Baby Groot Is in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ For a Reason, and It’s Not to Sell Toys

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After experiencing the utter joy that is Dancing Baby Groot in the Guardians of the Galaxy post-credits scene, his inclusion in Vol. 2 seems like a real no-brainer — especially for Marvel and Disney, which stand to make serious bank off of that adorable, wide-eyed little twig in merchandising alone. But according to director James Gunn, Baby Groot’s involvement in the sequel has nothing to do with merchandising at all (though I’m sure it doesn’t hurt the bottom line in that department).

In a recent Facebook post, Gunn explained the decision to keep Groot as Baby Groot (or Toddler Groot, maybe?) in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was not a shrewd marketing or merchandising ploy, but a narrative one. As Gunn tells it, he initially intended for the sequel to pick up several years after the first film, with a fully-grown Groot, but something wasn’t working in the script — specifically, he needed the team to evolve together, and Baby Groot presented a unique opportunity. Interestingly enough, Gunn wasn’t even sure that Marvel would go for his Baby Groot idea:

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’s decision has already paid off, as Baby Groot is the clear standout of the first trailer — he’s so cute in his teensy Star-Lord jacket! Like, the cutest.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 hits theaters on May 5, 2017.

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