The untold truth of Baby Groot

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is here, and Groot has once again stolen the show—this time as a pint-sized sapling of his former self. Whether you've already seen the sequel or you've just had to listen to your friends talk about it non-stop, it's easy to assume you might know everything there is to know about this particular talking tree. But Groot's roots run deep, and there's more than a few buried secrets most fans haven't uncovered yet. Throw on your favorite awesome mixtape and start dancing—it's time to check out the untold truth of Baby Groot.

He really is talking

One of the running jokes throughout both Guardians of the Galaxy movies is that Groot is actually offering complex conversation for those who are able to understand him. Rocket Raccoon, for instance, often holds entire dialogues with Groot, and he seems convinced that each "I am Groot" is actually saying something different. Considering Rocket's penchant for weird practical jokes (the kind that leave Star-Lord holding somebody's bionic leg), it's easy to dismiss this as a strange prank he's pulling on his team. However, the voice of Baby Groot, Vin Diesel, has confirmed that Groot is really speaking.


Diesel's getting a nice payday just to say the same three words over and over, but part of the skill involved comes from modulating his voice in a certain way to inject those three words with happiness, enthusiasm, sadness, or curiosity depending on the situation. He's confirmed that he actually works from a secret script with the real dialogue, which means everything that Baby Groot utters actually has a secret meaning behind it…though you need to be Diesel, writer-director James Gunn, or a space raccoon in order to figure it out.


His popularity was accidental

Even before the movie came out, it was clear that Baby Groot would launch a thousand toys. His popularity is undeniable, so it's easy to assume that his high profile in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is the result of Disney and writer-director James Gunn trying to cash in. Gunn, however, has a different story.


Gunn was keenly aware of the "adult" Groot's popularity when he wrote the script for Vol. 2, and he worried that by focusing entirely on Baby Groot, was effectively killing the version of the character that helped make the first movie so popular—in fact, he thought Disney would be even more hesitant about Baby Groot than they would about the involvement of Kurt Russell's character Ego, who's literally a planet. He simply fell in love with Baby Groot, and focusing on that character instead of trying to slavishly recreate the original film's version unlocked a lot of the sequel's narrative.


New twist on old roots

A large part of Baby Groot's characterization in the film comes from the idea that his personality has changed—he's a "baby" in more than name, and seems to have trouble understanding certain conversations and even basic instructions (such as what button he isn't supposed to hit when handed a detonation device). The movie highly implies that his intelligence and personality revolve around his relative age as he grows, something that's made explicit with a mid-credits scene in which Groot does his best surly teenager impression. However, this idea of Groot's changing personality hasn't yet been manifested in the comics, where he's had to regrow a number of times.


In the comics, Groot can grow back from even a tiny sliver—and these cuttings retain all of adult Groot's memories, meaning he doesn't go through any prolonged phase of not knowing certain things because he's a "baby." And even if he did, it would probably be moot: the Groot of the comics seems to grow much faster than the Groot of the movie, who's taken about half a year of in-universe time to go from potted planet to toddler tree.


Roots of aggression

One of the interesting side effects of Groot being reduced to Baby Groot is that the younger version seems more aggressive. While the elder Groot of the first movie wasn't averse to fighting when he had to, Baby Groot seems to take to it with zeal, as we can see in the scene when he gets to exact vivid and violent revenge against a Ravager. For cinematic Groot fans, this violence may be unexpected….however, for comics fans, it may come across as an homage to Groot's roots.


In his earliest comics appearances, Groot was almost completely different—tall, broad, and he could say a lot more than "I am Groot." He was also very much a bad guy: he tried to take over Earth, and he posed just as much of a genuine threat as any Marvel villain of the era. As he got older, he mellowed out and became a protector and hero; thus, Baby Groot's unexpectedly violent mood swings may be attributed to James Gunn channeling the outsize aggression that the character's comics counterpart once had.


He should be a lot more talkative

Groot is most known for his three magic words: "I am Groot." As mentioned above, though, Groot was much more talkative when he was younger. What happened? According to Marvel, Groot's race all have a weirdly specific condition: their larynx hardens as they get older, to the point that they are only capable of emitting a handful of words (albeit with loads of deeper meaning). Even though Baby Groot retains his tiny vocal vocabulary in the sequel, he should have been able to say a lot more.

Many faces of Groot

Obviously, Baby Groot sports a brand new appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. In addition to being in Chibi form throughout the movie, he rocks his own tiny coat a la Star-Lord. It's good for comedic effect, but for longtime comics fans, this is just the latest change in an absolutely dizzying array of different Groot looks (including some really bold fashion choices).


