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Marvel Cinematic Universe

Film franchise and shared fictional universe

Top 10 Marvel Cinematic Universe related articles

Marvel Cinematic Universe
Marvel Cinematic Universe intertitle from Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe (2014)
Created byMarvel Studios
Original workIron Man (2008)
Owned byThe Walt Disney Company
Years2008–present
Print publications
Book(s)Marvel Cinematic Universe books
ComicsMarvel Cinematic Universe
tie-in comics
Films and television
Film(s)Marvel Cinematic Universe films
Short film(s)Marvel One-Shots
Television seriesMarvel Cinematic Universe television series
Web seriesMarvel Cinematic Universe digital series
Television special(s)Marvel Cinematic Universe television specials
Games
Video game(s)Marvel Cinematic Universe video game tie-ins
Audio
Original musicMusic of the Marvel Cinematic Universe
Miscellaneous
Theme park attraction(s)Marvel-themed attractions

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is an American media franchise and shared universe centered on a series of superhero films, independently produced by Marvel Studios and based on characters that appear in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The franchise includes comic books, short films, television series, and digital series. The shared universe, much like the original Marvel Universe in comic books, was established by crossing over common plot elements, settings, cast, and characters.

The first MCU film is Iron Man (2008), which began the films of Phase One culminating in the crossover film The Avengers (2012). Phase Two began with Iron Man 3 (2013) and concluded with Ant-Man (2015). Phase Three began with Captain America: Civil War (2016) and concluded with Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019). The first three phases in the franchise are collectively known as "The Infinity Saga". The films of Phase Four will begin with Black Widow (2021).

Marvel Television expanded the universe to network television with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC in 2013, followed by streaming television with Daredevil on Netflix in 2015 and Runaways on Hulu in 2017, and cable television with Cloak & Dagger on Freeform in 2018. Marvel Television produced the digital series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Slingshot. Marvel Studios expanded to streaming television with Disney+, starting with WandaVision in 2021 as the beginning of Phase Four. Soundtrack albums have been released for all the films and many of the television series, as well as compilation albums containing existing music heard in the films. The MCU includes tie-in comics published by Marvel Comics, while Marvel Studios has produced a series of direct-to-video short films, called Marvel One-Shots, and a viral marketing campaign for its films and the universe with the faux news program WHIH Newsfront.

The franchise has been commercially successful and has generally received a positive critical response. It has inspired other film and television studios with comic book character adaptation rights to attempt to create similar shared universes. The MCU has been the focus of other media, outside of the shared universe, including attractions at various Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, an attraction at Discovery Times Square, a Queensland Gallery of Modern Art exhibit, two television specials, guidebooks for each film, multiple tie-in video games, and commercials.

Marvel Cinematic Universe Intro articles: 32

Development

Films

"It's never been done before and that's kind of the spirit everybody's taking it in. The other filmmakers aren't used to getting actors from other movies that other filmmakers have cast, certain plot lines that are connected or certain locations that are connected, but I think ... everyone was on board for it and thinks that it's fun. Primarily because we've always remained consistent saying that the movie that we are making comes first. All of the connective tissue, all of that stuff is fun and is going to be very important if you want it to be. If the fans want to look further and find connections, then they're there. There are a few big ones obviously, that hopefully the mainstream audience will able to follow as well. But ... the reason that all the filmmakers are on board is that their movies need to stand on their own. They need to have a fresh vision, a unique tone, and the fact that they can interconnect if you want to follow those breadcrumbs is a bonus."

Kevin Feige, President of Production for Marvel Studios, on constructing a shared film universe.[1]

By 2005, Marvel Entertainment had begun planning to produce its own films independently and distribute them through Paramount Pictures.[2] Previously, Marvel had co-produced several superhero films with Columbia Pictures, New Line Cinema and others, including a seven-year development deal with 20th Century Fox.[3] Marvel made relatively little profit from its licensing deals with other studios and wanted to get more money out of its films while maintaining artistic control of the projects and distribution.[4] Avi Arad, head of Marvel's film division, was pleased with Sam Raimi's Spider-Man films at Sony, but was less pleased with others. As a result, Arad decided to form Marvel Studios, Hollywood's first major independent film studio since DreamWorks.[5]

Kevin Feige, Arad's second-in-command,[5] realized that unlike Spider-Man and the X-Men, whose film rights were licensed to Sony and Fox, respectively, Marvel still owned the rights to the core members of the Avengers. Feige, a self-described "fanboy", envisioned creating a shared universe, just as creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had done with their comic books in the early 1960s.[6] To raise capital, the studio secured funding from a seven-year, $525 million revolving credit facility with Merrill Lynch.[4] Marvel's plan was to release individual films for their main characters and then merge them in a crossover film.[7] Arad, who doubted the strategy yet insisted that it was his reputation that helped secure the initial financing, resigned the following year.[5][8]

Kevin Feige helped conceive of a shared media universe of Marvel properties.

