"House of the Dragon" creators and stars were eager to leave behind the difficult final season of "Game of Thrones" as they launched its prequel at a glittering world premiere in Los Angeles on Wednesday.
The original "Thrones," with its unique blend of fantasy, violence, medieval politics and dragons, became a global phenomenon that hooked audiences and swept television awards, but its finale was panned by fans and critics.
"It's a real shame that they were so disappointed -- but it has been four years, and this is a different story," said Miguel Sapochnik, the director of several much-loved "Thrones" episodes, who returned for the prequel.
"So now they get the chance to have a different experience. I hope they will," he told AFP on the premiere's red carpet.
Reviews and plot details of the first episode of "House of the Dragon," out August 21, are under embargo, but its screening drew a glowing reception at the recently opened Academy Museum in Los Angeles.
Set years earlier in the same universe of George R.R. Martin's fantasy books, "House of the Dragon" depicts the glory days of the ancestors of popular "Thrones" characters, such as Daenerys Targaryen.
"Whereas the original 'Game of Thrones' was about multiple different families that are spread over multiple continents, ours is a much more intimate story," said Sapochnik.
"It's really about the dissolution of one family. So in a way, it wasn't hard for it to be different."
Ryan Condal, who serves as the new series' showrunner along with Sapochnik, told AFP that it had been "very difficult" to end the original "Thrones" but that its prequel is "a totally new deal, it's 170 years in the past."
"I think there was a grieving process for the fans," he said. "They had spent 10 years with these characters, they'd grown up with them."
Condal said he believed there was still "a really strong underlying fan base" for the new series.
In "House of the Dragon," Paddy Considine plays the kindly King Viserys, while Matt Smith is cast as his ambitious brother Prince Daemon.
Milly Alcock and Emma D'Arcy play younger and older versions of the king's only child Princess Rhaenyra, with the show's timeline spanning at least a decade.
Olivia Cooke, who plays a key role as Rhaenyra's best friend Alicent Hightower, said it was "scary" to dwell on how the original series' ending had been received, or could impact its successor.
"It's hard to please everyone," she said.
"I haven't really thought about that at all... I'm super proud of this."