MCU: Baby Groot’s Secret Filipino Origins Revealed by Marvel Artist

By Aeron Mer Eclarinal Updated:
Baby Groot origin Marvel Studios

Throughout Groot's live-action tenure, the Marvel hero has gone through several design changes, ranging from Adult Groot to the fan-favorite Baby Groot. The latter has since received his own series of shorts on Disney+ titled I Am Groot, which chronicled his misadventures in the galaxy. 

Although the spotlight has been centered on Baby Groot after the successful release of his Disney+ shorts, there are still mysteries attached to the character, such as its adorable design. 

Now, new details about Baby Groot's design have been revealed by the visual artist who helped craft his live-action look. 

MCU Artist Unveils Baby Groot's Origins

Baby Groot, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Marvel Studios

Former Marvel Studios visual artist Anthony Francisco sat down as a guest on the Mexipino Podcast to talk about how he originated the design for the MCU's Baby Groot and how he was inspired by his son and Filipino culture like the Balete tree. 

When asked about this inspiration, Francisco admitted that he "copied" his son's body type into Baby Groot: 

“Yeah, watching Baby Groot on screen for the first time feels like I captured, now, my son, and pretty much that Baby Groot is a little Filipino kid… I totally just copied his body type."

Balete Tree
Lawrence Ruiz

The veteran visual artist then explained the inclusion of the Balete tree in the character's design, saying that he used "some of the textures" from the tree while also talking about the similarities between Baby Groot's face and his son:

"When he was four years old, I was like, ‘How else can I add more of my Filipino culture in here?’ Even though he’s already a tree plant, but I wanted to use a specific type of tree called the Balete tree in the Philippines and there’s stories about that… the Balete tree where the White Lady resides. I just used some of the textures from that, and the way the roots kinda hang down, and the limbs and the internal parts of Baby Groot. Even the face, the cuteness of it, the wide eyes, this just looks like my son.”

Francisco last served as Senior Visual Development Artist of Marvel Studios, working at the company for nine years. His previous works include characters such as Baby Groot, Loki, and Black Panther's Dora Milaje. 

The visual artist was born in Quezon City and raised in Cubao, Philippines. Francisco migrated to America during his late teenage years with his family who then settled in Los Angeles, California.

Francisco is also known as the "Visual Father of Baby Groot."

An Incredible Tribute to Filipinos 

The surprising connection of Baby Groot to Filipino culture will forever be etched in MCU history, and many would agree that this is more than enough reason for everyone in the Philippines to be proud of this tribute. 

It's fascinating that a tree like Balete was used as inspiration for Baby Groot, especially considering the grim history that is attached to it. For context, the Balete tree is infamous in Philippine folklore as it is known to be a dwelling for supernatural creatures, such as dwarves, tree demons, and the spirit of the White Lady. 

Using the Balete as a reference for Baby Groot's design now gives a different context to the haunted tree due to the MCU hero's playful and adorable identity. 

In addition, the fact that Anthony Francisco also used his four-year-old son as a basis for Baby Groot means that the character will be forever attached to him. 

Hopefully, Marvel's first Filipina hero, Pearl Pangan aka Wave, will make her debut one day so that representation for the Philippines will be pushed even further. 

I Am Groot is now streaming on Disney+.

- In This Article: I Am Groot (Season 2)
Release Date
September 06, 2023
- About The Author: Aeron Mer Eclarinal
Aeron is a news/features writer and Content Lead for The Direct who has been working for the site since March 2020. From writing about the inter-connectivity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to having an extended knowledge about DC TV's Arrowverse, Aeron's expertise has since expanded into the realm of reality TV, K-drama, animated, and live-action shows from Netflix,  Disney+, Prime Video, MGM+, Peacock, Paramount+, and Max. When he isn't writing and watching all things MCU, Aeron is heavily invested with the NBA (go Celtics!) and occasionally watches thrilling matches in the WWE.