In 2007, at 33 years old, Feige was named studio chief. In order to preserve its artistic integrity, Marvel Studios formed a creative committee of six people familiar with its comic book lore: Feige, Marvel Studios co-president Louis D'Esposito, Marvel Comics' president of publishing Dan Buckley, Marvel's chief creative officer Joe Quesada, writer Brian Michael Bendis, and Marvel Entertainment president Alan Fine, who oversaw the committee.[5] Feige initially referred to the shared narrative continuity of these films as the "Marvel Cinema Universe",[9] but later used the term "Marvel Cinematic Universe".[10] Since the franchise expanded to other media, this phrase has been used by some to refer to the feature films only.[11] Marvel designated the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Earth-199999 within the continuity of the company's comic multiverse, a collection of fictional alternate universes.[12]

In November 2013, Feige said that "in an ideal world" releases each year would include one film based on an existing character and one featuring a new character, saying it's "a nice rhythm" in that format. While not always the case, as evident by the 2013 releases of Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World, he said it is "certainly something to aim for".[13] Feige expanded on this in July 2014, saying, "I don't know that we'll keep to [that model] every year, but we're doing that in 2014 and 2015, so I think it would be fun to continue that sort of thing".[14] In February 2014, Feige stated that Marvel Studios wants to mimic the "rhythm" that the comic books have developed, by having the characters appear in their own films, and then come together, much like "a big event or crossover series,"[15] with Avengers films acting as "big, giant linchpins".[16] After the reveal of multiple release dates for films through 2019 in July 2014,[17] Feige stated, "I think if you look at some of those dates that we've announced, we're going to three in a few of those years. Again, not because there's a number cruncher telling us to go to three, do more than two pictures a year, but because of the very reason just laid out: it is about managing [existing] franchises, film to film, and when we have a team ready to go, why tell them to go away for four years just because we don't have a slot? We'd rather find a way to keep that going."[18] After the titles were revealed in October 2014,[19] Feige said, "The studio's firing on all cylinders right now ... which made us comfortable for the first time ... to increase to three films a year [in 2017 and 2018] instead of just two, without changing our methods."[20]

On expanding the characters in the universe and letting individual films breathe and work on their own, as opposed to having Avenger team-ups outside of Avengers films, Feige stated, it is about "teaching the general movie-going audience about the notion of the characters existing separately, coming together for specific events and going away and existing separately in their own worlds again. Just like comic readers have been doing for decades and decades ... people sort of are accepting that there's just a time when they should be together and there's a time when they're not."[21] In April 2014, Feige revealed that Edgar Wright's pitch for Ant-Man in 2006 helped shape the early films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, saying, "We changed, frankly, some of the MCU to accommodate this version of Ant-Man. Knowing what we wanted to do with Edgar and with Ant-Man, going years and years back, helped to dictate what we did with the roster for Avengers the first time. It was a bit of both in terms of his idea for the Ant-Man story influencing the birth of the MCU in the early films leading up to Avengers."[22]

In October 2014, Marvel held a press event to announce the titles of their Phase Three films.[19] The event, which drew comparisons to Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference,[23] was done because all the information was ready. As Feige explained, "We wanted to do this at [San Diego] Comic-Con this year. Things were not set ... So the plan has been, since a few weeks before Comic-Con when we realized we weren't going to be able to do everything we wanted to do, is to decide 'let's do either something we haven't done in a long time, or something we've never done.' Which is a singular event, just to announce what we have when it's ready. I thought that might be early August or mid-September, it ended up being [at the end of October]."[20]

By September 2015, after Marvel Studios was integrated into The Walt Disney Studios with Feige reporting to Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn instead of Marvel Entertainment CEO Isaac Perlmutter,[24] the studios' creative committee had "nominal" input on the films moving forward, though they continued to consult on Marvel Television productions, which remained under Perlmutter's control.[25][26] All key film decisions going forward were to be made by Feige, D'Esposito and Victoria Alonso.[25] At the end of the month, on how much story is developed for future films of the universe, Feige said there are "broad strokes" though sometime "super-specific things. But for the most part, in broad strokes that are broad enough and loose enough that, if through the development of four of five movies before we get to the culmination ... we still have room to sway and to move and to go and to surprise ourselves in places that we end up. So that all the movies, hopefully when they're finished, will feel like they're all interconnected and meant to be and planned far ahead, but really can live and breathe enough as individual movies to be satisfying each and of themselves." The studio also has various contingency plans for the direction of all of their films, in the event they are unable to secure a certain actor to reprise a role, or re-acquire the film rights to a character, such as was done in February 2015 with Spider-Man.[27]

In April 2016, on moving the universe to Phase Four and reflecting on the first three, Feige said, "I think there will be a finality to moments of Phase Three, as well as new beginnings that will mark a different, a very different, a distinctively different chapter in what will someday be a complete first saga made up of three phases." Joe Russo added, "You build things up and people enjoy the experiences you've built up. But then you kind of reach an apex or you reach a climax, a moment where you go, 'This structure is really going to start to be repetitious if we do this again, so what do we do now?' So now, you deconstruct it. We're in the deconstruction phase with [Captain America:] Civil War and leading into [Avengers:] Infinity War, which are the culmination films."[28] A year later, Feige felt after the conclusion of Phase Three, Marvel might abandon grouping the films by phases, saying, "it might be a new thing".[29] Feige mentioned that Avengers: Endgame would provide "a definitive end" to the films and storylines preceding it, with the franchise having "two distinct periods. Everything before [Endgame] and everything after".[30]

On the potential for "superhero fatigue", Feige stated, "This year [2016], we've got Civil War and we've got Doctor Strange in November, two completely different movies. To me, and to all of Marvel Studios, that's what keeps it going. As long as we're surprising people, as long as we're not falling into things becoming too similar ... next year, [Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2], [Spider-Man: Homecoming], Thor: Ragnarok. Those are three totally different movies ... as long as the only shared thing is they come from the same source material and they've got our Marvel logo in front of the movies. Other than that they can be very distinct. What other studios do, what other properties, nothing we can do about it."[31]

