According to Craig Mazin, inspiration for the show’s campfire sequence struck way back when Neil Druckmann was developing the second game:
“When I first started working with Neil on this adaptation, it was before ‘The Last of Us 2’ had come out and I went over to — It was the first time I’d ever gone over to Naughty Dog, and sat with him there. And he said, ‘You wanna see something from the second game?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah.’ And he showed me a sequence from the second game that touches on Ellie’s, you know, interest and fascination with being an astronaut and space travel. And it’s an incredibly beautiful moment. And that’s one of those times where I said, ‘Hey, we have this opportunity that Neil didn’t have when he was making the first game, which we know more now.'”
For those who haven’t experienced the museum scene in “The Last of Us Part II,” it’s a flashback sequence in which Joel takes Ellie on a hike for her 16th birthday. Soon, they come across the abandoned Wyoming Museum of Science and History, a tip Maria gave to Joel. Controlling Ellie, the player is allowed to linger and explore the museum at their own pace, musing on different skeleton models and cracking jokes with Joel.
Soon, Joel and Ellie discover there’s an outer space exhibit on the second level. Excitingly, Joel and Ellie lay inside the space pod together. To make her special day even more special, Joel gives Ellie a cassette to play on her walkman for full immersion: a recording of the Apollo 11 launch. We linger on Ellie’s face as she gets lost in her own imagination, capturing a moment of pure euphoria and childlike wonder.