What If...? (TV series)
|Created by||A.C. Bradley|
|Based on||What If...?|
by Marvel Comics
|Directed by||Bryan Andrews|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Distributor||Disney Platform Distribution|
|Related shows||Marvel Cinematic Universe television series|
What If...? is an upcoming American animated anthology series created by A.C. Bradley for the streaming service Disney+, based on the Marvel Comics series of the same name. It explores what would happen if major moments from the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) occurred differently. The series is produced by Marvel Studios, their first animated series since becoming their own production company. Bradley serves as head writer of the series, with Bryan Andrews directing.
Jeffrey Wright stars as the Watcher, who narrates the series. By September 2018, Marvel Studios was developing a number of series for Disney+, and one based on the What If...? comic was first reported in March 2019. The series was officially announced a month later, with many characters in the series set to be voiced by the actors who portray them in the films. Marvel Studios' head of visual development Ryan Meinerding helped define the series' cel-shaded animation style, which was designed to reflect the films. Half of the first season's animation is provided by Squeeze, with Stephan Franck serving as head of animation.
What If...?'s first season is scheduled to be released in mid-2021, and will consist of 10 episodes. It will be part of Phase Four of the MCU. A second 10-episode season is in development.
Cast and characters
- Jeffrey Wright as Uatu / The Watcher:
A member of the extraterrestrial Watcher race, who observes the multiverse and occasionally intervenes with events therein. Head writer A.C. Bradley said the Watcher is "above everything else" and compared the character to a viewer watching the "pizza rat" video, stating that he is "a guy watching a rat drag a slice of pizza across the platform. He has no interest in becoming friends with the rat, living amongst the rat, or doing rat things. He just goes, 'Man, this is remarkable. Look at the little guy go!' That is The Watcher's relationship with humanity." Bradley said Wright was cast in the role because his voice mixes power, charisma, and authority with a "warm personality".
- Hayley Atwell as Captain Peggy Carter
- Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa / Star-Lord
- Josh Brolin as Thanos
- Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark
- Michael Douglas as Hank Pym
- Karen Gillan as Nebula
- Jeff Goldblum as Grandmaster
- Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow
- Sean Gunn as Kraglin Obfonteri
- Chris Hemsworth as Thor
- Tom Hiddleston as Loki
- Djimon Hounsou as Korath the Pursuer
- Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
- Toby Jones as Arnim Zola
- Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger
- Neal McDonough as Dum Dum Dugan
- Natalie Portman as Jane Foster
- Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton
- Michael Rooker as Yondu Udonta
- Paul Rudd as Scott Lang
- Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner
- Sebastian Stan as James "Bucky" Barnes
- Chris Sullivan as Taserface
- Taika Waititi as Korg
Additionally, Tony Stark / Iron Man, Steve Rogers / Captain America, Taneleer Tivan / The Collector, Dr. Stephen Strange, Carol Danvers / Captain Marvel, and Howard the Duck will be featured in the series.
By September 2018, Marvel Studios was developing several series for its parent company Disney's streaming service, Disney+; Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige was set to take a "hands-on role" in each series' development, focusing on "handling" the actors who would be reprising their roles from the films. By March 2019, Marvel Studios was planning to create an animated series based on the What If...? Marvel comics for Disney+. The anthology series, which would be produced by Feige, would explore how the MCU would be altered if certain events had occurred differently, such as if Loki wielded Thor's hammer Mjolnir. The hope was to have the actors who portray the characters in the MCU voice them in the series as well. A month later, Disney and Marvel officially announced the series. In December 2019, Feige revealed that the first season would consist of 10 episodes, and that work had already begun on a second 10-episode season.
Feige explained with the announcement of the series that the events that would be depicted as changed would be "pivotal moments" from throughout the MCU. As an example, he revealed that the first episode features Peggy Carter taking the super soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers. A.C. Bradley serves as head writer of the series, with Matthew Chauncey serving as story editor. Episodes were conceived and written by Bradley, Chauncey, series director Bryan Andrews, executive producer Brad Winderbaum, junior executive Simona Paparelli, and script coordinator Ryan Little, with the What If...? comics providing inspiration for potential story points. After creating 30 potential episode concepts, Feige chose his favorites, which were then narrowed down further to get the first season of episodes. Bradley originally pitched an episode which would have explored a possible reality in which Jane Foster became Thor. However, since the upcoming MCU film Thor: Love and Thunder (2022) is set to feature Foster as Thor, the idea was scrapped. After a rumor incorrectly stated that each episode would focus on one film from the Infinity Saga, Bradley clarified that multiple films and characters would be represented in each episode, with the intention of featuring most of the characters from all the films throughout the season.
Marvel's plan for the series was to have actors who portray characters in the MCU films reprise their roles in the series. At San Diego Comic-Con in July 2019, Feige revealed a cast list of these actors that included Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger, Sebastian Stan as James "Bucky" Barnes, Josh Brolin as Thanos, Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa, Karen Gillan as Nebula, Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton, Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, Michael Douglas as Hank Pym, Neal McDonough as Dum Dum Dugan, Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark, Sean Gunn as Kraglin Obfonteri, Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, Taika Waititi as Korg, Toby Jones as Arnim Zola, Djimon Hounsou as Korath the Pursuer, Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster, Michael Rooker as Yondu Udonta, and Chris Sullivan as Taserface. Feige also announced that Jeffrey Wright had been cast as the Watcher, who narrates the series. Goldblum indicated in November 2019 that Robert Downey Jr. would be reprising his role as Tony Stark in the series. In January 2021, Frank Grillo confirmed that he had worked on the series, reprising his role of Brock Rumlow / Crossbones.
The series, directed by Andrews, features a cel-shaded animation style, with character likenesses based on the actors from the films. Ryan Meinerding, the head of visual development at Marvel Studios, worked with Andrews to find the animation style for the series, which Bradley described as more of a "cinematic style". Bradley added that Marvel was "trying to use the color palette, the lighting, [and] the character design to tell as much story as you can" similarly as in live-action film. Animation studio Squeeze will work on five of the ten episodes in the series' first season. Stephan Franck serves as head of animation on the series.
Voice recording for the series had begun by August 2019 and continued into early 2020. Production continued remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, with on-site work at the Walt Disney Studios lot suspended. Additional voice recordings were planned for February 2021.
Footage from the series' first episode was shown during the D23 2019, with footage from the series also included in Expanding the Universe, a Marvel Studios special that debuted on Disney+ on November 12, 2019. The first trailer was released in December 2020. Based on the trailer, io9's James Whitbrook felt the series was "looking great". Chris Evangelista at /Film also thought it looked "pretty damn cool" and felt What If...? was a good "excuse to essentially blow up the MCU as we know it and tell completely new, weirder stories that would never get their own feature films". Writing for Polygon, Petrana Radulovic felt the trailer showed "the full extent of [narrative] possibilities". In January 2021, Marvel announced their "Marvel Must Haves" program, which reveals new toys, games, books, apparel, home decor, and other merchandise related to each episode of What If...? the Monday following an episode's release.
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