In December 2017, The Walt Disney Company agreed to acquire assets from 21st Century Fox, including 20th Century Fox, for $52.4 billion.[32] The following June, after a counter offer from Comcast worth $65 billion, Disney increased its offer to $71.3 billion.[33] The transaction officially closed on March 19, 2019.[34] The acquisition saw the return of the film rights to Deadpool, and the X-Men and Fantastic Four characters to Marvel Studios, which would "create richer, more complex worlds of inter-related characters and stories".[32] In July 2019, Feige announced the Phase Four slate at San Diego Comic-Con, consisting of films and television event series on Disney+.[35] Additional Disney+ series for Phase Four were announced at D23 the following month.[36] In December 2020, at Disney's Investor Day, Marvel Studios provided updates to previously announced films and series, and announced additional Disney+ series and a special, which were confirmed to be part of Phase Four.[37][38] Some of the first elements previously controlled by 20th Century Fox to be integrated into the MCU were the organization S.W.O.R.D. in the streaming series WandaVision and the fictional country Madripoor in the series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.[39]

Distributors

Over time, the distribution rights to Marvel Studios' films changed hands on multiple occasions. In November 2006, Universal Pictures announced that it would distribute The Incredible Hulk,[40] in an arrangement separate from Marvel's 2005 deal with Paramount, which was distributing Marvel's other films.[2] In September 2008, after the international success of Iron Man, Paramount signed a deal to have worldwide distribution rights for Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and The Avengers.[41]

In late December 2009, The Walt Disney Company purchased Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion. Additionally, in October 2010, Walt Disney Studios bought the distribution rights for The Avengers and Iron Man 3 from Paramount Pictures,[42] with Paramount's logo remaining on the films, as well as for promotional material and merchandise,[43][44] although Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures is the only studio credited at the end of these films.[45] Disney has distributed all subsequent Marvel Studios films.[46] In July 2013, Disney purchased the distribution rights to Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger from Paramount.[47] The Incredible Hulk was not part of the deal, due to an agreement between Marvel and Universal, where Marvel owns the film rights and Universal owns the distribution rights, for this film as well as the right of first refusal to distribute future Hulk films.[48] According to The Hollywood Reporter, a potential reason why Marvel has not bought the film distribution rights to the Hulk as they did with Paramount for the Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America films is because Universal holds the theme park rights to several Marvel characters that Disney wants for its own theme parks.[49]

In February 2015, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Marvel Studios announced a licensing deal that would allow Spider-Man to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with the character first appearing in Captain America: Civil War.[50][51] Marvel Studios explored opportunities to integrate other characters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe into future Spider-Man films financed, distributed, and controlled by Sony Pictures,[50] with Robert Downey Jr. the first confirmed to reprise his role as Tony Stark / Iron Man in Spider-Man: Homecoming.[52] In June 2015, Feige clarified that the initial Sony deal does not apply to the MCU television series, as it was "very specific ... with a certain amount of back and forth allowed".[53] Both studios have the ability to terminate the agreement at any point, and no money was exchanged with the deal. However, a small adjustment was made to a 2011 deal formed between the two studios (where Marvel gained full control of Spider-Man's merchandising rights, in exchange for making a one-time payment of $175 million to Sony and paying up to $35 million for each future Spider-Man film, and forgoing receiving their previous 5% of any Spider-Man film's revenue), with Marvel getting to reduce their $35 million payment to Sony if Spider-Man: Homecoming grossed more than $750 million.[54] Marvel Studios still received 5% of first dollar gross for the film.[55] Sony also paid Marvel Studios an undisclosed producer fee for Homecoming.[56]

In August 2019, it was reported that Disney and Sony could not reach a new agreement regarding Spider-Man films, with Marvel Studios and Feige said to no longer have any involvement in future films. Deadline Hollywood noted that Disney had hoped future films would be a "50/50 co-financing arrangement between the studios", with the possibility to extend the deal to other Spider-Man-related films, an offer Sony rejected and did not counter. Instead, Sony hoped to keep the terms of the previous agreement (Marvel receiving 5% of the film's first dollar gross), with Disney refusing.[55] The Hollywood Reporter added that the lack of a new agreement would see the end of Holland's Spider-Man in the MCU.[57] Variety cited unnamed sources claiming negotiations had "hit an impasse" and that a new deal could still be reached.[58] In September 2019, it was announced that Disney and Sony had reached a new agreement allowing for Spider-Man to appear in Spider-Man: No Way Home as the third film co-produced by Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures and a future Marvel Studios film.[59] Disney was reported to be co-financing 25% of the film in exchange for 25% of the film's profits in the new agreement, while retaining the merchandising rights to the character.[59][60] Feige noted that as Sony continued to separately build their own shared universe, it was possible this version of Spider-Man could appear in that universe.[59] This interaction was said to be "a 'call and answer' between the two franchises as they acknowledge details between the two in what [...] would loosely be described as a shared detailed universe".[60] In October 2020, Jamie Foxx was cast to reprise his role as Electro from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) in the third MCU Spider-Man film,[61] and that December, Alfred Molina was set to reprise his role as Otto Octavius / Doctor Octopus from Sony's Spider-Man 2 (2004).[62] By then, Collider reported that Andrew Garfield would return as his Peter Parker / Spider-Man from Marc Webb's The Amazing Spider-Man films along with Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson from Sam Raimi's Spider-Man film trilogy, and that Tobey Maguire was in talks to return as his Peter Parker / Spider-Man from the latter films and Emma Stone was also expected to return as Gwen Stacy from the Webb films.[63]

