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Guardians Of The Galaxy's Concept Artist Teases The Wildest Versions Of Ego We Never Got To See - Exclusive

Concept artists for films and television have the challenging task of rendering characters and settings based on their own imaginations or by collaborating with directors and other filmmakers to arrive at a final design. That's the capacity that Anthony Francisco served in for nearly nine years as a senior artist on Marvel Studios Visual Development team, where he worked on well over a dozen films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Among Francisco's credits are the first two "Guardians of the Galaxy" films in 2014 and 2017, as well as "Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3," which is set for a May 5, 2023, release. His work on director James Gunn's "Guardians" films have been rewarding for the artist on a personal level as well as professional since he modeled the look of his design of Baby Groot in "Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2" after his young son. From there, as his son continued to grow, Francisco's Baby Groot design morphed into his design of Teen Groot.

While Baby Groot in "Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2" was Francisco's major contribution to the film, the artist actually conceived character designs for the pivotal character of Ego the Living Planet as well. Eventually realized in human form by Kurt Russell, Ego — who is revealed to be the father of Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) — did not begin with the design that was presented to viewers of the film. In fact, the design of the character was radically different from the final version, Francisco told Looper in an exclusive interview.

Ego's looks went from 'plant like' to a 'sailor' to a 'space cowboy,' Francisco says

Discussing his wilder designs that didn't make the cut for an MCU film — and Francisco told Looper that there were several — he said, "one of the big ones was Ego, because he has a certain type of look, almost like a Buck Rogers-retro pulp comic book-type look."

"It went from that to more of a plant-like look to, 'Or is he the whole planet?' Once we found out who the actor playing him was going to be, that's when things got a little bit clearer," Francisco said.

Francisco — whose MCU work also includes "Black Panther" (where he designed the look of Dora Milaje) and "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" (where he conceptualized  Namor's new design) — said that when designing Ego (see different versions above), he considered the character's origin.

"I also did some cowboy-looking versions of him and one with a sailor feeling, because he sails across the universe, right? Every design has to have that kind of background," Francisco recalled. "I was thinking he was like Han Solo, so I made him look like a space cowboy. In the end, he looked more like a spaceman, I guess. I can't even explain it, but it seems very drastic. It took eight months to slowly get to the point where we were running out of time and we had to decide. James Gunn had to decide."

Francisco left Marvel Studios in late 2021 and embarked on a voyage to a multiverse of his own making with his new multimedia project "Creature Chronicles." 

Readers can follow Francisco's work on the "Creature Chronicles" website and see his previous MCU designs on his studio's website, as well as his Twitter and Instagram accounts.