I Am Groot Creators on MCU Connection, Baby Groot vs. Baby Yoda
The Marvel Cinematic Universe built its brand on connections: a film introduces a character who spills over into her own film; a streaming series pitches a new star who appears on another show; A bunch of characters join forces in a group film and it all eventually leads to the end of the current saga. And while the growing web of connections between Marvel Studios’ various projects can be exciting for fans, the studio’s new animated series, I Am Groot, offers a welcome respite for those who find it intimidating or exhausting.
In “I Am Groot,” Vin Diesel plays Groot himself, a bizarre, arboreal alien who can only say the title sentence. Introduced in the MCU based on James Gunn’s 2014 sci-fi comedy Guardians of the Galaxy, the original Groot gave his life to save his best friend Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and the rest of the Guardians. But a new alien grows from his body as a sapling, and the team gives him his “father’s” name and adopts it as their own. Since then, this younger version of Groot has been a mainstay of the MCU, appearing in Infinity War, Endgame, Thor: Love and Thunder, and the second Guardians of the Galaxy film.
None of that really matters to I Am Groot: the only thing those unfamiliar with the MCU need to know as they head in is that Groot is a tiny, mischievous little Twig alien, and of one talking raccoons.
The show follows Groot in his most recent development phase as he wreaks havoc on various planets in the solar system and encounters strange aliens and bizarre beasts in low-stakes adventures outside of the Guardians’ usual battles. The five episodes, releasing Wednesday, are charming, fast-paced, and — a rarity for a Marvel streaming TV show — entirely self-contained, with no notable guest appearances or setups for another show.
Ahead of the premiere, writer-director Kirsten Lepore and head of streaming at Marvel Studios spoke with Brad Winderbaum diversity about the development of the shorts, Baby Groot’s misadventures and how he compares to other famous babies of the Disney+ world.
What about the character of Baby Groot seemed to work well for the animated medium?
Brad Winderbaum: We knew we wanted to bring Baby Groot to the big screen since we released Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Mid-credits, he’s already a teenager, but there’s a whole universe of stories to tell when he’s a toddler is. We wanted to go back to that early Disney animation short form style of storytelling from those Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck animated shorts. Kirsten really shines in such an amazing way that we knew she would be the perfect voice for the show.
Can you tell me about adapting the CGI that brought the character to life in the movies for animation?
wind tree: We wanted continuity in the films, so we used our animation provider, VFX house Luma, who worked for the Guardians franchise. Kirsten worked hand in hand with them.
Kirsten Lepore: Technically, Groot has always animated, even in the “Guardians” world. So I think we’re using the exact model that was in there [that movie]so he should look the same as we’re used to seeing him in Guardians 2.
Kirsten, what was your inspiration for the comedy and animation of the short films?
Lepore: There was definitely a bit of “Looney Tunes” in there. Among other things, we had talks with Brad and Kevin [Feige, head of Marvel Studios] about was this idea of a Buster Keaton-esque comedy where it’s mostly without dialogue; It’s all very physical comedy, but it’s very smart. You can be very clever with the gags and how you attack them. So that was one of our biggest inspirations.
The shorts mostly keep the other Guardians off-screen or in the background. Why did you make that choice and could that change in the future of the show?
Lepore: Part of the fun that we discovered early on in the storyboarding process is that we really just want to see Baby Groot. He’s just so funny and so attractive that we wanted to make sure he really took center stage. Occasionally you get Drax in the shower, you get some shade on the wall, you get some Rocket to reaffirm that we’re in this world. And that particular scene is really fun to see Rocket’s relationship with Groot and that dynamic. But for the most part, we’re really enjoying focusing on Groot and getting to know his character better.
wind tree: It’s fun to see what he’s doing when nobody’s looking. Like a real kid, that’s where he gets in trouble the most—when he’s just out of the parent’s sight. That’s a part of the short films that you kind of identify with, or at least I do. You look at it and I remember what it was like to be a kid and the other side of me is, ‘Oh, that’s what it’s like to be a parent, watching a kid and worrying about it will do something terrible. ”
How did you come up with the new aliens we see in the series, like the tiny blue creatures that Groot finds under a rock? Do they all have names?
Lepore: It was super fun to develop these. The little tiny blue creatures are called Grunds and these are very dear to me because they’re just my natural design sense where they’re super simplistic. Two dotted eyes and a mouth basically and very cute and expressive despite being very simple. So it was a lot of fun designing these. The watery shapeshifting character’s name is Ewa, and then we created this squirrel-like character called Snoot Pin Bongo. He was very inspired by Salacious Crumb from Star Wars. And I loved how annoying and over the top he was.
Does the bonsai tree that Groot fights in the first short film have a name?
Lepore: Yes, that’s a character too, good decision. We didn’t give the bonsai a proper character name, but now we might have to come up with something. “Groot 2”, maybe.
Brad, this show obviously ties into the MCU through the Guardians movies; Will the other upcoming animated series have similar connections?
wind tree: I think what’s particularly amazing about the Multiverse saga is that there are so many more avenues to explore. We have long experimented in the studio with telling stories that are linear but can also go back in time and show how the MCU can thrive on the past. But the multiverse allows us to look at alternate paths and different ways of looking at the characters, which of course happens in the comics when different artists, different writers, different storytellers work with characters. You see them expanding and growing in unforeseen, unexpected ways. And that’s something that’s our guiding principle as we do more animated projects.
Last question, and most important, who would win in a fight, Baby Groot or Baby Yoda?
Lepore: Oh Baby Groot, sure. He’s a fighter.
wind tree: And he will also fight dirty.
This conversation has been edited and condensed.
https://variety.com/2022/tv/news/i-am-groot-creators-marvel-cinematic-universe-1235331672/ I Am Groot Creators on MCU Connection, Baby Groot vs. Baby Yoda