Marvel’s What If?… Among the projects announced in Phase 4 of Marvel Studios at San Diego Comic-Con 2019, there were a few long-awaited and much-anticipated titles. The first wave of the series, set to debut on the Disney+ streaming service in 2021 and 2022, promises to bring back fan favorites and to the big screen, bringing a familiar sense of MCU adventure straight to your living room. But one show, in particular, has an air of mystery.
If you weren’t familiar with the length of Marvel Comics’ What If Tradition, it has been a title of alternate universe store who es since the 1970s. These out-of-continuity tales add strange twists to popular Marvel characters and stories in Twilight Zone, exercising a style in fantasy. Introducing this approach to the world of the film opens up endless possibilities, especially because what if…? It will be the first animation project in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
All of this means that the show can bend the rules of both content and style—think spider-verse—to offer new portrayals of lovable characters that live-action can’t quite match. Marvel boss Kevin Feige is already posting bold twists and imaginative new interpretations, and we can’t wait to take it all in! Here’s what we can tell you so far.
What is Marvel’s What If… release date?
What if…? Currently set to premiere on Disney+ in the summer of 2021. As with other MCU shows coming to the platform, we don’t have a more specific date yet. Judging from the full Phase 4 lineup presented at Comic-Con, though, a good guess would be July or August. This will keep the show apart from other studio releases for 2021, both in theaters (Shang Zhi and The Legend of the Ten Episodes in February, Doctor Strange in Madness multiverse in May, and Thor: Love and Thunder in November) and in Disney+ (Lucky and Wanda Vision are both about to launch in Spring is with you following in the fall). We all know Marvel is on their way to having an event every calendar month they can get, right?
The big difference between what if…? Its importance is the number of loops. While live-action shows adapt from six to eight episodes, what if…? Twenty-three of the Mammoth installments are due (although we don’t yet know how long each will last). It’s worth nothing and Feige described this as the first of the season, which means more to come if fans respond enthusiastically. Like all new and original content on Disney+, what if…??? It will be released in a weekly casual format, not as a dump of copies, not Netflix.
Beyond the usual cast
To be honest, it would be easier to say who’s no in this small number, but we’ll take a deep breath and list them all off for you. There are many MCU heavy hits aboard, suggesting some epic alternate universe stories: Josh Brolin, Chadwick Boseman, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Michael B. Jordan, Sebastian Stan, Hayley Atwell, Karen Gillen, Mark Ruffalo, Samuel L. Jackson, and Jeremy Renner will all be heard. Paul Rudd in particular will bless us all by lending his already animated voice to some cartoons like Scott Lang, joined by Michael Douglas as Hank Pym.
However, the cast also suggests some small stories and features some surprising performers reprising their small roles. Sean Gunn returns as Cragglin (a whipped Yondu lieutenant), Djimon Hounsou Korath (I saw him in Captain Marvel as a Kree soldier and in Guardians of the Galaxy working for Ronan the Accuser), Taika Waititi as Korg (surely a fan-favorite episode), Jeff Goldblum, Grandmaster (Dito), Michael Rooker Yondu, Toby Jones, Arnim Zola (assuming finally his final form as a robot, hopefully), Dominic Cooper returns as Howard Stark, Neil McDonough Dum Dum Duggan (a bowler-hat sniper) Captain America: First Avenger and Agent Carter
The narrator is everywhere. What if…?
We can assume that What If…? Episodes will feature one-off recurring stories, but we do know that the series will feature a generic narrator — familiar to fans of the Marvel comic strip tradition. It’s Uatu Ranger, and it will be expressed. What if…? Written by Jeffrey Wrightwright, Celebrity. The people of Uatu – all watchers – were already introduced to the MCU in Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2In a comic scene with Stan Lee. The animated series marks the arrival of Uatu himself, who, in the comics, is assigned to our solar system to fulfill his race’s mission of observing (but never interfering) the lower species in the universe.
Another key part of his personality is that it’s not all that great by following the enlightened code of ethics for observers, and he’s got his stingy claws into the works of humanity over the centuries. He even went to trial skipped. Maybe some episodes of what if…? It would show instances Uatu had to fix the timeline, rather than simply describing its capabilities as Rod Serling’s Moon Dwelling.
Who writes what if…?
At Disney’s D23 Show in August 2019, Brian Andrews was announced as lead director of What If…? Animation directors rarely become household names in the way live-action film directors and television directors do, but you’ll almost certainly have heard of his most famous work: Genndy Tartakovsky, Samurai Jack, won by Andrews Emian, in his role as storyboard artist. This is far from his first encounter with Marvel – he’s been a storyboard artist for several MCU movies, bringing the same scenery to the action sequences and effects he’s brought to sleek TV animation.
Meanwhile, Ashley Bradley has been chosen as the lead writer for the series. The bulk of her autobiography revolves around her work on Netflix’s Hunters: Tales of Arcadia and its follow-up, 3 below, two animated series from Dreamworks and the illustrious Guillermo del Toro. As Bradley says, Marvel has been following her for some time and invited her to a previous project with no name, but she declined due to her work on 3 below. Now she is on a break from the Dreamworks project and is ready to take on something bigger and higher.
The What If…? The comedy series began in 1977 with the story ‘What If Spider-Man Joined The Fantastic Four?’ The anthology has shaken, remixed, and wrapped around nearly every major Marvel property, mixing on and off for decades, right up to today. Each is a stand-alone story that asks hypothetical questions about previously created comic plots or characters, such as ‘What if Iron Man is a traitor?’ What if the Avengers had never seen it?, and ‘What if Captain America and Bucky survived World War II?’ (Keep in mind that in the comics, Bucky’s death was an established and universally accepted legal fact for decades until the Winter Soldier story in 2004.
Which ‘what if’ story do you expect to see?
We’ve got some tantalizing hints of what we’ll see in 2021. During both the false chances at SDCC, D23, Feige, and company drop hints about the kinds of alternate time stories we’re in. Conceptual art revealed that Peggy Carter took the place of Steve Rogers on the Super Soldier program and became Captain Britain (a character in Marvel Comics who is not Peggy). Marvel zombies – themselves a popular horror comic episodic – will make their way into the show. In particular, the jaw-dropping move from writer Ashley Bradley introduces T’Challa as Star-Lord (what. what???).
A more general description, in the words of Kevin Feige, is that the creative team intends to take every MCU storyline and ‘change one thing here or there.’ This does not mean that they dedicate each episode to a separate movie or that they intend to proceed with the catalog linearly (although for 23 episodes, there will theoretically be one for each movie in the Infinity Saga). According to Ashley Bradley, it’s more about seeing as many characters as possible in a fun and quirky situations as possible. That’s really comforting to us — we’re in this for watching funky, even silly, or slapstick presentations, not a slightly modified rehash of something we’ve seen before. It’s mobile, so why not stretch the boundaries and skew expectations.