In his earliest appearances, Groot was a giant tree monster with branches on his head that looked vaguely like horns. In later years, he slimmed down, but kept some branch-like spikes on his head, and at one point even wore a suit as part of an earlier incarnation of the Guardians of the Galaxy. His more recent look mostly copies this design, though he's ditched the suit and different artists tend to play either up or down with the size of Groot's spiky head and his overall stature (which is very forgivable, given Groot's ability to partially change his size). All of which is to say that Baby Groot being a different size and donning a coat might be adorable, but it's actually nothing new for the tree of a thousand faces.


He's a true #Hero

While this wasn't the original intent behind either the comic or cinematic incarnations of Groot, he is a pretty logical mascot for nature. As it turns out, Disney agrees, and they decided to incorporate Baby Groot into a social media movement to help raise funds for the Nature Conservancy. Best of all, fans can help out the environment by doing something they were likely doing already: spread their love of Baby Groot online.


Under Disney's guidance, Youtuber D-trix created a dance move inspired by the dancing Baby Groot toy and filmed a strangely compelling video in which he unexpectedly popped up in various places. This inspired the hashtag #GrootDanceBomb, and for each Marvel fan who used the hashtag between April 18 and May 5 (or simply liked or shared the original video), the company donated one dollar to the Nature Conservancy, up to $250,000. Baby Groot didn't just help save the galaxy—his wacky dance moves are helping save planet Earth, too!


Can't stop dancing

Baby Groot effectively kicks off Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in an awesome way, dancing his way around the major opening battle sequence and just generally stealing the show. However, that groove-loving Groot is also hidden in plain sight throughout the end of the movie as well. Veteran fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe know to sit through the entirety of the credits, and this movie definitely rewards this impulse, offering up a whopping five scenes after the credits get rolling. In between those scenes, there's a lot of Groot: the words "I am Groot" temporarily replace the names of several cast and crew members. It's a cute gag, and it lets Baby Groot steal the end of the movie just as effectively as he stole the beginning.

Vin Diesel has been practicing Baby Groot for decades

Vin Diesel has built a career out of playing badasses. Some know him as the titular Riddick from the Chronicles of Riddick, others know him as Dom from the Fast and the Furious franchise, and some even know him as Xander Cage from the xXx movies. It caught some as a surprise when he played the voice of a CGI tree—and later, the even higher voice of a tinier version of that CGI tree. It's fair to assume that there must be a fair amount of editing and voice processing in order to make Diesel sound like that, but as it turns out, this isn't necessary—Diesel has been practicing for this his whole life.


In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Diesel revealed that he'd been practicing copying the voices of cartoon characters from a very young age. It's surreal to hear extremely high-pitched voices coming from the jacked frame of this action star, but Diesel is right at home doing an array of silly voices on command, and he had no trouble voicing Baby Groot. Even better? It gave him a role he could finally take his kids to watch.


He's stuck like that for now

There's no doubt that Baby Groot is the breakout star of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and Marvel is no stranger to the concept of synergy. So it's no surprise that over in the Marvel Comics universe, Groot has also been kicking around in his cuddly, tiny version.


Much like the big-screen take on the character, Baby Groot in the comics is also adorable and child-like. With the film a monster hit, Marvel looks to be keeping Groot that way, too—at least for a while. The 2017 series I Am Groot finds the sapling stranded on an alien world without the rest of the team, trying to figure out a way to get back; meanwhile, in the pages of All-New Guardians of the Galaxy, Groot's old buddy Rocket wonders why he isn't growing anymore—while readers are aware there's a mysterious figure who seems to be responsible for the little guy's arrested development. Of course, fans who stayed through the credits of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 know the movie version of Groot doesn't have the same problem.


He makes the Guardians more human

With the team facing sudden death at the end of the first Guardians of the Galaxy, Groot heroically sacrificed himself to help protect the rest of the gang during that epic ship crash. It was a sweet moment, and gave Groot a chance to show that he, too, had put this team's mission ahead of even his own potential survival. But in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Baby Groot is arguably the strongest humanizing force in the movie.


As Vanity Fair argues, the team defends and cares for Baby Groot in the wake of his sacrifice in the first film. If this team is a family, they're all Groot's parents. "The Guardians rally around this new Groot not just because he's unbearably cute," wrote VF's Joanna Robinson, "but also to honor the Groot that came before him."