Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios tells us what we can look forward to with the MCU and Disney+
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When two powerhouses of entertainment join forces for the good of all geek-kind you know the results are going to be good. Just take WandaVision, the first series the MCU is streaming on Disney+ as an example. Released every Friday, WandaVision has received plenty of praise and it’s just the beginning of the epic adventures between the two entertainment giants; something that Marvel Studios president, Kevin Feige, is extremely proud of: “It has been a burst of creative energy for me and all of us at Marvel Studios to enhance our universe, to deeply explore more characters in our universe, and to do so in a very different and unique way, which I hope all of you can tell from our first streaming series WandaVision,” he says. “It’s a very exciting time for the MCU, thanks to Disney+.”
Taking place just after Endgame, WandaVision explores the relationship between Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) as they – and everyone else – come to terms with the results of what Thanos and that pesky glove of his did to the world.
“The reaction [to WandaVision has] been great,” Feige enthuses. “It’s been fun. It’s essentially like a new opening weekend every week because we would always go around to theatres back when we used to do that and get reactions online from people in the theatre. Now it’s the same thing. It’s fun, depending on what coast you’re on, to stay up late and listen or watch the reaction [in] real-time. I would say it’s unveiling very much in the way we hoped it would, that we designed the series to provide a dialogue week to week, knowing that we were going to release them each week by week. If we were ever going to change that, then maybe we’d think about a different version. But even when you binge things, I still like that hook at the end of an episode. But I would say it’s continued what we like about the ending of our movies or the tag in our movies, just with a more immediate week-to-week structure. So we’ll keep proceeding that way until we learn something new and have to shift.”
It’s no great surprise that WandaVision is receiving the praise that it is; Marvel Studios ensured that it not only had the money to produce a high-quality series (reportedly around $200 million) but that it had experienced creators behind the helm with writer Jac Schaeffer (who also wrote the eagerly anticipated Black Widow) and director Matt Shakman (whose genre credits include episodes of Game Of Thrones and The Boys).
Also, as audiences were to find out, WandaVision had nostalgia in the bucketloads – effectively paying homage to a beloved TV series in each episode – from black-and-white Fifties comedy, I Love Lucy, to Eighties all-American classic Full House (which ironically starred Elizabeth Olsen’s twin sisters Mary-Kate and Ashley), to documentary spoof The Office, to Nineties naughty kids show Malcolm in the Middle right up to Modern Family. References from such a diverse back catalogue of shows has meant WandaVision’s appeal has been broad.
“The greatest compliment that we can get on a project – and we’ve been very lucky to get them on many things over the years – which is ‘I don’t usually like this kind of movies’ or ‘I never read a comic, but I really enjoy X, Y, or Z’”, Feige explains. “I think WandaVision is an extreme example of that, but I think there is much to be found in everything we’re doing, including the upcoming The Falcon and the Winter Soldier with all the blasting and explosions, that will appeal to people, whether they’ve been following along with the MCU or not. That, at least, is the goal that we always strive for.”
That doesn’t mean that a lot of fan service hasn’t been ticked off the great Marvel list in the sky in WandaVision; from a Halloween episode that had Wanda and Vision dress in their classic comic book costumes, to blowing comic book fans’ crossover minds when Evan Peters was brought in to play Wanda’s brother, Pietro Maximoff aka Quicksilver (a role he played in X-Men: Days of Future Past, Apocalypse and Dark Phoenix) replacing Age of Ultron’s Aaron Taylor-Johnson.
The plan for the series is to now tie into the MCU’s cinematic outing, leading straight into Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness which is due to be released next year, with Feige confirming that both the MCU series and the films will indeed all tie in together: “We’ve already said that Lizzie Olsen will go from WandaVision into the new Dr. Strange film. There were lots of conversations with Sam Raimi and Michael Waldron and the entire Dr. Strange team that this movie needs to work for people who watched WandaVision but, more importantly, needs to work for people who didn’t, who maybe Endgame was the last time they saw Wanda, or one of the earlier movies, or maybe she’s a character they’re meeting for the first time. There will always be different layers of understanding, but we don’t want there to be a barrier to entry.“
The fun of the MCU is, obviously, all of the crossover that we can do between series, between films. It will always vary based on the story – sometimes it will go into a Season Two, sometimes it will go into a feature and then back into a series. We’ve announced that Ms. Marvel, after her debut on Disney+, will be going into the second Captain Marvel film. But we are thinking of and planning second seasons for some of the upcoming series.”
Speaking of a second series, will there be a Season Two of WandaVision? “We are developing all of these shows the way we’re developing our movies,” Feige reveals. “In other words, when we start with a movie, we hope there’s a part two; we hope there’s a part three. But we aren’t factoring that into part one. We are trying to make something that hooks people enough and that people enjoy enough and want to revisit enough, that they want to see the story continue. So that is the way we’re proceeding on television as well.
