Gunn: Baby Groot Isn’t About Selling Toys

There’s little question that it’s Baby Groot that stole the show in the recent teaser trailer for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”. The tiny tree won hearts with his cuteness, just like he did in the end credits of the first film.

Disney, kings of merchandise that they are, famously missed the boat a little bit with the first film – not releasing anything Baby Groot related until months after the fact.

With the character taking a bigger role, there’s understandable comments that his bigger use is just a merchandising ploy. Director James Gunn dismissed those claims at the time, saying on Twitter:

“I’m sure some people think that but for me keeping him Baby Groot throughout the film was the creative change that opened the film up for me. I was less confident the studio was going to buy in on Baby Groot than I was they were going to buy in on Ego the Living Planet.”

He’s now followed that up with a deeper explanation on his official Facebook page and revealed Baby Groot wasn’t part of his initial plans for the film:

“To be honest, when I was first working on the script for Vol. 2 I was planning on it being years after the first movie and for little Groot to be a grown Groot. But there was something missing.

First of all, I thought there was a lot of development the group needed to go through as a group – and it would be a shame for the audience to miss it. And, secondly, for whatever reason, Groot just wasn’t working.

It was then I came upon the idea of having Vol. 2 take place very shortly after the first film and for Groot to still be Baby Groot, with quite a lot to learn. Even though I had already long-ago-decided on the other characters involved, this change opened up the whole movie for me and it suddenly all came together. I fell in love with the script for Vol. 2, and I felt like we were creating something very special.

When I approached Marvel Studios with my idea for Vol. 2 I was afraid of the involvement of Ego the Living Planet – a rather, uh, broad character in the 616 universe of Marvel Comics.

I was afraid of the inclusion of Mantis and Ayesha, and more prominent roles for Nebula and Yondu. But I was even more afraid of approaching them with the concept that Baby Groot, and not Groot, would be a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Yes, perhaps it seems like a hole-in-one idea now, but Groot was the most popular character in the first film, and sometimes when something works studios are more than a little reluctant to change.

To my happy surprise, my partners at Marvel were more than supportive about the big swings in the story of Vol. 2. They seemed to instinctively know, like I did, that what matters in the Guardians franchise is to keep giving people the unexpected.

All that said, I’m not an idiot. I knew if Baby Groot worked, the world would want Baby Groot toys and figures and plushies. But that certainly didn’t seem like a certainty when I was alone in my office conceiving of a story, and it most definitely was not the driving force of the decision. I, like so many of you through the trailer alone, had fallen in love with the little dude – even though at that point he was only in my head.

Gunn continues to be one of the most beloved of Marvel’s directors for his open and honest answers to fan questions and a dedication to keeping spoilers a secret. We’ll see the fruits of his labor when the film opens in early May.