This week, an entirely new storytelling avenue opens for the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the launch of its first live-action Disney+ series, WandaVision. Though we've seen small-screen tie-ins to the MCU before in the form of series like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige has been clear that the Disney+ era will feature streaming series with much more direct ties to the big-screen future of the universe, as the shows feed into the films and the films feed into the shows. With that in mind, how do Feige and his team figure out what goes where?
One of the biggest Marvel Studios Disney+ announcements so far — even with things like WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, and more in mind — came during Disney's Investor Day presentation in December when Feige revealed that a series inspired by the comic book epic Secret Invasion would arrive on the streaming service in the future. Secret Invasion, as you may have heard, is a 2008 comic book storyline that features the shapeshifting aliens known as the Skrulls infiltrating Earth by abducting various Marvel heroes and taking their place, destablizing the entire superhero community and, by extension, the Earth itself. It's a massive, massive story, and fans have been speculating about its inclusion ever since Captain Marvel introduced the Skrulls to the MCU. So, why is that happening on the small-screen, and not in some massive blockbuster movie epic five years from now?
Speaking to Collider ahead of the WandaVision launch, Feige explained the decision this way:
“I mean, we're interested in the political paranoia aspect of Secret Invasion and really showcasing the stars with Samuel L. Jackson [as Nick Fury] and Ben Mendelsohn [as the Skrull Talos], two amazing actors that you want to have in any series, and we're very lucky to have them for that," Feige said. "That's the sort of primary focus of that and, of course, it will tie into other things and the Skrulls in ways you haven't seen before, but yes, anything could be anything. Wise words… But we wanted to do that as a series because it would allow us to do something different than we've done before.”
That sense of wanting to provide a longform showcase also extends to the various announced Marvel series starring key superheroes who've yet to be introduced to the MCU. While WandaVision, Loki, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will focus on established characters, upcoming series starring Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, Moon Knight, and other heroes will allow Feige and company room to grow not just new stars, but new supporting casts surrounding those stars, in a more longform way, setting up a larger impact for their arrival on the big screen, including Ms. Marvel's upcoming appearance in Captain Marvel 2.
“It really is about the individual stories you want to tell and a bit informed by the bigger picture," Feige told Collider. "We knew that we wanted to introduce Ms. Marvel first and her family and all of her great supporting characters and her origin in a Disney+ long-form series, and then bring her into Captain Marvel 2. There will be some times where the opposite happens. The character is introduced in a movie and brought onto a Disney+ series. So, it really just varies based on the story or the genre that we want to explore."
Even in the era of Peak TV, there's still a tendency to think of television and streaming as a place to put stories that might not attract a big-screen audience, but in the case of these Disney+ stories Feige seems more focused on the idea that these stories can take up more time than on the delivery system itself. After all, everything we've seen from the Disney+ MCU so far hasn't skimped on quality. We're still getting big stars, big FX shots, and big stories, but some of those stories will take longer to tell than even a three-hour movie epic, and some aspects are intimate and character-focused enough that the patience of TV and streaming might be required. What'll be really interesting, with all that in mind, is how the connective tissue between streaming series and film takes shape once we finally get to see all of this stuff.
The two-episode premiere of WandaVision arrives Friday on Disney+.