Marvel Studios is certainly diving into some experimental projects and genres with Phase 4, but there may be none riskier than What If...?. The multiverse-hopping animated series will present alternate takes on a multitude of MCU projects and characters.
Unlike Marvel's past animated ventures, which were created under the Marvel TV umbrella, What If...? will feature the return of many of the superhero world's A-list stars, from Hayley Atwell to Jeff Goldblum.
Despite this, several major players in the MCU, unfortunately, won't be reprising their roles in animation this time around. While some of these names were previously revealed by Variety, an official document from the studios seems to have confirmed more notable absentees.
SPIDER-MAN AND BLACK WIDOW RECAST FOR WHAT IF...?
Disney and Marvel Studios have officially released the final production brief for the upcoming What If...? series, offering a multitude of new details on the project. Amongst the expansive document, was a full list of the 54 MCU actors who will be reprising their roles for the studio's debut animated project.
A report from Variety recently revealed that Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man, Chris Evans' Captain America, and Brie Larson's Captain Marvel will all be replaced with voice actors. However, Disney's official production brief appears to have revealed two more notable absentees.
Despite their involvement in other live-action Phase 4 projects, Tom Holland and Scarlett Johansson will not be returning to voice Spider-Man and Black Widow, respectively.
Additionally, Scarlet Witch actress Elizabeth Olsen, as well as Guardians of the Galaxy stars Dave Bautista and Zoe Salanda are not included on the list of returning stars — despite their heroes featuring in the series.
On a more positive note, contrary to previous reports, Benedict Cumberbatch's role is noted in the production brief, confirming he will be returning for the animated Doctor Strange-centric episode.
Oscar-winning actor Benicio Del Toro's The Collector, who was also previously reported to have been replaced by a voice actor, will return to his Guardians of the Galaxy role.
WHY IS WHAT IF...? IS USING REPLACEMENT ACTORS?
Both Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans completed their MCU character arcs in the final moments of Avengers: Endgame, marking an end to their time in the cinematic universe. The Iron Man star particularly became rather expensive for Disney towards the end of his tenure, making a voice actor recast for What If...? the obvious choice.
Similarly, Scarlett Johansson said “goodbye” to her MCU days with Black Widow, an action thriller that — despite only just being released in July 2021 — completed production a long time ago. With the actress now suing Disney over her solo outing's simultaneous Disney+ release, Johansson will almost certainly never reprise her spy role.
WHY AREN'T HOLLAND AND LARSON IN WHAT IF...?
With Tom Holland and Brie Larson, it becomes a little harder to determine why the Spider-Man and Captain Marvel actors didn't return to voice their legendary heroes in animation. Both stars will be leading MCU solo outings during Phase 4, meaning their relationships with Disney and clearly as strong as ever, so what went wrong?
Given the complications behind Spider-Man's rights which allow Marvel Studios to use the character, despite being owned by Sony, the exact specifics of Tom Holland's Peter Parker contract are extremely unclear.
Since making his debut in Captain America: Civil War, the actor has grown into an icon in his own right, meaning his value to the studio has increased drastically. With the British star's Peter Parker contract coming to an end with Spider-Man: No Way Home, it's possible that a new deal has yet to be secured, thus preventing his What If...? return.
Alternatively, an April LEGO leak listed a Spider-Man figure on its way, but with Steve Rogers under the mask instead of Peter Parker. So far, everything from the report has proven to be accurate as Throg made his MCU debut in Loki and Gamora will become Thanos in What if...?, both of which were listed in the official mini-figure range.
Based on the evidence, it seems entirely possible Peter Parker will be totally excluded from the multiversal adventure, with Steve Rogers instead filling in the web-slinging duties. Many noted that the webhead within the animated trailers didn't appear to resemble Holland, leaving some fans questioning if it was Peter at all.
When it comes to Brie Larson and the other absent stars, their recasting likely comes down to conflicting commitments, or an inability to reach a deal to return. Some of the MCU's biggest stars have contracts for cinematic outings which offer them a share of theatrical profits, which may leave some stars wary to take on an animated streaming project which offers no such benefit.
Marvel Studios has yet to announce which voice actors will be replacing the MCU A-listers for What If...?, likely to avoid drawing attention to the absence of the original stars. However, as the premiere moves nearer, these names ought to be revealed in the weeks to come.
What If...? will premiere on August 11, exclusively on Disney+.