WandaVision will kick off the next chapter of the MCU on Friday, January 15, not only as the first Marvel Studios series for Disney+, but as the unintended first project to go public from Kevin Feige and his team since Spider-Man: Far from Home wrapped up the Infinity Saga in the summer of 2019. All eyes are on the series not just because it comes after a full year of no Marvel Studios content, but because it will set the tone of Phase 4 of the MCU and what is to come from the behemoth studio.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered movie theaters and caused global production shutdowns, Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow movie was set to kick off the post-Thanos (Josh Brolin) Marvel Cinematic Universe last spring, followed by The Falcon and the Winter Soldier launching Marvel's Disney+ series library. WandaVision had been set to premiere in the winter, but the pandemic changed everything. WandaVision will now lead the way in January, with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier following in March. Black Widow, if the still raging pandemic allows, will make its theatrical run in May around the same time that Tom Hiddleston's Lokilimited series will premiere on Disney+. Despite the reshuffling, Feige admits that not much had to change to put WandaVision in the lead, and ultimately he thinks it will be for the best.
"Just the nature of the beginning of Phase 4 and these films and in Disney+ series we had, they all work with the slight reshuffles that we've all been forced to deal with," Feige told TV Guide during a press junket to promote WandaVision. "But it is nice that even though it wasn't originally designed that way, WandaVision being the kickoff not just for Phase 4, but specifically for Marvel Studios and the MCU on Disney+, is perfect because it's an homage to television."
While Feige is confident that WandaVision, which sees Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) attempt to create an idyllic suburban life as each episode pays tribute to a different decade of TV sitcoms, will kick off Phase 4 in a bold new way for Marvel, he's in much less of a rush to define what will end this new chapter or what Marvel is defining as the next "saga" for the studio.
"It's all just a way of keeping track of the stories. We're building as we make them, and then keeping track of the stories for the audience after we've released them. We didn't declare those 23 movies in the Infinity Saga until they were all finished, until they were done. Some of them connected more than others, and some of them were the individual trilogies wrapped up into the Avengers movies, interconnected with Civil War and other films," Feige explained. "So that, like the comics, is the fun of our storytelling. The phases and the sagas are something that we use to keep a bigger picture in mind as we create all of our individual singular series or movies. That has worked well for us so we're continuing to think of it in that fashion. Declaring what it is, or what the overarching theme is, or what the title of the saga is will not come until much later."
What we do know is that the MCU has nine announced titles in the pipeline for 2021 alone, with six of those being Disney+ episodic adventures that will either provide a deeper examination of beloved established MCU characters like Wanda, Vision, and Loki, or introduce new characters like Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), aka Ms. Marvel, who will make her debut in her own Disney+ series in Fall 2021 and then appear on the film side in Captain Marvel 2 alongside Brie Larson's eponymous hero.
The Disney+ slate will work in tandem with the film universe in a way the series created by Jeph Loeb under the Marvel TV umbrella -- which is essentially now defunct as Feige has brought Marvel's television efforts under the film studio banner -- was never able to do. WandaVision specifically will lead directly into Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, which is slated for an early 2022 theatrical release. For the time being, Feige and the creative teams behind the upcoming Disney+ shows are having fun playing in their new frontier.
"Having just gone feature-to-feature, doing it episode-to-episode is fun and brought in a whole renewed sense of creative enthusiasm, post-the Infinity Saga when we started this three years ago, which really invigorated me personally. I think all of us at Marvel Studios," Feige shared. "Taking these characters that that up to this point, have only been in movies, in many, many movies like Wanda and Vision, like Loki, like Falcon and Winter Soldier, and being able to spend more time with these great characters that have been varying degrees of supporting characters in the films -- now they're being the premiere focus characters -- is what was the most fun, and what I was most excited about."
Even if episodic television is new for Feige and the movie studio, they aren't afraid to make bold strokes and play around with the format. WandaVision is already being described as an exciting departure from previous Marvel content in critics' first reactions and the Marvel boss is only looking to expand from there. In the meantime, he's proud to have WandaVision take the first step in Marvel's new direction.
"Playing with the stylistic formats of the medium was always exciting to us," he said. "We've done it to a certain extent in various ways in movies, but never so directly or unabashedly consistently than in these first three episodes of WandaVision."
WandaVision premieres with its first two episodes on Friday, January 15 on Disney+.