Today, HBO launched a new series of animated shorts called Backstories that illustrate personal stories from behind the scenes of its shows Game of Thrones, Barry, and Insecure. The first of them, from a story told by Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, is pretty wild. It’s about how actor Jason Momoa, who played Khal Drogo on the show and went on to star as Aquaman in the DC Universe films, put Benioff in the hospital by playing “the slap game.”
In the video, Benioff explains his logic for taking on a notoriously strong man-mountain in a physical contest of pain: “I’m going to challenge the Khal because if I beat the Khal, I’m the Khal.” (Heavy drinking was apparently also involved, if animators Ivan Dixon and Greg Sharp are setting the scene accurately.) What follows is a surreal story about Momoa’s competitiveness and Benioff’s inability to back down, and it’s a hoot — especially given how the animators decide to portray what happens to Benioff’s hands.
The other two initial shorts in the Backstories series are less painful but even more wildly animated. In “Acting Class,” Barry co-creator Alec Berg discusses how a painful acting class gave him the idea to push his own actors further. Animators Christy Karacas and Simon Wilches give this relatively mundane story a Bizarro-world look, with Berg and show co-creator Bill Hader turning into two-dimensional characters to slide around theaters and sneak into classes. Faux fish-eye lenses give the camera POV a creepy forced look.
In “Becoming Molly,” Insecure’s Yvonne Orji explains the moment when she decided to do comedy: because she couldn’t come up with any other talent to showcase at a Miss Nigeria in America pageant, and she heard the voice of God telling her she was funny (and had nothing else). This one, from animators Carl Jones and Brian Ash, is a particularly stylish, colorful, visually wild piece, that turns Orji into a huge-haired, pencil-limbed take on Garnet from Steven Universe. It sends her on a fast trip from insecurity to comedy success to getting the Insecure job from creator Issa Rae to meeting the real-world person she was playing.
An HBO spokesperson says the animated series will continue, with shorts screening on HBO, on the network’s social media channels, and at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.