Did you wonder why it was so wondrously easy to open your heart to the lovely sort-of-talking tree creature Groot? Because he's an amalgam of everything that is adorable in this world, including director James Gunn's dog, Dr. Von Spears.
We spoke to Gunn about the secret origins of the movie version of Groot:
You have talked a lot about Rocket and fleshing out this character made from nothing. But what about Groot? He is a character that can only say three words, "I am Groot," in that order. He is not human. You made audiences relate to a talking raccoon by giving him this beautifully tragic backstory. How did you make audiences connect with a non-talking, talking tree?
James Gunn: I think Groot is in some ways the easiest character to connect to in the film. He is, from the start, the only one that has some sense of others. And he has an innocence about him that is something that I don't know if we relate to, because most of us don't feel too innocent, but I think we love. Truthfully, a lot of Groot is based on my dog Von Spears. I think there's a sort of puppy-like innocence to Groot. That if my dog could talk, it would probably say, "I am Groot."
How much time did you spend manipulating his eyes? They're are so soulful, like a dog's eyes like you said!
His eyes look a lot like my dog's eyes. That was a real, important thing. The eyes was the thing that I concentrated on the most. With him, and with Rocket actually. Really looking at the eyes and thinking about the eyes. Groot was actually probably easier than Rocket because Rocket's eyes are a mixture of animal and human. It was a real delicate balance with him.
Gunn has elaborated the eyes weren't the only things he used from Dr. Von Spears. On his Instagram he elaborated.
#gotgpicoftheday #VonSpears faces off against the Rocket stuffy which we used as a reference for visual effects on set. In addition to using the real life Oreo Raccoon as a reference in creating Rocket, the folks at Framestore who developed the model of Rocket scanned Von Spears' snaggle-toothed mouth to incorporate into Rocket's mouth. I see aspects of my pup's in Rocket when he speaks, which is one of the many things I love about the character. For those of you who have been to the #guardiansofthegalaxy presentation at Disneyland, you can see Von Spears' cameo in the first few minutes. [EDIT ADD He's in the hologram]
And of course his Instagram is filled with adorable GOTG dog shots. Behold the cuteness:
Top image from Marvel and Instagram.