you get to the ending, and we put Marlene against Joel and they have their own opposite philosophical terms of ‘How do the ends justify the means?’, knowing how close she was with Anna and that Anna’s dying wish was, ‘Take care of my kid,’ I think gives more weight and maybe more tragedy to the sacrifice Marlene is trying to make for the betterment of mankind.”

If there’s one thing Druckmann and Mazin have perfected, it’s the art of making an already bleak story even more tragic. I’m not surprised that they managed to come up with one last opportunity to twist the knife before the season draws to a close, and it’s thrilling that Johnson appeared as Anna years after she and Druckmann first discussed the idea. We may never get to see the animated short the pair originally planned, but the fact that it didn’t come to fruition makes Ellie’s birth scene a poignant surprise for game fans and newcomers alike.

Read this next: How Ellie’s Room Decor In The Last Of Us Points To The Larger Story

The post One Controversial Last of Us Addition Comes From a Scrapped Animated Short appeared first on /Film.

/Film – One Controversial Last Of Us Addition Comes From A Scrapped Animated Short
Author: Valerie Ettenhofer
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March 13, 2023

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