Television

Marvel Television

Former Head of Marvel Television Jeph Loeb served as executive producer of every television series on ABC, Netflix, Hulu, and Freeform

In June 2010, Marvel Television was launched with Jeph Loeb as head.[64] In October 2019, further corporate restructuring saw Feige named Chief Creative Officer of Marvel Entertainment, with Marvel Television becoming part of Marvel Studios and executives of Marvel Television reporting to Feige.[65] However, in December 2019, Marvel Television was folded into Marvel Studios, with Marvel Studios taking over production of the current series at the time; no further series from Marvel Television were being considered for development.[66]

Broadcast

By July 2012, Marvel Television had entered into discussions with ABC to create a show set in the MCU,[67] and in August, ABC ordered a pilot for a show called S.H.I.E.L.D., with The Avengers writer/director Joss Whedon involved;[68] it was later renamed Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.[69] In January 2014, the series Agent Carter was announced, joining Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. at ABC,[70] while a put pilot order for the half-hour live-action comedy series, Damage Control, was revealed in October 2015.[71] While talking about Marvel potentially making comedy series, Loeb said in January 2016 that Marvel always feels humor should be a part of anything they produce, despite possibly fitting more within a darker genre, as Daredevil and Jessica Jones do, while staying "grounded and real". He added, "There are moments of levity that are in life that you need to bring to the table, or else it just becomes overwhelmingly oppressive ... If you're going to [explore comic book elements], it's always a good idea to make sure that the audience is aware that, yeah, it's funny [too]."[72]

In May 2016, after ABC had canceled Agent Carter and passed on Marvel's Most Wanted, ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey said that Marvel and ABC were working together, looking "at series that would be beneficial to both brands" moving forward.[73] In November 2016, Marvel and IMAX Corporation announced Inhumans, based on the species of the same name, after a planned film based on the characters had been removed from Marvel Studios' slate.[74][75][76] The first two episodes of the series were set to premiere in IMAX theaters in September 2017 for two weeks, before airing on ABC with the remainder of the series.[74] Ben Sherwood, president of Disney–ABC Television Group, said, "We've worked very carefully with our friends at Marvel Studios—and this is a critical point—to make sure that calendar-wise and content-wise we are only enhancing" the MCU; the theatrical debut of the series was timed to not interfere with the release of any Marvel Studios films—the theatrical run of the series will take place between the releases of Spider-Man: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok.[77][78] The deal was initially suggested to Marvel by IMAX after they had held a successful IMAX event with Game of Thrones in 2015. Sherwood described it as "a quadruple win—a win for IMAX, a win for Marvel, a win for ABC Studios and a win for ABC to launch a show in an innovative way and get attention" in an increasingly crowded market. Sherwood hoped that this would be the first of "several innovative ways to launch [television] programming".[78] In July 2019, it was announced that the seventh season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. would be its last.[79]

Streaming
Netflix

By October 2013, Marvel was preparing four drama series and a miniseries, totaling 60 episodes, to present to video on demand services and cable providers, with Netflix, Amazon, and WGN America expressing interest.[80] In November 2013, Disney was set to provide Netflix with live-action series based on Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage, leading up to a miniseries based on the Defenders.[81] Disney CEO Bob Iger stated that Netflix was chosen to air the shows, "when Disney realized it could use the streaming service as a way to grow the popularity of the characters". He added that, if the characters prove popular, they could become feature films.[82] Loeb later stated that Marvel was not "interested in making four pilots and then hoping someday that they could all get together. Netflix really understood what it is we wanted to do. They're very open to directors that might not have that same opportunity in broadcast television. The notion of having all 13 episodes at one time, particularly in serialized storytelling, is very appealing."[83] Loeb added that the four characters chosen "all had a previous existing relationship and all grew up on the same kind of stoop in New York [in the comics]. So it lent itself to a world. Does that mean these shows are going to be the same? No. They can't be. The characters have different issues, different problems, different feelings about them ... the example that I continually give is that I cannot think of two films that are more different in tone than The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy. And yet, if you watch them back to back, they feel very Marvel. They feel very much like, 'Oh, it is still the same universe that I'm in.'"[84]

Quesada confirmed in April 2014 that the Netflix series would be set within the MCU.[85] Loeb explained that "Within the Marvel universe there are thousands of heroes of all shapes and sizes, but the Avengers are here to save the universe and Daredevil is here to save the neighborhood ... It does take place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's all connected. But that doesn't necessarily mean that we would look up in the sky and see [Iron Man]. It's just a different part of New York that we have not yet seen in the Marvel movies."[86] In January 2015, Netflix COO Ted Sarandos said Netflix planned to release a Marvel series approximately a year apart from each other after Daredevil's April 2015 release.[87] A year later, Sarandos noted that the release schedules of the Marvel Netflix series are dependent on the "long production times and long post times. In some cases, when we have characters crossover, it makes it more difficult to manage production. It's not the goal to put out more than one or two [each] year ... The complex one is really The Defenders. The Defenders' production schedule will determine a lot of the season 2 and 3 output of those shows." He noted on potential spin-offs that "all the characters in the universe could also spin out" into their own series at some point,[88] with Netflix ordering The Punisher, a spin-off from Daredevil, that April.[89] Sarandos later stated that Netflix was trying to close the gap between releases of Marvel seasons, but would always prioritize the quality of the series over higher numbers of releases per year. He said that Netflix was open to exploring the MCU beyond the Defenders series, including potential crossovers with ABC's Marvel series.[90] In July 2016, Marvel and Netflix committed to complete production on 135 episodes by the end of 2017, making the deal the largest television production commitment in New York State. Production for the different series had engaged 500 local vendors and small businesses for various stages of development and had required over 14,000 production-related hires.[91]

