Let me put my cards on the table — I’m not anti-cute by any stretch of the imagination! The Marvel Cinematic Universe equivalent of Grogu, Baby Groot, continues to be one of the best and funniest and most poignant additions that writer/director James Gunn brought to “Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2” and beyond. The Mogwais from Joe Dante’s “Gremlins” live rent-free in every film fan’s head, especially as the mascots of the Letterboxd social media website (and rightfully so). And while some “Star Wars” fans may have forgotten this in the aftermath of his lightsaber-wielding antics in the prequel trilogy, Yoda’s first appearance in “The Empire Strikes Back” set the franchise precedent for weirdo, goofy characters who mostly exist to annoy our heroes and make life harder for them. This is all good!
But what do each and every one of those examples have in common? For one thing, they were more than mere excuses to have audiences squeal at their screens in unison and post viral-ready clips and screenshots online, essentially doing the show’s marketing on behalf of Disney and entirely for free. Ever since that cliffhanger ending back in the season 1 premiere, Grogu couldn’t help but feel like a cynical business calculation by creator Jon Favreau and those higher up the food chain in Lucasfilm. How best to mitigate the risks of launching a brand-new streaming service led by a “Star Wars” series featuring a new and unknown character who (mostly) never takes off his helmet? Easy! Pair Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) up with an impossibly cute Yoda lookalike who’ll get even the most casual fan to subscribe to Disney+ and tune in every week.
Needless to say, it worked like a charm and now here we are.