Stoic Studio, a three-man video game developer, released The Banner Saga this week. It’s the story of humans and varl displaced from their lands by an age-old enemy known as The Dredge. Done beautifully and brutally, it’s an exodus on par with Battlestar Galactica.
Arnie Jorgensen, one-third of the Stoic collective, directed The Banner Saga’s look. “When we set out to find a style for this game,” Jorgensen said on a recent Reddit AMA, “I showed the guys the old Eyvind Earle Sleeping Beauty by Disney. They loved it and we thought the friendly and attractive style would fit the more serious, adult storyline.”
One look at the background paintings for 1959’s Sleeping Beauty and you’ll see what Stoic fell in love with. Paying homage isn’t always easy though. Jorgensen continued, “Now the trick was then to try and pull it off. Eyvind Earle, who I consider an American Master, had a deceptively ‘simple’ style. It's actually extremely detail oriented with strong graphic qualities. This style took me a long time to do over the course of the game and almost drove me mad.”
Without being a note-for-note appropriation of Earle’s work, The Banner Saga is certainly a visual love letter to a unique and, yes, masterful artist. We took a look at the two, side by side, noting where Jorgensen deferred entirely to Earle’s compositions, but also where Jorgensen put his own spin on Earle’s palette.
Below, Earle’s work is on the left, Jorgensen's is on the right. Some of Earle's is from Sleeping Beauty, while some are individual paintings and other illustrated films in his body of work. Jorgensen’s are on the right and all The Banner Saga. Again, Jorgensen didn’t copy-paste Earle’s work, but it’s very easy to see how these two planes of artistry could flow into each other.
Sometimes we drew comparison to the shape of the landscape as a whole, and other times we noted a certain style to the trees, or the way shrubbery clings to cliff edges. Everybody wins because the visuals in The Banner Saga are incomparable. Well, incomparable to anyone but Earle himself.