In October 2018, Netflix canceled Iron Fist after two seasons, with Deadline Hollywood reporting that Disney was considering reviving the series on its streaming service Disney+.[92] Sarandos confirmed that the series were Netflix's to renew or cancel if they wished, and the company was "super happy with [the other series'] performance so far".[93] Despite this, Luke Cage was canceled by the streamer a week after Iron Fist was. Deadline Hollywood reported there were no plans to revive the series on Disney+ as with Iron Fist.[94] Shortly after, at the end of November 2018, Netflix canceled Daredevil after three seasons, with Deadline Hollywood again reporting there was the potential for the series to be revived on Disney+.[95] Conversely, The Hollywood Reporter felt it was unlikely the series would be revived on Disney+ and noted the two other remaining series at the time (Jessica Jones and The Punisher) would remain on Netflix "until they run their course".[96] Variety added that, per the original deal between Marvel and Netflix for the series, the characters cannot appear in any non-Netflix series or films for at least two years following their cancellation.[97][98] Kevin A. Mayer, chairman of Walt Disney Direct-to-Consumer and International, noted that, while it had not yet been discussed, it was a possibility that Disney+ could revive the canceled Netflix series.[99] Netflix canceled both Jessica Jones and The Punisher in February 2019, after three seasons and two seasons, respectively.[100] In January 2021, Feige said "never say never" to potentially reviving the series, but noted Marvel Studios was focused on their new Disney+ series announced at that time.[101]

Hulu

In August 2016, Marvel announced that Runaways had received a pilot order from Hulu,[102] eventually receiving a 10 episode order the following May.[103] That July, Loeb confirmed the series would take place in the MCU saying, "It all lives in the same world, how it's connected and where it's connected and what it's going to be connected to remains to be seen." He added that the characters would not be concerned with the actions of others in the universe, instead focusing on their own issues. This allowed showrunners Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage to deal with concepts such as superheroics and fantasy without explaining them to the audience, since they are already well established in the MCU, while still focusing on their own characters, which they described as "liberating".[104] In May 2019, Marvel announced that Ghost Rider and Helstrom had been greenlit for the service,[105] and that the former was to focus on the "same character [introduced in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.] with [a] new story that lives unto its own."[106] In September 2019, it was announced that Ghost Rider would not be going forward, due to creative differences,[107] while Runaways was canceled that November ahead of its third season.[108] When Marvel Television was folded into Marvel Studios in December, the studio said that production on Helstrom would be completed but no further series would be developed.[66]

Cable

In April 2016, the ABC-owned cable network Freeform announced Cloak & Dagger, based on the characters of the same name, with a straight-to-series order for 2018.[109][110] The network confirmed that the series would be "its first venture into the Marvel Cinematic Universe", and described the show as a "superhero love story", a premise that Variety called "a seamless fit for Freeform" given the network's target audience of "Becomers" (the 14–34 age demographic).[109][111] This younger-skewing content was continued with the comedy series New Warriors ordered in April 2017, with Freeform executive Karey Burke saying, Marvel "started to see our strength with young adults and together we could create a pipeline for content that was specific to our audience that felt younger than what they're doing at the other channels... It was important to both of us to find the right characters that felt like they would speak directly to Freeform's audience. The Avengers wouldn't work here but the about-to-be-Avengers works here."[112] Loeb noted that it was "exciting" to Marvel "to be able to explore the world of the hero and how it affects someone who is trying to figure out who they are as opposed to already knows who they are and now their whole life has to take a left. That's the journey we're going on with these kinds of characters" in Cloak & Dagger, New Warriors and Hulu's Runaways.[113] By November 2017, New Warriors was no longer set to air on Freeform and was being shopped to other networks,[114] and was reported to be canceled in September 2019 after it failed to find a new broadcaster,[115] while Cloak and Dagger was canceled the following month.[116]

Crossovers to feature films
After [running something by Jeph] Loeb we'll run it through New York, Joe Quesada, Dan Buckley, and those guys. [Then we] pitch our stuff to Kevin Feige and his movie group to see if there's something we can tie into, to see if they're okay about us using a character, or a weapon or some other cool thing. Everything is interconnected.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. executive producer Jeffrey Bell in September 2014, explaining the process of working in with the MCU[117]

