The MCU may have started exclusively in theaters with one to two releases annually, but recent years have seen great strides taken to move with the times. Although part of that has come with an increase in yearly content output, more focus has been placed on Disney+ since Phase 4 got underway last year.
Not only has this made the House of Mouse streamer the home to exclusive MCU content with series, specials, and shorts, but it has also created a one-stop shop for fans to enjoy the franchise. Disney has already shown eager interest to evolve Disney+ beyond an ordinary streaming service, with exclusive merchandise releases recently coming into play.
But now that the MCU can be enjoyed at home, in theaters, and on the go with such varied content, what comes next? Disney has a bold plan to expand its content to the next level in the coming years.
Disney Plans for Next-Gen MCU
Speaking on stage at New York's Paley Center for Media - via The Hollywood Reporter - Disney CEO Bob Chapek addressed the bold plan for how the MCU, Star Wars, and other major franchises could expand in the future.
Chapek discussed how they continue to look at Disney as "a lifestyle brand," making specific reference to the company's new adult Storyliving community in Palm Springs that targets those that "have more time and discretionary spend:"
“More and more we look at Disney as what it is already recognized as being to the consumer: A lifestyle brand."
The House of Mouse chief described Disney+ as the "hub" of that goal with the aim for it to evolve “based on how you participate.” This personalization looks to be a centerpiece for Disney's goal to create "next-generation storytelling," which includes a new "set of tools" to create unique and personal content experiences.
This plan will allow the likes of the MCU and Star Wars to create a "next level of storytelling, that is unique to you," with these tools being placed in the hands of the executives leading those franchises:
“[We want to] put these tools in the hands of the Kathy Kennedys and the Kevin Feiges and Dana Waldens and help them really create that next level of storytelling, that is unique to you.”
As part of this plan, Disney is aiming to remain relevant as it prepares to celebrate its centenary anniversary next year. After all, Chapek believes that sticking with the old model would lead the House of Mouse to "become extinct:"
“If we only rigidly adhere to that old model, we know what’s going to happen, right? You become extinct. And so our challenge inside Disney is always trying to respect the past and keep as much of the past as you can. But when the consumer is telling you, it’s time to move on to something new and fresh. You have to take that cue.”
When asked if he believes theatrical blockbusters are truly back in business after the pandemic, the CEO insisted they are "certainly back:"
“It’s hard to have an answer yet, but from our observation the tentpole, big, blockbuster films are certainly back. Beyond that it gets sketchy.”
Chapek went on to explain how the resurgence of blockbusters has been good for Disney whilst also questioning whether movies in "other demographics" will "ever come back in a significant way:"
“That’s good for us, by the way, because most of our box office films are those blockbusters, and whether they’re Lucas and Marvel and Pixar or Disney that’s where we play. The other genres, the other demographics are a bit more challenged. And the question of will they ever come back in a in a significant way, is, I think, to be seen, and that’s why one of our distribution strategies is always flexibility.”
The Disney boss explained that, if those genres do resurge, the company will be "more than glad" to take those movies back to theaters. But if not, then Disney+ now offers an alternate course to release those projects:
“If they come back, we will be more than glad to go back to theaters because we’ve had a long successful history of playing in more than one revenue stream, but if it doesn’t, the good news is we’ve now got a very large streaming business that we can go ahead and redirect that content towards those channels.”
How Disney Plans to Change Marvel & Star Wars
Clearly, Bob Chapek views Disney+ as being at the center of the future for the company's next era of storytelling as it affords new opportunities. And the Disney CEO certainly seems intent on placing this new technology fully in the hands of its individual studio leaders to implement into their franchises as they see fit.
What's particularly interesting is the promise of developing tools to create "personalized content experiences," whatever that may mean. Perhaps Disney+ will one day bring something like Netflix's Black Mirror: Bandersnatch to the service that allows viewers to make their own choices in Marvel and Star Wars stories.
Whatever the case, expanding into animation, television, and specials clearly isn't the end of the line in the plans to evolve the MCU. With these blockbusters franchises that span so many years, they will always have to move with the times to stay relevant, and part of that comes with utilizing modern technology.
Another way this could be achieved would be through VR, as viewers could perhaps one day be placed directly into canon MCU stories. Of course, this would require some major innovations to Disney+ if the goal was for the streaming service to be the home to these features, although it's certainly possible.
Nonetheless, the future of the MCU is bright as Disney clearly intends for the franchise to be at the center of its plans for many years to come. Marvel Studios' next release comes with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever which hits theaters on Friday, November 11.