One of the highlights of my tenure at This Is Infamous was my interview with a raccoon.
“A Raccoon? Tom? Really?”
“Yes, a raccoon.”
Enter Oreo Raccoon, whom fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Guardians of the Galaxy know better as… Rocket Raccoon… To my knowledge, I’m still the only entertainment journalist to interview this raccoon’s handlers at the wildlife habitat he lived in prior to his passing last year. What made the interview even more unique was my play at having it done as an educational comic strip.
I enlisted the aid of my buddy Brian McKevitt, aka Calmixx, who put together the Funko-poppy cartoon strip you see below. I’ve also included my written interview with Oreo’s handlers.
Regrettably, Oreo crossed the Rainbow Bridge in February of 2019 at the ripe old age of ten.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, Marvel Studios’ foray into the unknown proved to be incredibly successful this year. The film has made a ton of money, surpassing all expectations, as well as all movies released in 2014 to become the highest-grossing film of the year. Part of its success is the emotional connection and dynamics between the members of the team. Star Lord, Drax the Destroyer and Gamora. But the most enduring members of the team seem to be the tandem of Rocket & Groot.
As many people may know, Bradley Cooper voiced Rocket, the cybernetic raccoon. Sean, director James Gunn’s brother, in turn, did the motion capture for the character. What many people don’t know is that a real, live raccoon was used for the CGI scans for Rocket. Enter Oreo Raccoon, the living, breathing animal used to represent Rocket on screen.
Real raccoons aren’t far from the beaten path of Rocket’s MacGuyver-esque, con-man, tough-guy attitude. It’s no wonder Rocket was paired with Groot in the film, as raccoons love trees, among other things. To call them crafty is an understatement. I grew up in rural upstate New York, and raccoons were my bane as a child, constantly getting into garbage and forcing me to clean it up. These creative, problem-solving, little devils can get into dumpsters, sheds, houses or even cars once they put their minds to it.
Oreo lives in a wild animal reserve/shelter in the UK called, not so surprisingly, Oreo And Friends Natural Encounters (http://www.oreoandfriends.co.uk/). His story is a true rags to riches tail. After being found as a sickly kit (the word for a baby raccoon), he was hand fed and raised by the staff at the shelter. This led to them taking Oreo with them in public, which in turn led to local news coverage, as raccoons are not indigenous to the United Kingdom. The attention found adventurer and author Ben Fogle, who chose Oreo to be on the cover of his book, THE ACCIDENTAL NATURALIST. Then the big break came when Marvel Studios approached Oreo’s humans about using him as the model for Rocket Raccoon in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. The rest is, well, motion picture history.
I was blessed to be given an opportunity to “speak” with Oreo, albeit through his handlers, John and Sallie at Oreo And Friends Natural Encounters. Enjoy…
How did you get hired to be Rocket Raccoon? And also, was the computer scanning easy to do for a raccoon?
Well Tom, the researchers were looking for a raccoon and got in touch with my humans through another animal company that didn’t have a raccoon… Hey what’s that all about, raccoons are awesome, bet they get one now! Computer scanning… easy, everything is easy for a raccoon we can adapt you know….we learn really, really fast!!!!
If you found yourself the victim of genetic and cybernetic experimentation what sort of improvements would you hope for?
As you know I am pretty awesomely perfect already but I guess I would like to be able to stretch more as it’s easier to steal stuff, saves climbing…
Can you do a Bradley Cooper impression?
I need that eye, I NEED THAT EYE…
Who is a better motion capture actor? You or Andy Serkis?
I didn’t do the mo-cap, James’s bro did it.
Who do you think wins in a bare-fisted fight? Rocky Racoon or Ranger Rick?
Raccoon all the way obviously, I’m shocked you asked dude…*flicks tail*
Why is Groot your BFF (best friend)?
He’s my buddy because he is cool, he can reach stuff and he lets me do the talking, I love to talk, talking is one of the things I do best. Aaaaand he does this gross thing where he eats his own shoots and twigs, the others hate it it’s so funny watching them do all that heaving and retching. He also has that thing called honour and he cares so he can teach me to be a better raccoon… or try to anyways…
Tell me more about raccoons and trees.
Ohhhhh we raccoons can tackle any tree, nothing is a problem for these super limbs and we can do this cool thing where we can hang upside down from a branch and eat stuff and if someone walks underneath we can steal stuff like caps.
I’ve been told raccoons are omnivores. What are their favorite things to eat?
Well….. my favourite things are chicken, nuts, and grapes but we are so awesome and adaptable we can eat most things, it kinda tastes better if it belongs to someone else too!
What advice would you give a family that wants a raccoon as a pet?
We make terrible pets for the wrong people and ok pets for the right people, we are very smart and cunning and we can do so much with our hands ( and brains)! We are good at escaping too and need loads of space and stuff to do. A bored raccoon is a dangerous raccoon!!! We always have a plan!!!! Most people should avoid having us as pets!!!
What is next on the agenda for you now that you are a big movie star?
Well I would like to buy a yacht but I don’t like the taste of seawater, I’d like a penthouse but they don’t have big enough gardens and I would like to have a vineyard to grow my own grapes but that would mean moving from the UK sooooo I think I will just chill out with my homies and see what comes up! I’d like to work with my buddy James Gunn again, he is the best!!! Watch this space..( Space…get it hahahahahahah it’s REAL)