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I am Groot!

Disney Imagineers create robotic ‘Baby Groot’ for use in theme parks

By Kara Santos Published May 03, 2021 12:33 pm

The imagineers at Walt Disney Company have developed a free-roaming robotic Baby Groot for use in Disney theme parks around the world.

Baby Groot, the adorable tree-like alien creature from Marvel Studios' Guardian’s of the Galaxy sequel in 2017, stole the spotlight with its cosmic cuteness. The tiny version seen in various MCU films has become a certified pop culture icon since its first film appearance. 

Vin Diesel voiced the character of Groot, "child" Groot and "teen" Groot in the films Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), and Avengers: Endgame (2019). Diesel will return to voice the character in Thor: Love and Thunder (2022) while Baby Groot will return for the upcoming Disney Plus short form show, I Am Groot.

In a new video released this week, the Walt Disney Imagineering Research & Development team showed off the process for building a small-scale, free-roaming robotic actor that can take on the role of similarly-sized Disney characters in theme parks around the world. 

The robot, which comes from Project Kiwi in the imagineering department, reveals the imagineers' incredible animatronic and its evolving development process from 2018 to 2021. 

According to Disney imagineers, the robot’s tightly integrated design provides over 50 degrees of freedom in a compact platform that can walk, gesture, and emote in style. 

“Using custom authoring tools that combine whole-body motion planning and traditional character animation, artists can quickly bring robotic characters to life with expressive motions and interactive behaviors.” 

In an interview with TechCrunch, Project Kiwi's R&D Imagineer principal Scott LaValley said the project has been in development for about three years as part of their effort to "bring smaller characters to life at their actual scale in authentic ways." 

"It's an exciting time for bipedal robotics and with an incredible team and our combination of technology, artistry and magic, we are bringing characters to life that could not have happened anywhere but Disney," said LaValley.

In the video below, you can watch as Baby Groot evolves from a pair of bare robotic legs, into a headless tethered torso and, finally, the alien toddler tree we all know and love. The animatronic two and a half foot tall version of Groot can be seen waving, smiling and showing off his epic dance skills as seen in the Marvel films. 

While there's no definite timeline for robotic figures to be rolled out at Disney theme parks, it was revealed that a prototype in the form of Groot is being used to test unique traits, gaits and capabilities. 

Who knows, you could just see a Baby Groot walking around the park next time you go to Disneyland!

I am Groot!

(Images via Disney/Marvel)