‘What If...?’ episodes could expand into live-action MCU spinoffs [Exclusive]
“It's hard not to imagine more chapters”
Marvel’s What If...? is a double-edged sword.
On one hand, the Disney+ series can explore many fantastical Marvel Cinematic Universe hypotheticals, offering beautifully animated visions to Marvel fans everywhere. However, its episodic format means one half-hour installment could be all we get from each story and alternate universe.
“I hope that one day we do get to see more adventures in some of these alternate timelines.”
Thankfully, What If...?’s executive producer tells Inverse that the series could broaden its horizons and continue expanding its variant storylines — even progressing from its animated format into live-action projects down the line. Did someone just say live-action Marvel zombies? Not quite, but let’s take a closer look.
Taking the Star Wars approach
Star Wars TV shows, from The Mandalorian to The Bad Batch, can be seen as a sort of retroactive blueprint for the MCU’s streaming series.
But while Star Wars television started out as animation (The Clone Wars, Rebels), later transitioning into live-action storytelling (The Mandalorian) in time to the launch of Disney+, Marvel TV evolved in the opposite direction. After three live-action series, What If...? is set to be the first MCU animated series.
Still, similarities abound between What If...? and the Star Wars animated series. Both introduce animation-only characters (Ahsoka Tano or Captain Carter, for example) or revisit beloved film characters and flesh out their storylines more, offering plenty of Easter eggs along the way to audiences invested in learning more about each franchise’s expanded universe.
In Star Wars, each series has filled in gaps in the franchise’s overarching narrative. In the MCU, these series have served to flesh out the multiverse, explaining the concept then demonstrating its value at length.
That said, characters invented for Star Wars animation later got the live-action treatment. Ahsoka Tano was portrayed by Rosario Dawson, and Bo-Katan Kryze was brought to life by Katee Sackhoff (both on The Mandalorian.)
What If ...? and the MCU
Could the same thing happen to the characters and stories of What If...? According to series executive producer Brad Winderbaum, Marvel’s open to the idea of spinning off one of these variants in a future project.
“We wanted each story to be able to be open and shut in that half an hour timeframe, but it's hard not to imagine more chapters with some of these characters,” Winderbaum tells Inverse. “I hope that one day we do get to see more adventures in some of these alternate timelines.”
Winderbaum is also quick to say that What If...? featuring a storyline doesn’t necessarily take it out of the running for a live-action adaptation down the line.
“All you have to do to prove that is look back at how many stories from the What If...? comics ended up in the main continuity of the comic universe,” Winderbaum says. “My prediction is a similar thing could happen on the cinematic side as well.”
So rest easy, Agent Carter fans: you may see Hayley Atwell back in the movies as Captain Carter. And if you were bemoaning that Marvel Zombies has been relegated to a What If...? episode instead of a full-fledged Walking-Dead-esque franchise of its own, let’s just say hope’s not dead.
Even when Marvel closes one door, it always leaves a window open.
What If...? premieres August 11 on Disney+.