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. executive producer Jeffrey Bell revealed at the show's 2014 PaleyFest panel that the producers and writers are able to read the screenplays for upcoming MCU films to know where the universe is heading.[118] He noted that since the films have to be "big" and move "quickly through a lot of huge pieces", it is beneficial for the films to have the television series fill in any "gaps" for them.[119] His fellow executive producer Jed Whedon explained that each Marvel project is intended to stand alone first before there is any interweaving, and noted that the series has to be aware of the film division's plans so as not to interfere when introducing someone or something to the universe.[120] Bell said this was preferable so that people who do not watch the films can still follow the series, and vice versa.[119] Joss Whedon noted that this process "unfortunately just means the TV show gets, you know, leftovers". He stated that, for example, the series' creative team initially wanted to use Loki's scepter from The Avengers but were unable due to his plans for it in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015).[121]

In April 2014, Quesada stated that, beyond connecting to themselves, the Netflix series would connect with the films and other television series.[85] In October 2014, Feige said the opportunity "certainly" existed for characters in the Netflix series to appear in Avengers: Infinity War (2018).[20] In March 2015, Loeb spoke on the ability for the Netflix series to crossover with the films and the ABC series, saying, "As it is now, in the same way that our films started out as self-contained and then by the time we got to The Avengers, it became more practical for Captain America to do a little crossover into [Thor: The Dark World] and for Bruce Banner to appear at the end of Iron Man 3. We have to earn that. The audience needs to understand who all of these characters are and what the world is before you then start co-mingling".[122] In September 2015, Feige elaborated on the films referencing the television series, saying "I think that's inevitable at some point ... The schedules do not always quite match up to make that possible. It's easier for [the shows]. They're more nimble and faster and produce things quicker than we do, which is one of the main reasons you see the repercussions of Winter Soldier or [Avengers: Age of Ultron] in the show ... by the time we start doing a movie, they'd be mid-way through a season. By the time our movie comes out, they'd be [starting the next season]. So finding the timing on that is not always easy."[27]

Loeb talked further on the subject in July 2016, reiterating the issue of scheduling by saying "if I'm shooting a television series and that's going to go on over a six-month or eight-month period, how am I going to get [a television series actor] to be able to go be in a movie?" He noted that this would not be as much of an issue if characters were making very minor cameo appearances, but explained that Marvel was not interested in cameos and Easter eggs just for the sake of fan service, which could detract from the story being told; "As I often get reported by you folks for saying #ItsAllConnected, our feeling is that the connection isn't just whether or not somebody is walking into a movie or walking out of a television show. It's connected in the way that the shows come from the same place, that they are real, that they are grounded."[123] Eric Carroll, producer on Spider-Man: Homecoming, felt with the introduction of Queens-based Spider-Man to the MCU it "would be really fun" to make mention of the Defenders based in Manhattan, adding, "it's definitely a card I would love to see played, if not sooner rather than later."[124]

In January 2017, Vincent D'Onofrio, who portrays Wilson Fisk in Daredevil, said he "would love to switch over to the movies, but I think it's pretty much been said it's not going to happen. Or at least not for a very, very long time." D'Onofrio cited Feige's previous reasoning as well as the fact that the films already had difficulty "bringing big characters in that they have to service in the writing" and adding characters from the television series would be "just too many characters" since the films were "trying to figure out already how to individualize more and at the same time keep The Avengers going".[125] In March 2017, Anthony Mackie, who portrays Sam Wilson / Falcon in the films, felt a crossover between the films and television series "wouldn't work at all" given they are "different universes, different worlds, different companies, different designs" and that "Kevin Feige is very specific about how he wants the Marvel Universe to be seen in the film world."[126] That May, Feige noted that a character appearing in a television series would not necessarily exclude them from appearing in a film, adding that "at some point, there's going to be a crossover. Crossover, repetition, or something."[127] Regarding the potential for the Avengers to learn in the films that Phil Coulson is alive, Loeb stated, "It's certainly something that will get resolved, and it may get resolved in a very surprising way."[128]

Loeb said in July 2017 that Marvel Television had no plans for series to crossover across networks. Specifically for the similarly themed Cloak & Dagger, New Warriors, and Runaways, which all deal with young heroes, Loeb noted, "You'll see things that comment on each other; we try to touch base wherever we can... things that are happening in L.A. [where Runaways is set] are not exactly going to be affecting what's happening in New Orleans [where Cloak & Dagger is set]... It's being aware of it and trying to find a way for it to be able to discuss in a way that makes sense."[113] He added in October that scheduling of each series factors into why crossovers between them are more difficult to pull off, and that network "feelings" need to be considered. He also spoke on why the television series do not show Avengers Tower as it appears in the films when they depict New York City, and stated that Marvel Television wanted to be "less specific" about the television characters' relationships to the tower because that "helps the audience understand that this could be on any street corner" and that the characters could be in an area of the city where you would not be able to see the tower, even though it exists.[129]

In June 2018, speaking to how the MCU television series would be affected by the events of Avengers: Infinity War, Loeb noted that "For the most part our stories will take place before Thanos clicked his fingers. A lot of that has to do with production and when we are telling our stories versus when the movies come out."[130] In September 2018, with the report of Marvel Studios developing limited series for Disney's streaming service Disney+, it was expected that the actors that portrayed the characters in the films would portray them again for the limited series.[131] In March 2019, Feige said the series would take characters from the films, change them, and see those changes reflected in future films; new characters introduced in the series will crossover to the films.[132][133]

