I Am Groot – Five original shorts starring everyone’s favourite little tree

It’s often said that the best things come in small packages, and Marvel Studios’ I Am Groot is further proof of the old adage. The collection of five original shorts stars everyone’s favourite little tree, Baby Groot, from the “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise, who takes centre stage in his very own collection of shorts that explore his glory days growing up—and getting into trouble—among the stars.

Groot first appeared on screen in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, the irreverent, epic space adventure with Peter Quill aka Star-Lord and his gang of eccentric characters who patrol and protect the universe. The wise, old, humanoid tree creature embedded himself in the heart of audiences around the world using just three little words: “I am Groot.” At the end of the film, Groot makes the ultimate sacrifice for his friends, and Baby Groot—a seedling about 10 inches tall—is born from the splinters.

Vin Diesel joined the MCU nearly a decade ago and has provided the voice for Groot, at all ages,
in five MCU films.

“In the first film, Groot leaves us in such a heroic fashion that there’s a real melancholy at the end of that movie, even though the good guys win and save the galaxy,” explains Winderbaum. “I think seeing that little branch that Rocket took grow into new life really meant a lot to people. The fact that it became this adorable little character was something that audiences immediately invested in.”

In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Baby Groot was the ultimate scene stealer, an adorable sapling with anger issues who further endeared himself to audiences. “Baby Groot is beloved by fans not only because he’s adorable, but because he’s imperfect,” explains Winderbaum. “Imperfect in the way that we all are, and we all were as children. We see it in our own kids. He doesn’t always make the right choices, but he learns from his mistakes. He can be a bit of a rascal sometimes, but it’s fun to watch him try things. It’s fun to watch him fail, and it’s even more fun to watch him succeed.”

The shorts were written and directed by Kirsten Lepore (Hi Stranger, “Marcel the Shell with Shoes on) and will be available exclusively on Disney+ Aug. 10, 2022.

Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) in Marvel Studios’ I AM GROOT exclusively on Disney+. © 2022 MARVEL.

Toddler Tales Inspire Baby Groot’s Adventures

Undoubtedly, Marvel Studios’ youngest viewers will get a kick out of Baby Groot and his extraterrestrial exploits—but the shorts appeal to all ages, stirring childhood memories and reminding parents of their own attempts to encourage and safeguard curious, endlessly energetic toddlers.

Lepore was inspired by her personal experience with parenting. “I have a three-year-old, so I thought, ‘This is perfect. I’m going to pull some real-life anecdotes and try to infuse some of that into this mischievous little toddler.’”

“As parents, Kirsten and I would discuss what it was like raising kids, especially when they’re at that just post-toddler age, when they can really start manipulating their environment with intention,” says Winderbaum. “It’s funny to watch our kids get into mischief. You just find yourself shaking your head and smiling at the ridiculous things they get up to.”

Winderbaum adds, “In a way, when you’re watching these short films, you have that parental perspective a little bit where you think, ‘Oh, no. Don’t do that!’ You’re looking through your fingers, hoping that he’ll take a different path, which he doesn’t.”

“In a world where there’s a lot going on and a lot to digest, I love bringing some wonderful light joy that hopefully makes people laugh and inspires them to embrace their weird side,” says Lepore. “I consider these shorts some of the more comedic things that Marvel Studies has done, and it’s fun to be part of that comedy. I hope it brings a smile to people’s faces and reminds them of their kids or their own childhood.”

Winderbaum shares Lepore’s sentiments: “I just think about people sitting down at their couch watching these shorts on TV, maybe with their kids, and just having something to laugh with each other about. That’s honestly the thing that gets me up in the morning, and that’s something that I think these shorts really deliver.

Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) in Marvel Studios’ I AM GROOT exclusively on Disney+. © 2022 MARVEL.

I thought it would be really cool to start the whole series having Groot grow out of his pot, sort of like a loose version of a plant-growing time-lapse,” says Lepore. “That was melded with this idea I had of ‘Groot vs. Tree’— where Groot, a sentient tree, goes up against a non-sentient tree. We really played up the Buster Keaton-esque style of physical comedy in which the inanimate object always wins.”

Kirsten Lepore Tapped to Write and Direct I Am Groot

“Kirsten has a long history of making short-form content—really fun, artistic, experimental, entertaining short films with different animation styles and mixed media,” says Winderbaum. “All the little subtleties in the expressions of Groot and other characters, and how their environment interacts with them, come from her stop-motion experience. She was able to apply that to the photorealistic CG style we made the shorts in. She’s one of the most fun collaborators I’ve ever worked with at the studio, and I think you can see her heart and soul in every frame of ‘I Am Groot.’”

Lepore credits Winderbaum as the main reason she signed on to direct “I Am Groot.” “You hear Marvel, and you think it’s a massive company that dominates the market, so it could be this cold, impersonal thing. But Brad was just so welcoming and has been so supportive of my ideas. I felt like I was kind of an unlikely pick to direct anything Marvel, and I really have to hand it to Brad. He’s the one that brought in Taika Waititi to do ‘Thor: Ragnarok,’ which brought such an incredible humour and flavor into the MCU. I’m very grateful that he has an eye for weirdos, like me.”

Lepore also collaborated with executive producer James Gunn, who created the character of Groot in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” films. “I had a few meetings with James from the very start to get an essence of what the character of Baby Groot should be,” says Lepore. “I remember him describing Groot as a ‘bad baby’, but also as an emoji guy’— meaning he can capture a whole emotion or mood with just a simple facial expression. I really took that to heart and thought about it constantly while creating the show.”

“Once we realized that ‘I Am Groot’ was a collection of shorts about these small, standalone experiences that Groot has, it all came together,” says Winderbaum. “Kirsten and her storyboard team created these little stories that, even in an animatic form, were wildly entertaining and so fun to watch.”

No matter the length, the creative process takes time, and Lepore and team were determined to perfect each short. “We’ve been working on the shorts for about a year and a half,” says Lepore.

“It’s fifteen minutes total but obviously animation takes time. We also rewrote a few shorts several times to make sure we really landed in a place that we were happy with.”

Lepore adds, “I think our biggest challenge was how to tell a really fun, compelling story in just three minutes. But I come from the world of shorts, so I knew we’d be able to pull it off. When we were working on the storyboards and animatics, everything was coming out to about five minutes. We worked really hard and edited very carefully, and I think, honestly, they’re better at three minutes.”

Of course, filmmakers faced another added challenge in 2020. “Working through the pandemic was extremely challenging on many fronts,” says Winderbaum. “But in the world of animation, we were able to get up and running in a virtual way very quickly. In fact, being able to figure out how to produce ‘I Am Groot’ virtually taught us a lot of lessons for the live-action shows as well.”

Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) in Marvel Studios’ I AM GROOT exclusively on Disney+. © 2022 MARVEL.

KIRSTEN LEPORE (Writer/Director/Executive Producer) is a Los Angeles-based director and animator, and alumna of CalArts. Her viral hit “Hi Stranger” garnered upwards of 200 million views online, and her stop-motion episode of “Adventure Time” won a 2016 Emmy® Award and Annie Award. Lepore recently animation directed “Marcel the Shell with Shoes on,” which premiered at Telluride and has maintained a 99 percent critics score on Rotten Tomatoes since its June 24 release by A24. Her other films have taken top prizes at SXSW, Slamdance and many other international festivals. She has worked with clients such as Google, MTV, Mini Cooper, Silk, Skippy, Nestle, and many more. Lepore has given talks everywhere from Pixar to Portugal and has also been featured in Juxtapoz, Shots, and was named one of the 50 most creative people by Creativity Magazine.