Coming August 11 to Disney+ is Marvel Studio’s first animated show, “What If …?”, a project that “flips the script on the MCU, reimagining famous events from the films in unexpected ways.” Prior to the show’s premiere, the narrator and creators met on Zoom to talk about the inspiration, the tone and the originality of “What If …?”
Part of the conversation were executive producer Brad Winderbaum, director Brian Andrews, head writer A.C. Bradley and Jeffrey Wright (The Watcher).
On the decision and benefits of making “What If …?” Marvel Studio’s first animated television show:
Winderbaum: I think that it was obvious from the beginning that it needed to be animated because of all the locations and sets and characters and elements from the MCU. [If] we were gonna revisit it, it had to kind of be in a medium that would allow us an infinite scope of whatever we could conceive of.
Andrews: It’s an anthology, and part of the aspect of it being an anthology, just like those Twilight Zones back in the day. It’s like, you never know what you’re gonna get, you know. You might get an episode that’s comedy, you might get an episode that’s kind of dramatic and serious, like, super emotional, full of action…. And this gave us an opportunity to apply a little taste of a variety of genres into the Marvel cinematic universe, you know what I mean?… Things are so different, so weird, so crazy. It just opens the floodgates. We can do whatever we wanted to, and that was quite exhilarating, you know, to be able to play in that way.
On the role and history of The Watcher:
Wright: He’s a fairly dramatic guy. He’s a fairly powerful guy. He’s kind of overseeing the entire MCU. He’s overseeing the multiverses and he plays somewhat of a Rod Sterling role here. Kind of narrating, kind of not. In some ways, as maybe the biggest Marvel fan there is, watching all that transpires, and dealing with certain temptations to involve himself. But at the same time, just kind of living vicariously through these characters, these stories, this mythology, and taking it all in.
Andrews: I love it, too, because Jeffrey was saying earlier about him-The Watcher needing, you know, the multiverse. Needing all these people. Needing the mythic stories. Needing all this stuff. Perhaps we need the Watcher. I love the fact that … he is us, we are him, right? Because he’s watching all these things the same way that we are watching these Marvel movies, you know what I mean? So, in a way, he’s the audience, in way. And that immediately makes it, to a certain degree, relatable to him…. And especially with what came out of the writing, throughout the season, and then what Jeffrey brought to the table as we went through it, I think people are gonna be pretty happy and surprised with where it goes with The Watcher.
On revisiting familiar characters in snapshots of different multiverses:
Bradley: To be honest with you, when it came to creating an episode, like, figuring out the story of “What If…?”, the last thing we thought about was the “what if.” I think what we all looked for was what’s the heart behind the hero? How do we get behind the shield? What’s a part of the story we haven’t told before? For me, these characters are iconic. We recognize their silhouettes. We recognize their taglines. But what’s important is how we connect to them. So, it was finding new ways to connect to Peggy Carter, to Thor Odinson, to Dr. Strange. And, luckily, we have The Watcher to be our guide ‘cause he, too, is looking for a connection. ‘Cause that’s really what drove everything, was character. And then we kind of figured out the “what if.”
Winderbaum: Yeah, I mean, it is an anthology. There are standalone stories and much like we do with the films, and now the
shows, we are trying to create stories that exist on their own terms. So, if-if-if you were to watch any episodes of “What If…?” and that was the only episode you watched, you get a full experience, hopefully, with the character that lives a rich life and changes dynamically and is entertaining and emotionally satisfying. But it is, also Marvel. And, as we know, there’s always strange alchemy at work. So you never know. They could all connect. We’ll have to see.
“What If …?” streams on Disney+ starting August 11.