In April 2019, actor James D'Arcy appeared in Avengers: Endgame, reprising his role of Edwin Jarvis from the television series Agent Carter. This marked the first time a character introduced in an MCU television series appears in an MCU film.[134] Speaking to how the Marvel Television series fit within the larger MCU timeline, Loeb noted, "We don't want to ever do something in our show[s] which contradicts what's happening in the movies. The movies are the lead dog. They're setting the timeline for the MCU and what's going on. Our job is to navigate within that world."[135] The Roxxon Corporation, which had been featured in the Iron Man films, is referenced in multiple Marvel Television series, with Adam Barnhardt of Comicbook.com calling it "the go-to Easter egg for most shows involved in the Marvel Television sphere".[136]

Disney+

By November 2017, Disney was looking to develop a new Marvel television series for their streaming service Disney+.[137] In July 2018, Feige noted discussions had begun with Disney regarding any potential involvement Marvel Studios could have with the streaming service, since Feige felt the service was "an important thing for the company".[138] In September 2018, it was reported that Marvel Studios was developing several limited series centered on "second-tier" characters from the MCU films who had not and were unlikely to star in their own films. Each series was expected to be six to eight episodes, and would be produced by Marvel Studios rather than Marvel Television, with Feige taking a "hands-on role" in each series' development.[131] Feige noted the series being developed for the streaming service would "tell stories... that we wouldn't be able to tell in a theatrical experience – a longer-form narrative".[139] He also added that being asked by Disney to create these series "energized everyone creatively" within Marvel Studios, since they "could play in a new medium and throw the rules out the window in terms of structure and format".[140]

In July 2019, Feige announced the event series of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, WandaVision, Loki, the animated What If...?, and Hawkeye, as part of the Phase Four slate at San Diego Comic-Con.[35] Three additional Disney+ series for the phase, Ms. Marvel, Moon Knight, and She-Hulk, were announced at D23 the following month.[36] The series budgets are reportedly $100–150 million each.[141] In September 2020, a series centered on Nick Fury was announced to be in development for Disney+,[142] which was announced as Secret Invasion in December 2020, along with Ironheart and Armor Wars, and The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special.[37] All are a part of Phase Four.[38] In February 2021, it was announced that Ryan Coogler, writer and director of Black Panther (2018) and its sequel, was developing a drama series set in Wakanda for Phase Four.[143][144]

Other media

In 2008, the first tie-in comic was released.[145] Quesada outlined his plan to expand the MCU into comic books, saying, "The MCU [comics] are going to be stories set within movie continuity. [They are] not necessarily direct adaptations of the movies, but maybe something that happened off screen and was mentioned in the movie ... Kevin Feige is involved with these and in some cases maybe the writers of the movies would be involved [as well.]"[146] Marvel Comics worked with Brad Winderbaum, Jeremy Latcham, and Will Corona Pilgrim at Marvel Studios to decide which concepts should be carried over from the Marvel Comics Universe to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, what to show in the tie-in comics, and what to leave for the films.[147] Marvel has clarified which of the tie-in comics are considered canonical MCU stories, with the rest merely inspired by the MCU, "where we get to show off all the characters from the film in costume and in comic form".[148]

In August 2011, Marvel announced a series of direct-to-video short films called Marvel One-Shots,[149] the name derived from the label used by Marvel Comics for their one-shot comics.[150] Co-producer Brad Winderbaum said, "It's a fun way to experiment with new characters and ideas, but more importantly it's a way for us to expand the Marvel Cinematic Universe and tell stories that live outside the plot of our features."[149] Each short film is designed to be a self-contained story that provides more backstory for characters or events introduced in the films.[151] In July 2012, D'Esposito stated that Marvel was considering the idea of introducing established characters who may not yet be ready to carry their own feature films in future One-Shots, stating, "There's always a potential to introduce a character. We have 8,000 of them, and they can't all be at the same level. So maybe there are some that are not so popular, and we introduce them [with a short] – and they take off. I could see that happening."[152]

In March 2015, Marvel's Vice President of Animation Development and Production, Cort Lane, stated that animated tie-ins to the MCU were "in the works".[153] That July, Marvel Studios partnered with Google to produce the faux news program WHIH Newsfront with Christine Everhart, a series of in-universe YouTube videos serving as the center of a viral marketing campaign to promote the films and universe.[154] In December 2016, a six-part web series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Slingshot, was revealed, which debuted on ABC.com on December 13, 2016. It follows Elena "Yo-Yo" Rodriguez on a secret mission, shortly before the start of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s fourth season, with Natalia Cordova-Buckley reprising her role.[155] In September 2019, Sony created a real version of the fictional TheDailyBugle.net website as part of a viral marketing campaign to promote the home media release of Spider-Man: Far From Home. Inspired by real-world "conspiracy-pushing" websites such as that of Alex Jones, the website features J. K. Simmons reprising his role as J. Jonah Jameson in a video where he speaks out against Spider-Man before adding "Thanks for watching. Don't forget to like and subscribe!"[156][157] In December 2020, Marvel Studios announced I Am Groot, a series of shorts starring Baby Groot for Disney+.[158][37]

