How Baby Groot Stole Christmas
It started innocently enough. A week ago, after bewailing the state of Our Exceptional Republic, we felt like zoning out on some fine filmed entertainment offered by our preferred streaming service. Maybe one of those comic-book movies we hadn’t gotten to watching yet?
We didn’t get very far.
The opening credits were one of the most joyous things we’ve seen since the Snoopy Dance — and we first saw the Snoopy Dance fifty years ago. The face was total bliss, the body (trunk?) a mass of expression.
We had to stop. And play it again. And again. And again.
We’ve been playing it again all week.
About a half-dozen times in, you stop merely enjoying it for what it is, and start studying how it is, why it works. Those eyes, for example, particularly the brows and how they meticulously capture each fleeting emotion. Or the thorough unselfconsciousness of the dance itself, so loose that we knew there had to be a live-action model for it.
And beyond all that, the technology itself. You can do some amazing things with computer animation, but the tools aren’t designed for pure expressions of soul. You can draw those things and let your hand and eyes guide you, but with computer characters you’re fighting architecture and mechanics and control points, and everything needs to be studied to death by teams just to get anything working at all.
And yet, there it is. The joy shines through.
Maybe it’s just the year it’s been. Maybe after week after incessant week of trying to see things as they are in all their unremitting cynicism and ugliness, of seeing just how quickly society can fall apart — nothing new to twentieth-century Europeans — we were just ready to be consumed by something, anything, that could be thoroughly enjoyed, even obsessed over, and heralded as an unalloyed accomplishment.
All we know for certain is that given the year ahead, we’re not done watching it.