The topic of MCU canon has been hotly debated throughout the franchise's run, with several projects technically not within Marvel Studios' circle thought by fans to be part of the MCU's mythos. This issue dates all the way back to the MCU's first spin-off, Agents of SHIELD, which has received a few winks and nods from the movies despite technically being considered non-canon. Agent Carter has seen similar canon concerns, though it seems that Hayley Atwell's solo series may be considered part of the MCU's canon after all.
The problem of canonicity continued with Marvel's Netflix series, only spurred on by characters from Daredevil returning in Spider-Man: No Way Home and Hawkeye. While an official description from Marvel themselves seemed to clear these issues up, all eyes are on Marvel Studios' take on the Devil of Hell's Kitchen to see whether the new show will be a continuation of what's come before or a full-on revision of the character.
Non-canon ventures from Marvel and Disney also raise the question: will Marvel Studios ever veer off the path of keeping all of its projects canon?
One of the more interesting pieces of content coming down the MCU pipeline is the fast-approaching I Am Groot series. Recently announced to be premiering on August 10, this project will see the pint-sized plant go on all sorts of adventures.
The project is a bit different from other Marvel shows, existing as a collection of animated shorts rather than a typical piece of television. Furthermore, unlike the rest of the projects involving the Guardians of the Galaxy, including those where the team plays a smaller role, James Gunn (writer and director of the Guardians of the Galaxy films) seems to be less involved with this project, raising questions about how it fits into the overarching narrative of the MCU.
Though I Am Groot already occupies an interesting position within the MCU, adopting a slightly different mode of storytelling, recent comments from James Gunn only further the project's distinctiveness.
Is 'I Am Groot' MCU Canon?
New information straight from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 director James Gunn himself reveals that the upcoming I Am Groot project is not canon to the rest of the MCU. Responding to fans on Twitter, Gunn began by implying a bit of distance between the series and his own work. Asked about the position of the show in the Guardians timeline, the white-haired writer positioned the projects as separate.
"They're animated shorts so not necessarily part of the Guardians saga."
When asked directly about the canonicity of I Am Groot, Gunn again suggested a lack of a larger connection to the MCU.
"They're canon to themselves, I'd think."
After a question about the possibility of I Am Groot tying into future Guardians projects, Gunn responded with a simple "No."
Finally, over on Instagram, Gunn put the matter to bed, definitively saying that the shorts are "not canon to the Guardians saga."
Is This Good or Bad For the MCU?
Gunn is no stranger to Twitter, previously hopping on the platform to talk about his future with Marvel and DC and to set things straight about a casting scam. Here, Gunn addresses the topic of I Am Groot's canonicity with a similar level of frankness.
While Gunn's responses begin as a little vague, somewhat dancing around the question, his later comments clarify things, with Gunn revealing that not only will the I Am Groot series not play a part in the larger Guardians saga, but it also isn't a part of the canon.
It is somewhat interesting that this is the first that fans are hearing about the non-canonicity of the upcoming series. This sort of silence is likely to maintain interest in the project, with Marvel not exactly champing at the bit to announce its lack of connection to the wider MCU.
Additionally, to some extent, the non-canon status of the show isn't exactly that big of a deal. The adventures of I Am Groot, as exciting as they may be, will likely not affect the larger story of the Guardians of the Galaxy in any significant ways, instead existing as a sort of fun, self-contained series. In this sense, its canonicity is not exactly important, with the series making for some light-hearted fun that doesn't necessarily need to conform to the Guardians' story being told within the MCU.
Gunn's eagerness to clarify I Am Groot's position within the Guardians story makes sense, as he isn't the one helming the project. The world and characters of Guardians of the Galaxy are clearly very personal to the man, so it makes a good deal of sense that he would want to make people aware of this show's connection to his work, especially as fans seem to be just as curious.
Apart from the importance of this news to the upcoming I Am Groot series, it also shows an interesting shift for the MCU. Beyond some of the earlier Marvel television shows (which still occupy an interesting and unclear position in the MCU), this marks the first time a new project has been confirmed to exist outside of the franchise's canon.
While it's unclear if this is a new first or a one-time decision, it is at the very least a new approach for Marvel, especially with the series taking elements directly from the franchise. Perhaps, if the series is a success, fans can expect more non-canon stories to play out with characters from the MCU. Certain already announced projects may also exist in this same vein, like the upcoming Spider-Man: Freshman Year.
While this may not be a huge deal for the franchise as a whole, it does raise the question of whether viewers will be more or less receptive to Marvel Studios-produced projects that aren't directly connected to the MCU's canon. Part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's charm is that everything is interwoven, so breaking that trend with some projects may mean some fans are less invested if the project does not contribute to a greater whole.
Some consider the best MCU movies to be the ones that bring multiple elements of the franchise together, so having projects that exist outside of that may not be as interesting to certain fans. That said, it does allow storytellers more freedom in what they can do with their narratives, potentially leading to better stories.
Interestingly, Gunn has actually broached the topic of canon before, helping to shed light on this current decision. Again responding to fan questions on Twitter, Gunn noted that DC and Marvel don't interact as much with questions of canon, instead focusing on "making the story better." So, even as fans furiously debate things like the canonicity of Agents of SHIELD or the Marvel Netflix shows, the companies themselves are less concerned. As such, the quietness around the reveal of the show's non-canon status makes sense.
Even as Gunn (alongside fans) may be eager to clarify I Am Groot's connection to the MCU, the company itself is less concerned with such designations, instead prioritizing the nature and quality of the stories being told.