When Guardians of the Galaxy first hit theaters just about five years ago, the blockbuster film featured a ragtag group of misfits pulled deep from the bowels of the massive Marvel mythos. The group instantly stole the hearts of moviegoers everywhere, though no characters stood out as much as the talking animal, Rocket Raccoon. In the saturated market of superhero films, there's no denying the raccoon stood out.
Earlier this week, ComicBook.com spoke with Sean Gunn, the on-set actor that serves as the stand-in for the character to talk about the process needed to create an entirely computer-generated character. Right out of the gates, Gunn made sure to point out that while some may think he performs motion capture work, that's simply not the case. Rather, he's there to provide motion reference for the animators.
"The animators are literally watching what I do and animating that rather than sending it through an algorithm the way that you would do it with a more humanoid character," Gunn reveals. "That doesn't work for a raccoon. It just doesn't, the technology isn't there. It doesn't look good enough so the animators actually watch what I do and animate that."
When Gunn first got the gig, he had signed on to play a supporting character by the name of Kraglin, one of Yondu Udonta's (Michael Rooker) right-hand men. Then, the actor was asked to read the lines of Rocket on-set, so that the other actors had someone to interact with, rather than acting with a dummy or another visual effects trick.
"The main reason that I was there was so that I could read the lines with the other actors and be an actor in the scene with them," Gunn says. "And I got down low for sight lines and things like that, so we initially did it like that really for the other actors."
After Gunn had been standing in for a week, he tells us the visual effects team mentioned his reference work was helping them expedite the computer generation of everyone's favorite trash panda.
"It wasn't until we had been shooting for a week or two that the visual effects team said 'These shots that we have of Sean in there are incredibly helpful to us as we start to animate Rocket and we start to know where he's looking and where his hands are moving and what his shoulders are doing' and that kind of thing," the actor reflects. "Then we started making sure that we got at least one really strong reference shot with me in it for the animators, and then I would step out and do it through the subsequent takes from behind the camera and I'd be just doing my same vocal performance but feeding the actors the lines."
In addition to serving as the on-set actor as Rocket in both of the Guardians films, Gunn did the same work for both Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, which is due out April 26th. It's anticipated the actor will reprise both his role as Rocket and Kraglin in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, a project that likely won't begin production for the better part of two years.
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