Academy Award-winning VFX house Framestore once again reunited with James Gunn to bring stunning special effects to life for the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Holiday special. We have an exclusive first look behind the scenes of the VFX breakdown of bringing not only giving life to Knowhere – the home of our motley crew but some of our favourite characters too.

VFX Supervisor Alexis Wajsbrot led Framestore’s teams across London, Montreal, Vancouver and Mumbai to deliver 271 shots for the Disney+ special, primarily in the Guardians’ celestial home, Knowhere.

Featured in the video, for one, is Cosmo the dog, Wajsbrot said “She’s a photoreal dog, but is able to talk via speakers in her space suit. This means that while there’s a need for facial expressions and performative cues that reflect the speech, we don’t need her to move her jaw in order to ‘talk’, which helps the audience maintain the belief that this is a real dog.”

To create Cosmo, the team began with a mountain of reference footage, creating a skeleton and muscle structure for the labrador-type breed, before concentrating on her facial features. The team intentionally underplayed Cosmo’s facial performance, with the occasional more extreme expression or facial tic added sparingly.

Along with Cosmo came a new-look Groot Since his battle on Indigaar in ‘Thor: Love and Thunder,’ young teenage Groot has aged up once again, broadening his shoulders and adding weight and muscle to his limbs. “He’s an older teen now so he’s been hitting the gym, that’s for sure,” joked Wajsbrot. “Director James Gunn referred to him as Swoll Groot, in reference to his broader physique.”

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Groot’s dancing movement reference was provided by Gunn, giving the team a head-start for the comedic performance.

How could we forget about the grumpy yet lovable Rocket, With not a lot changing in his appearance, the team came together to focus their time on interpreting the on-set performance of Sean Gunn, with the voice performance of Bradley Cooper, and blending it with the demands and limitations of the actual shot.

The Creature FX team banded together to design all the simulation rigs for the level-up costume to interact with Rocket’s fur and added some extra details like costume wrinkles for closeups. To integrate him into the plate footage, the lighting team recreated the onset lighting – including the Christmas decoration lights – so that surfaces like the eyes would get accurate colour and exposure highlights. A great example of this is when a teary Rocket receives Bucky’s arm as his Christmas present.

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special was released exclusively on Disney+ on 25 November 2022.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3 hit cinemas on May 3rd.