Groot’s first appearance in the MCU immediately aroused sympathy for the giant tree-like character among viewers around the world. It was a creature that could easily destroy entire groups of enemies, but still had a very childish mentality. Despite the popularity of Groot from the very beginning, it was a completely new Groot (according to James Gunn himself) who really conquered the audience.
Baby Groot, as he became known, became a phenomenon years before Baby Yoda graced TV screens. Although he has since turned into a moody teenager, fans can still get a glimpse of Baby Groot in the new animated shorts “I’m Groot” available on Disney Plus.
Consisting of five episodes, “I am Groot” tells about some strange moments from the life of Baby Groot, including a mud bath with unexpected side effects, a fight with a bonsai tree, and some delightful arts and crafts that cost some pretty hefty destruction. Each episode lasts about four minutes, including the credits, so this entire collection can be easily viewed in one very short sitting.
Vin Diesel returns as the voice of Groot and does a pretty funny job here. While he may be best known for all the different intonations of Groots, with just the three words “I am Groot,” his vocal efforts really shine. Groot cries, screams, gets annoyed and laughs. Diesel manages to hit all these very specific sounds with the right accent and give more dimension to the mostly non-vocal character.
I Am Groot may be one of the first projects that really highlights the Disney-Marvel relationship, as it truly embodies the spirit of some of Disney’s earliest animated shorts. The whole narrative takes place visually, with almost no dialogues. This allows screenwriter and director Kirsten Lepore (who most recently worked as an animation director in “Marcel the Shell in Shoes”) to make a rather creative choice. Lepore uses the animation medium exactly as it should have been used: storytelling through action, facial expressions and visual highlights.
The animation itself is beautiful, although some short films lack background graphics. This is due to the fact that the action of three of the five short films takes place on board spaceships, where there is not much interesting. However, Lepore makes the most of these settings by using other visual elements and narrative elements to make them more interesting. This includes the use of lighting in one short film, which takes place mostly at night (although it’s hard to tell in space, other than the fact that Groot is wearing pajamas).
The big question for Marvel fans is whether these shorts are canon in the MCU, and the clearest answer is it doesn’t really matter. I Am Groot benefits from the fact that it is really an independent project. There are no big bets here, no hints of future storylines, and (almost) no unexpected cameos from other Marvel characters. They even play with the Marvel Studios logo and fanfare, which means that these shorts should not be taken too seriously. They’re just for fun, and they’re great at it. Unsurprisingly, Baby Groot is perfect for this type of environment. His actions and facial expressions convey so much without the need to use any dialogues other than “I am Groot”.
There’s a lot of fun in these stories, and despite not coming directly from James Gunn himself (even though he is an executive producer), they carry many of his trademarks without feeling like a cheap copy of his style. These include the use of music and even one very well-choreographed dance number. There are also a lot of small details, including funny caveats hidden in the end credits of each short film (there are no scenes after the credits, but why are they?).
In general, despite the very fast execution time of all the short films combined, “I am Groot” is a lot of fun and definitely worth watching for any Marvel fan or even just fans of animated short films in general. No prior knowledge of the MCU is required, although it may help contextualize some things. However, it’s fun to see Baby Groot again before returning to the character, who may or may not return to his fully adult form, in the upcoming special holiday edition of Guardians of the Galaxy and when Guardians of the Galaxy is released. 3 hits in cinemas.
All five short films “I am Groot” are available for viewing on Disney Plus.