Elizabeth Olsen's Wanda Maximoff has been one of the most developed heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since her debut in 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron. Her character arch, powers, and wardrobe went through seven appearances spanning over three phases and eight years.
The Scarlett Witch is one of the most mystical characters in the Marvel Universe, so adapting her into the hyper-grounded MCU was challenging. In classic red brand fashion, Wanda had to earn her title as The Scarlett Witch and all of the iconography that comes with it.
Legendary concept artist Marvel Studios Director of Visual Development Andy Park told a story at a D23 Expo panel about the journey this character has taken from rebellious Sokovian freedom fighter to the most powerful being in the MCU.
Wanda Maximoff vs. Scarlett Witch
The Direct was in attendance at Multiverse of Madness' Disney D23 Expo presentation in which Marvel Studios Director of Visual Development Andy Park spoke about his experience designing some of the MCU's most prominent players, including Elizabeth Olsen's Scarlet Witch.
Since the beginning, he has always been "a fan of how Wanda Maximoff was depicted in comics."
"Yeah Wanda, man, I had so much fun working on the design of Wanda through the years. From the very beginning. Probably since Avengers: Age of Ultron. So maybe around 2012 is when I first tackled the designs on here. Back then, because I grew up in the 80s and the 90s, I loved just seeing Wanda Maximoff’s, aka the Scarlett Witch, and just how she was depicted in the comics."
As a fan of the comic character, there was an attempt to bring in the classic Scarlett Witch design "with the headdress and everything."
"But I remember Age of Ultron, kind of trying to throw in that design with the head dress and everything. Or the crown. Knowing that there is no way they are going to go that direction. Because of her character."
Park goes on to explain that the character design in the MCU is vital in displaying the journey the character is on. Trying to "tell a story:"
"Whenever we do the design we are trying to tell the story of a character. For that particular film. So for that film, she is going to be more in 'civilian-y clothes.' But there is going to be nods to her look right? With the jacket, red color. And then at the end of that movie you see her for a second in more of an Avengers costume when Cap says 'Avengers...' and then cuts."
Captain America: Civil War is where Park saw an opportunity to bring a version of his dream to life with something to "allude to the crown" and possibly allude to her graduation from Wanda Maximoff to The Avenger, Scarlett Witch:
"In Civil War… So still, she is an Avenger in training so she is not a full on superhero yet. So we are still trying to keep it 'real world' with the jacket but not the comics [version]. Still can’t have a crown. I did version where it is like, 'Let’s give her a headband' to allude to the crown."
The movie directors Joe and Anthony Russo firmly shut down this idea for Olsen's design:
"And of course the Russo Brothers were like 'I see what you’re trying to do. Nope. Can’t have that either.'”
So, Andy Park had to wait another five years and three Wanda appearances before he could finally bring his vision to life and recreate that iconic look from the comics:
"So fast forward to WandaVision. When I was talking to producer Mary Livanos, and she told me that at the end of the show she is going to become the Scarlett Witch. And I was like, 'Yes, finally!'"
Park has been responsible for bringing so many MCU characters to the big screen with that now-undeniable MCU flare. This story about him working for years to get the crown on the head of Scarlett Witch is a great example of the creators being "fanboys" just like everyone watching:
"So that is where I was able to have a lot of fun. With all the potential crowns. What does her costume look like. Putting little Easter eggs in. But then seeing it realized with costume designer Mayes Rubeo and seeing what the VFX people did with that final episode. It brought out the fanboy in me but also the professional working at Marvel Studios. It was very rewarding."
And while making that dream a reality might have been enough; Park felt he deserved a say in how it came to light. Specifically, the decision between the crown being a visual effect or a physical headdress:
"There was talk that it would only be an effect and I was the one in the back of the room like, 'Nooooo.' And effect is fine but it has to solidify as a real crown."
The Patience of Marvel Studios
Patience. Planning. And Execution.
This secret sauce sets Marvel Studios apart from other studios in Hollywood attempting to bring a cinematic universe to life. This story about Andy Park fighting for the Scarlett Witch crown since her debut is a great example of that.
Wanda Maximoff was a C-list comic book character at best for the general public in 2015. Throwing a version of her iconic crown on her head from day one would be a great way to familiarize the MCU character with the character in the panels. But that is not the story they were trying to tell.
The MCU adaptation of The Scarlett Witch has been called the best Dark Pheonix story ever told on the big screen. It began as a mysterious power that was slowly growing stronger with each of Elizabeth Olsen's five appearances before WandaVision.
But looking back on those appearances makes it very clear that Joss Whedon, The Russos, Kevin Feige, and even Andy Park wanted the audience to know this is Wanda Maximoff, The Avenger, and not yet Scarlett Witch.
The name was never spoken. The crown was never worn. Until the moment was right.
Adapting the mantle of Scarlett Witch as a chaos magic legend in WandaVision put more weight on this character's journey than any costume nod ever could. The audience felt that moment when the crown appeared on Wanda's head.
"I know exactly who I am."
Chills right? That is what happens when there is a plan in place for these characters. What was once a C-List comic book character now has people cheering for her moment when she finally becomes who she was destined to be.
Marvel Studios has been doing this for years.
Tony Stark finished his Hall of Fame career finally making the "ultimate sacrifice" play. Steve Rodgers waited until the perfect moment to pick up Mjolnir and prove he was worthy. And it took an entire Spider-Man trilogy to get the iconic "great power, great responsibility" line and the full MCU Spider-Man origin. (Chills again, right?)
So fans undoubtedly appreciate Andy Park's passion and enthusiasm for these characters, but they are also thankful there are showrunners with the ability to hold back. Take their time. And allow these characters to earn their moment.