Over the weekend, a fan on Twitter asked Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 director James Gunn if the decision to keep Groot — the team’s heroic talking tree of few words — as “Baby Groot” was driven primarily by marketing concerns.
@JamesGunn I truly feel that Baby Groot was integral to GotG but do some people claim he was a marketing ploy made to sell more merchandise?
— Ryan MacIsaac (@RyanMacIsaac) December 10, 2016
As EW.com subsequently reported, Gunn responded with a series of tweets that indicated the entire concept for Baby Groot had come from him, and that it was largely a means of keeping the character fresh.
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 https://t.co/5PJTQZpSwB
— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) December 10, 2016
Shortly thereafter, Gunn elaborated on this topic — while re-posting EW.com’s article — in a lengthy Facebook post that revealed his initial plan was to have his sequel take place years after its predecessor, and to include a fully grown Groot. However, that quickly proved to be a creative dead end for the filmmaker:
“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.”
While Gunn knew there’d be tremendous marketing potential in a Baby Groot (“I’m not an idiot. I knew if Baby Groot worked, the world would want Baby Groot toys and figures and plushies”), he says that he was still more than a bit wary that Marvel would balk at the change, given Groot’s immense popularity. Nonetheless, “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…”
Regardless of how Baby Groot initially came about, the popularity of the first Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 trailer — which prominently features the tiny tree character, and which was viewed an astonishing 81 million times in its first day online — reconfirms the shrewdness of Gunn’s decision. You can read his entire Facebook post here, and see the toddling tree in the hotly anticipated sequel in theaters beginning on May 5, 2017.
‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’: Watch the teaser trailer: