Guardians of the Galaxy 2 - Baby Groot

One of the most beloved moments from Guardians of the Galaxy was the appearance of Baby Groot at the end of the movie. His appearance was made even more lovable when it was followed by an adorable credits scene featuring the tiny version of Vin Diesel’s giant walking tree dancing to the tune “I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5. The result was Disney and Marvel being behind the curve when it came to having merchandise of the little guy to sell to fans in the months that followed.

Now here we are with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and we know that Baby Groot (who is now walking on his own outside of a pot) will be a big part of the sequel. However, his inclusion, as wonderful as it may be, has prompted many to think that the use of the tiny Groot is just a marketing ploy used to sell merchandise. But director James Gunn, who is always honest and open with his responses to fans, explains that this simply isn’t the case.

Find out what James Gunn had to say about Baby Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 after the jump.

Entertainment Weekly first noticed some responses on Twitter that James Gunn made to a fan after being asked if some people think Baby Groot is nothing more than another way to sell more merchandise. Here’s the tweets in question:

Gunn was asked why he though Marvel wouldn’t be sold on Baby Groot, and he responded, “Because adult Groot was the most popular character from the first film and I didn’t think they’d want to risk a good thing.” However, he went into a much deeper explanation on his official Facebook page after his tweets were highlighted, and he explains that Baby Groot wasn’t even part of his initial plans for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Here’s what Gunn wrote:

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 might be my favorite director working at Marvel Studios right now, if only because of his open and honest answers to fan questions, his dedication to keeping spoilers a secret, and his engagement with the online community that writes and talks about his work on Guardians of the Galaxy.

I’m glad Gunn took the time to explain that Baby Groot isn’t just a ploy to sell toys, shirts and lunchboxes, though he still acknowledges that it’s obviously going to be a big deal when those items start hitting shelves. It just goes to show you that sometimes the cynical assumptions we make about how franchises and marketing work together aren’t always as financially motivated as we might think.

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