We’ve been excited for Marvel Studios’ WHAT IF…? since we saw it teased at the 2019 D23 Expo and now it’s finally here! We recently had the opportunity to hear from the team who brought WHAT IF…? to life.
What is WHAT IF…?
WHAT IF…? flips the script on the MCU, reimagining famous events from the films in unexpected ways. Marvel Studios’ first animated series focuses on different heroes from the MCU, featuring a voice cast that includes a host of stars who reprise their roles. Directed by Bryan Andrews with AC Bradley as head writer, WHAT IF…? launches exclusively on Disney+ on August 11, 2021.
How Did We Get Here?
The idea for WHAT IF…? came to Executive Producer Brad Winderbaum on a drive home, and by the next day the project was born. “I think that it was obvious from the beginning that it needed to be animated,” Brad shared. “It had to kind of be in a medium that would allow us an infinite scope of whatever we could conceive of.”
While other Marvel projects on Disney+ (WANDAVISION, THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER, LOKI) were a true series being told from week to week, WHAT IF…?‘s episodes are each their own story.
“It’s an anthology,” Director Bryan Andrews explains, “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.”
The Heart Behind the Heroes
While WHAT IF…? Head Writer AC Bradley shares the question WHAT IF…? was actually the last thing they asked when figuring out the story. “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?”
While WHAT IF…?’s first episode with Captain Carter seems to make sense – Peggy Carter is already connected to the mythos of Captain America – the second episode of T’Challa StarLord seems to be a stretch…Or is it?
This episode began with figuring out who else in the MCU was 9 years old at roughly the same time as Peter Quill. WHAT IF…? Yondu gets lost and takes the wrong kid because all humans look the same? “So, that’s kinda where that one started from,” AC explains. “T’Challa is an interesting character because he’s not a character that arcs himself, he’s a character that changes the world around him. And he doesn’t go through a transformation, he transforms the world. So, then, taking a step back would be, well, how would T’Challa transform outer space? And that’s how you get that episode.”
Speaking of T’Challa…
I think I speak for all of us here at MouseInfo when I say Chadwick Boseman’s death was one of the hardest celebrity deaths to process. When the press conference turned to sharing Chadwick’s stories, there didn’t appear to be a dry eye on the panel, and I’m sure in the audience as well (I am assuming, but I was certainly crying into my morning coffee watching the conference over Zoom).
In lieu of crafting a story, I’m providing what the team shared about working with Chadwick in it’s entirety, as I feel this is the best way to honor him. The quotes below have been edited for clarity.
I think he may have been even one of the first actors that signed on and said, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m gonna do that voice.’ And we were so excited ‘cause we really, really, really wanted to work with Chadwick and we just loved Black Panther… And, you know, none of us knew what he was going through at the time, of course.
It was really great to hear him talk about he was excited to play this particular version of T’Challa because it was different. Because it was a version of him being able to play the king, but the king without the mantle of royalty and all the other things that go with it. Completely different spin, you know, he could lighten it up, he could get a little bit more jokey with it and stuff. He was excited to bring that-that flavor to T’Challa and-and give it to the audience, you know, so we can see a slightly different version of T’Challa.
He was a hero, for real. Working on the show, in postproduction, we’re doing the score and the music. He had already passed since then. So, now we have to make sure nothing goes wrong with these episodes. So, even down to the music and making sure that everything in it can honor what he brought to the table. Honor the character, but honor Chadwick as well. We can’t wait for the audience to see it, for the world to see it. So, they can enjoy Chadwick again.
I actually met Chadwick for the first time at Comicon in the bathroom. He was about to introduce the first Black Panther film. And I was there with Westworld. We had a-a really wonderful exchange.
We’d run into each other here and there, after. We were going to do Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. I was asked to be a part of that, and I couldn’t do it because I was tied up with another film, unfortunately. So, I didn’t have a chance to work with Chadwick on that.
So, it was really a very lovely surprise to find that we would have the opportunity, at least, to be in the same space with WHAT IF…?. This being his last performance that we’ll get from him, I find it very moving. The thing that strikes me most, what he does here and what he’s done with these films is that these are films about heroism and all the complications of that.
What we all discovered was that the kind of mythic quality that he brought to these performances, kind of paled, in some way, to the mythic quality that was his life. In terms of the way that he was going about doing this work, the grace, the dignity, the power. I’m really pleased to share a little bit of time with him on this.
Into the Multiverse
So, can we expect to see characters and stories from WHAT IF…? in future MCU Projects?
“It’s no coincidence that this show picks up right after LOKI,” Brad Winderbaum shares. “Spoiler alert, but the multiverse has now erupted in every possible direction. WHAT IF…? gives us a chance to explore that. I think you can tell that in this next saga, the multiverse is gonna be crucial. It’s woven into that same tapestry. There’s a lot of potential there.”
We’re ready to jump in.
See it for yourself
WHAT IF…? debuts exclusively on Disney+ on Wednesday, August 11, 2021.