When the first concept art for Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 was released, fans went crazy for one very specific detail: Baby Groot. Indeed, fresh off of sacrificing himself in the first Guardians of the Galaxy, Groot is not yet full grown in the sequel, and thus shakes up the group dynamic in a big way. This is, frankly, a genius move on the part of writer/director James Gunn and Marvel Studios—he’s adorable and right now looks to be the scene-stealer of the movie. But as Gunn explains it, using Baby Groot wasn’t always the plan. In fact, his original idea for Guardians of the Galaxy 2 had the film taking place years after the events of the first movie.
Gunn recently took to Facebook to further explain why Baby Groot is not some shameless marketing plot or cash-grab to sell copious amounts of toys. The explanation was spurred after some interaction with fans on Twitter, so Gunn wanted to set the record straight that ancillary revenue was not a driving factor in deciding to make Groot tiny for Guardians of the Galaxy 2. And as he reveals, that wasn’t even his initial plan.
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.
So there you have it, straight from the horse’s mouth. Gunn has been incredibly open with fans throughout the creative process, so we can remember that the weekend of Guardians’ release, he revealed that he sat down to start working on the sequel. It’s interesting to know in hindsight that at that point, he was developing a very different version of Vol. 2.
Gunn and the Marvel Studios brand have undoubtedly earned fans’ trust by this point, so it’s heartening to hear that they’re still willing (and eager) to take risks with this sequel instead of going the easy route. Here’s hoping there’s plenty of weirdness to come. And yes, adorable Baby Groot shenanigans.
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 opens in theaters on May 5, 2017