Here's How The Design Of Groot Evolved From Concept Art To Finished Character

Picking a favorite Marvel character can feel like navigating a fandom minefield. Any of the original Avengers, from Tony Stark to Steve Rogers to Natasha Romanoff, come with their own set of baggage, while some of the best new characters remain as-yet unproven as large-scale heroes. But if there's one major player in the Marvel Cinematic Universe who is capable of side-stepping all drama and scrutiny, inevitably landing near the top of fans' best character lists, it's Groot. Groot is cute. Groot is helpful. Groot loves to say "I am Groot." He's a trusty, sassy companion and a hero in his own right. He's also a sentient tree.

The character, who is voiced by Vin Diesel, has gone through more design changes than most of his fellow Avengers. At the end of the first "Guardians of the Galaxy" film in 2014, Groot sacrificed himself to save Starlord (Chris Pratt), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and the rest of the ragtag group that quickly became his found family. That brief moment of heartbreak gave way to one of utter delight when audiences were introduced to Baby Groot, a tiny seedling relative of the character who would slowly regrow into a teenaged Groot over the next several films.

Long before the MCU started to explore the full life cycle of Groot, the character was already going through some changes. Concept artist Jackson Sze has worked in the art department for over a dozen Marvel films, including all four Avengers films and favorites like "Black Panther" and "Thor: Ragnarok." He created key concept art for "Guardians of the Galaxy," including designs for characters like Rocket and Groot. After the movie's release, he shared a few of the early designs for the tree man to Instagram, revealing even more variations on the beloved character.

I am soft, mossy Groot

In one illustration, a version of Groot with completely different proportions than the one fans know holds a small flower. "Early variation on Groot. Sensitive Groot!" Sze captioned the Instagram post. While the final take on Groot is slim yet imposing, this initial design has a much different build. His arms are long, his legs curve in two different directions almost like a dinosaur's, and he generally looks less humanoid than the Groot writer/director James Gunn landed on in the end.

He also has a lot more earthy detail. In the photo, leaves, twigs, and moss visibly hang off Groot's body, while the final design scales back the lichen for a version of the hero that looks a bit less like he was born in a swamp. In another illustration posted to Instagram, Sze reveals that early in the hero's design, he "tried to soften his look by covering his face with mosses." He notes that digital sculptor Josh Herman ultimately incorporates the idea in the final product, though the Groot who ended up in the movie is obviously much less fuzzy.

The softer, more naturalistic version of Groot isn't the only one Sze revealed. In another Instagram post, he shared a key frame from an excellent shot in the movie, during which a battle-ready Rocket perches on Groot's shoulder. This illustration of Groot looks a lot more like the final verson the special effects team rendered for "Guardians of the Galaxy," but he still features some details that didn't make the final cut. Namely, he seems to possess a visibly branch-based musculature, as if he's made primarily of vines and foliage that has fused together. The Groot that audiences ultimately saw on screen still has some of this composition, but is much more wood-based overall.

He's a growing tree boy

As a long-time Marvel concept artist, Sze is able to share behind-the-scenes artwork for a number of characters, and has revealed several early designs over the years. Yet Groot's stand out, because they show that this character was always meant to be a deeply endearing member of the Guardians team. His soft moss face and more fragile-looking vine-covered body communicate a vulnerability and gentleness. And while the Groot fans ended up with is initially more imposing, he's quickly revealed to be as much of a loyal sweetheart as the flower-holding concept art would indicate.

While his five-year disappearance during the Snap stunted the replanted version of Groot's growth timeline, the hero can most recently be spotted in adolescent form in "Thor: Love and Thunder." He will also return in "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" for what will likely be the Guardians' last hurrah. When he does, it'll be with yet another new design. The /Film team glimpsed the new Groot at Comic Con this year, and he appears to be fully grown and buffer than ever. So long, Baby Groot. There's no word yet on if the new, ultra-intimidating Groot will gently hold a flower like he does in Sze's concept art, but one can dream.