Warning: This article contains spoilers through Episode 4 of What If...?.
Marvel Studios is on an absolute roll with content releases, including trailers for Eternals and Spider-Man: No Way Home before this weekend's release of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. This is all on top of the MCU's first year of programming on Disney+, which is continuously going strong after the fourth Episode of What If...? premiered.
The MCU's first animated series has taken leaps and bounds in storytelling with four unique tales showing how some of Marvel's biggest movies could have been drastically different. While some have a more straightforward story like Peggy Carter saving Project Insight, this week gave MCU fans a dark look into what would have happened if Doctor Strange never broke up with Christine Palmer.
At the head of all these stories, as always, is Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, who is known as the mad genius/mastermind behind everything in the MCU for more than 13 years. As Marvel Studios takes its first dip into the world of animation following 27 live-action outings, some fans are wondering exactly what impact Feige made on this Disney+ show.
Thanks to The Direct's latest exclusive interview with a pair of behind-the-scenes personnel from What If...?, there is an answer to that question.
KEVIN FEIGE'S IMPACT ON WHAT IF...?
In an exclusive interview with The Direct, What If...? editing team Joel Fisher and Graham Fisher spoke about Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige's impact on the MCU's first animated show.
When asked if there was anything specific Feige wanted to see come to life in the show, Graham suggested that his brother Joel share how "Kevin played a really big part" in pushing Episode 4 to be "as good as it is."
Joel picked up from there to comment on how Feige "was very, very involved with the series from beginning to end." Along with being regarded as "a mad genius," the editor also referred to Feige as "an absolute delight to work with."
Fisher continued to shower Feige with praise as he described the process of working together on this project. Fisher was glad to see that Feige not only "has such thoughtful, insightful, and concise notes" on the work being done, but also "quietly....asks the room and proposes his own thoughts" on what could happen on-screen:
"The most amazing thing is he has such thoughtful, insightful, and concise notes. He’s not one of those people who goes in and just feels like they have to give notes on everything just because that’s their position. He respects the filmmakers, and he celebrates what’s working, and he very, very quietly points out things ‘Ok, let’s see how can we make this better’ and asks the room and proposes his own thoughts."
Specifically, Joel touched on the recently released Episode 4 and the process behind meshing the editing with the script laid out for the story. Upon seeing the first run for Doctor Strange's turn to the dark magic of the sorcerer Cagliostro, Feige was reportedly ecstatic when he told the duo and the rest of the team "This is really, really good:"
"For example, this week’s episode, originally, the way we built it was following the script’s structure. And the structure of the script was amazing. The script is amazing, first of all, I gotta say. It was a little bit complicated in the structure originally. There was a lot of extra ‘We’re going here, we’re going there,’ and we’re bouncing all over the place. So we got to the end of the screening with Kevin, and he was like ‘This is really good, I have to say. This is really, really, really good. It’s a great script.’"
After seeing the first take, Feige went through the story "beat by beat" with the team before finding exactly what they needed "to clarify the story and make it land the way it needs to" before it released:
"He’s like ‘I feel like it’s a little bit all over the place, how can we simplify it?’ And he posed to the writer, and he’s like ‘Pitch it to me in this form.’ And she just started going beat by beat, just going ‘bink, bink, bink, bink, bink,’ would happen, and he was just like ‘That’s it. Yes, that’s what we need to clarify the story and make it land the way it needs to.’ And so we put it up on its feet the next screening and he was like ‘That’s fantastic.’"
For Episode 4 in particular, Feige wasn't sure how Earth's Mightest Heroes "(were) gonna pull this off," but he told the crew to "keep pushing it." Fisher explained that Feige's biggest goal for What If...? was "to see (everyone's) best work" and "whatever (they) can imagine," making for "one of the more ambitious animated shows" Fisher had ever worked on:
"And this was one of the episodes too where he said ‘I have no idea how our Avengers are gonna pull this off, but keep pushing it. Just whatever you guys can imagine, just keep pushing it and see what we come up with.’ Basically, coming from Kevin, to answer your question more directly, I think his decree for the series ultimately was ‘The sky’s the limit, and I want to see your best work, whatever you guys can imagine, let’s get it up on screen.’ It was a pretty exciting place to be. It made into basically one of the more ambitious animated shows I think ever made. It wasn’t easy, but it was amazing to work on."
FEIGE HELPING IMPROVE WHAT IF...?
Looking at the fourth episode of What If...? where Doctor Strange turns to dark magic after losing Christine Palmer, Feige had a clear view of how the story would work best by not being too complicated. With so much of the plot using time travel and wild characters to try to save Christine's life, the potential was there for the action to get overcrowded and complicated, which the Fishers worked through brilliantly with Marvel Studios' leader.
Feige has continually proved his vast knowledge of both Marvel Comics and the movies he produces based off the source material, and it's clear that he has the art of making these projects down to a science in his head. With this knowledge joined by his style of work that makes everyone at Marvel Studios feel comfortable with anything, the sky really does seem to be the limit for where this franchise can go.
Episode 4 of What If...? is available to stream on Disney+.