“I’ve been at Marvel for too long to say a definite no or definite yes to anything in regards to your question about another season of WandaVision but some of the shows that we’re about to start filming, we are keeping in mind a structure that would lead into a Season Two and a Season Three in a more direct way than, say, a show like WandaVision which clearly goes into a feature. But it is new. That’s part of the fun, exciting, adrenaline-boosting creativity that we’re able to do, thanks to Disney+, and really to figure out new ways of storytelling. Perhaps someday we’ll chart out five seasons of a show, but really we’re focusing on delivering the best seasons we can one at a time so far.”
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Though originally intended to be the first series released by Marvel on Disney+ (it was held up during the outbreak of Covid), The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is the next Marvel Studios series to be released on Disney+. Out on 19 March, the series sees Sam Wilson aka The Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) team up on a global adventure.
Told over six episodes, it is also reportedly taking a different route from WandaVision’s episodic structure and feeling more like a six or eight-hour movie, as Mackie described it to Variety, a point which Feige clarified for us: “Yes,” he nods. “Not quite eight hours, but yes. It all comes down to the storytelling. I guess the short answer is we don’t distinguish it too much. The bar is set high for the features and for the series, and we try to exceed that bar every time. Obviously, the week-to-week unveiling gives us opportunities, as we’re now seeing with WandaVision for sure. But we’re building the shows to be experienced that way, the way we build our features to be experienced in a run, and sometimes they have tags that hint at the future. It’s fun to be able to do that week to week in series programming. But other than that, it’s very much the same high bar that we try to set for ourselves and want to meet the expectations that the audience has when they go to a theatre to see one of our films or when they now turn on Disney+.”
Mackie and Stan first showed their comedic chemistry in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (yeah, we all loved their scene in the car) and the trailer (below) certainly reveals more of that: “Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan are spectacular actors that we felt like we hadn’t explored their stories or their backstories or their personal stories enough as Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes. So it was always the thought that we wanted to learn more about both of them. And in the little interactions they had with each other in The Winter Soldier, in Civil War – from the dailies of Civil War, seeing them interact with each other as friends of a mutual best friend in Captain America, it was a very fun dynamic. We thought if we ever had that opportunity, we’d watch a whole show with the two of them, and Disney+ finally gives us that opportunity.”
Given the success of WandaVision and the hype for Falcon, it’s no wonder that Marvel Studios are planning to release more series to the streaming service. Take a deep breath everyone and cue the squeals: “On March 19, as you know The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will be debuting,” Feige announces. “June 11 will be the debut date for Loki and, of course, soon after that, we’ll have our first animated series, which is What If …?. We are finishing up Ms. Marvel, and we’re also shooting Hawkeye currently. In a few weeks, we start She-Hulk and a week or so after that, we start Moon Knight in addition to our features.”
Phew, that’s a lot of Marvel to look forward to. Luckily, Feige and the team at Marvel Studios have always been great strategists, consistently hyping up fans and casual bystanders alike with what’s in store. However, no amount of meticulous planning could have foreseen the outbreak of Covid. Not only did The Falcon and the Winter Soldier have to be replaced by WandaVision (and both series airing a lot later than intended) but the first single outing for The Avengers’ favourite Russian spy, Natasha Romanoff, in Black Widow is still yet to have a release date. However, with the movie business still reeling from the affects of film sets, studios and cinemas closing, the dent on Marvel Studio’s plans aren’t overly drastic, especially with the understandable popularity of at-home streaming services such as Disney+ (which launched in the UK early last year): “The truth is, as far as the storytelling aspect of the MCU goes, we were lucky that if this had to happen, which we all wish it didn’t, this was the year that it could have happened and not interfered with our storytelling. We had completed the ‘Infinity’ saga. [Avengers] Endgame, [Spider-Man]Far From Home were released. A lot of what we were doing now was about reintroducing characters, exploring new things, like WandaVision, exploring a very specific period in time with Black Widow or new characters, like Shang-Chi [and the Legend of the Ten Rings] or Eternals. So the storytelling has not been affected too much.”
“Going forward, I certainly hope that we’re going to be able to continue what we set out to do many years ago when we started working on these Disney+ series, which is follow characters from a series, see how they evolve and change, and see how that interacts with a feature, then see how it goes back into a series, with the great, great joy of having everything eventually on Disney+,” Feige continues. “So when newcomers come to WandaVision because they love I Love Lucy or The Dick Van Dyke Show they can go: ‘I wonder what all this other Marvel stuff they’re talking about’ and there’s phase one, phase two, phase three right at their disposal on Disney+. I love having that arena for fans and particularly newcomers to explore as deep as they want to.”
Marvel Studios’ phase one, two and three and WandaVision are currently available on Disney+, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is due for release on 19 March on Disney+.