'Much of the movie’s scene-stealing is left to Rocket, a CGI character impressively crafted by the Guardians’ crack VFX team and voiced with panache by Cooper.'

The Hollywood Reporter

The Making of a Space Raccoon

Raccoons do not often walk on two legs. They do not regularly start bar fights, fire huge guns or pilot spaceships either, but then Rocket is no ordinary raccoon. Rocket needed to look photo-real and naturalistic, but at the same time had to be made to do things raccoons simply do not. After all, part of his character is that he doesn’t even know he is a raccoon. 'If you exaggerate his performance and make him too cartoony you’ve lost the audience, but if you go too real you’ll end up with something that isn’t entertaining, or doesn’t do Bradley’s voice justice', explained Framestore’s Animation Supervisor Kevin Spruce. The team referenced Bradley Cooper’s vocal performance as an anchor point in terms of lip-sync, along with the level of interpretation required to translate a human face performance to a raccoon muzzle, keeping him realistic against his castmates.

Fur and Fibre

Framestore’s Creature FX team had their hands full creating realistic fur and clothing for the space raccoon, simulating every single hair on his body and working out how it should collide.

Creating Rocket’s fur was such a large undertaking that the R&D team worked on rebuilding the core of Framestore’s fur system, fcHairFilters, to both multi-thread the way they could process the hair and to substantially improve the memory efficiency. Multiple colour maps were then mixed in different ways along the length of each hair, swapping between the different maps in certain areas for the shorter, speckled hair. The result of this experimentation is the photo-realistic, lovable character we see in the final film today.

 

I Am Groot

Groot is the massive, walking, more-or-less talking tree of the piece, and Rocket’s personal houseplant/muscle. Though not created at Framestore, he still threw up some interesting challenges and required a number of custom rigs. The connected nature of his build made him innately challenging, with root-like ribbons running from one piece to another. One ribbon was actually driving the forearm, the upper arm, shoulder, even through the chest and down to the feet. The Framestore team also used the on-site Capture Lab to shoot genuine plant material for the FX team, creating splinters, twigs and dust.

'I have a lot of favourite things about this show, but my heart belongs to the interior of Knowhere. We just spent so much time developing it and making it a real place.'

Kyle McCulloch - VFX Supervisor

The Middle of Knowhere

Shrouded in vibrant nebula (a stylised combination of matte painting and FX), Knowhere is an entire city built inside the mined-out, severed head of a giant celestial being, measuring three miles wide and filled with massively detailed geometry. 

Work on Knowhere started with the Art Department collaborating with production designer Charlie Wood. It was built modularly, from 250 separate models based on Art Department designs for elements such as towers, pillars, turbines, little huts and railings, forming a complete VFX Lego. Each large element, such as towers, could be dressed with smaller ones, like pipes, to create the favela-like slums of each unique Knowhere district. Those 250 distinct models were used 85,000 times to build a city that numbered 1.2 billion polygons at render time. That’s a lot of Lego bricks.

Award Nominations

  • Achievement in Visual Effects

    Oscar (Nominated)
  • Special Visual Effects

    BAFTA (Nominated)
  • Outstanding Animated Character

    VES Award (Nominated)
  • Outstanding Visual Effects

    VES Award (Nominated)

Reviews

'It would be criminal to not pay immediate tribute to the impressive, gripping action sequences filled with stunning visual effects.'

Cineblend

'The real scene-stealers are computer-generated. Top dog or, in this case, top rodent, is Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket, a growling, gun-slinging raccoon given to mouthing off at his fellow guardians.'

Rolling Stone Magazine

'Computer-animated Rocket and Groot are both marvellously detailed and seamlessly integrated into the live-action scenes.'

Variety

'Its underdog spirit, visual wonders, and decent comedic hit-to-miss ratio keep the movie from being a mere placeholder.'

The Verve