Business practices

Joss Whedon was a large contributor to Phase Two, offering creative insight to all its films and launching the first MCU television series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., while writing and directing Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Marvel Studios developed specific business practices to create its shared universe, including choosing filmmakers that were considered "out-of-left-field", given their previous work. Feige remarked, "You don't have to have directed a big, giant visual-effects movie to do a big, giant visual-effects movie for us. You just have to have done something singularly sort of awesome,"[159] adding "It's worked out well for us when we've taken people [such as Jon Favreau, Joss Whedon, Kenneth Branagh, and the Russo brothers,] that have done very, very good things. Very rarely are one of those good things a big giant blockbuster superhero movie."[160] The studio looks for filmmakers to hire who are able to guide a film.[161] When hiring directors, the studio usually has "a kernel of an idea of what we want", which is presented to potential directors over the course of several meetings to discuss and further expand. "And if over the course of three or four or five meetings they make it way better than what we initially were spewing to them, they usually get the job", according to Feige.[27] Later expanding on this process, Feige explained that before talking to any directors on a film, Marvel Studios often puts together a "lookbook" of influences from the comics and art by Marvel's visual development department, to create a visual template for the film. These are put together at company retreats, which the studio holds every "18 months or so" to plan out and develop the phases of the MCU. These lookbooks are not always shown to directors, though, with Marvel sometimes preferring to let the director offer their own ideas first.[162]

Scott Derrickson did not see a lookbook for Doctor Strange, instead putting together his own presentation, with concept art and storyboards by himself and professionals he hired, to sell himself and his vision of the film to Marvel. In contrast, Marvel shared several different ideas for what Thor: Ragnarok could be with prospective filmmakers, who then went away and developed what they thought the film should be from that. Taika Waititi created a sizzle reel using clips from other films to present his vision based on Marvel's ideas, a practice that Marvel discourages as they "oftentimes can be really terrible". However, Marvel thought Waititi's was "amazing". Derrickson and Waititi were both eventually hired for the films.[162] For Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Joe and Anthony Russo met with the studio four times over two months before they were hired, during which they "kept getting more and more specific about what our vision was", putting together "reference videos, storyboards, script pages, you name it. We did like a 30-page book that had everything that we'd do with the character, from the theme of the movie to the tone of the film to the fighting style to what we liked about the character and what we didn't like". This meant that by the time they were hired they had already "figured the movie out".[163]

When the studio hired Kenneth Branagh and Joe Johnston to direct Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, respectively, it made sure both directors were open to the idea of a shared universe and including Avengers set-up scenes in their films.[6] Joe Russo stated, "That's the exciting component of [incorporating references to the larger universe]. 'What can we set up for the future?' You're constantly pitching out ideas that not only affect your movie, but may have a ripple effect that affects other films ... It's a weird sort of tapestry of writers and directors working together to create this universe that's sort of organic."[21] Anthony added, "The great thing about the Marvel [Cinematic Universe], just like the publishing [arm], it's a very vast, inter-connected universe, where characters will have their rise and fall, so to speak, and hand off to other characters. As the cinematic universe moves forward, you may start to see the cinematic universe adopt that same pattern, as the publishing has, where there's closure with some characters and new beginnings with other characters."[164] He added that, for directors to "fit" in at Marvel, they must understand how to "take a larger story and wrangle it into a moment", yet keep it connected.[21]

The most simple way I could put it is Marvel doesn't come to the filmmakers and say, "Here's what the next movie is." They come to the filmmakers and say, "What is the next movie?" That's very much the process.

—Director Anthony Russo in April 2016[163]

On allowing directors and writers to work within Marvel's shared universe concept, Joe Russo said that Feige has "big pieces that he knows he wants to build towards, but the way that you get there is open to interpretation and improv a little bit". For the Russos in The Winter Soldier, they had to deal with the idea of S.H.I.E.L.D. being infiltrated by Hydra, with Joe saying, "how we get there is all up to us. And I think why Marvel has been so successful is because it's been such a clear plan, that everything is interconnected and they're building emotional capital with each movie that you can then trade off of in the next film."[165] Joe later elaborated that once each film's creative team "come up with conceptually what we want to do" for a film, then we will ask questions about whether this would interfere with a storyline in another movie. Or, what's going on in that film, can we pull some of that into this film? That's where you start looking for the interconnectedness, but it's very important early on that the concept be created in a bubble because you have to protect the idea, it has to be driven by storytelling. Kevin's ... always in the mindset of "let's just make this movie now and worry about the next movie when it comes."[163]

Loeb explained that Marvel Television sees "ourselves as producers who are working to support the vision of our showrunner. But we're involved in every aspect of the production—whether it's being in the writers' room, editing on set, casting—every step of the production goes through the Marvel team to tell the best story that we can." He added that the studio is able to work on so many series across different networks and platforms because "it just requires that we make sure that there's always someone from Marvel there to help guide the process."[166]

The thing about Marvel is ... they're looking for artists that are willing to take chances and are willing to create characters, even if that character has been around for years and years in comic books.

Vincent D'Onofrio (Wilson Fisk in Daredevil) in August 2014[167]

Marvel Studios also began contracting their actors for multiple films, including signing actor Samuel L. Jackson to a then "unprecedented" nine-movie contract.[168] In July 2014, Feige said that the studio has all actors sign contracts for multiples films, with the norm being for 3 or more, and the 9 or 12 film deals "more rare".[169] Actor's contracts also feature clauses that allows Marvel to use up to three minutes of an actor's performance from one film for another, which Marvel describes as "bridging material".[26] At Marvel Television, actors such as Charlie Cox (Matt Murdock / Daredevil in Daredevil) and Adrianne Palicki (Bobbi Morse / Mockingbird in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) are contractually obliged to appear in a Marvel film if asked.[170][171] In May 2015, after starring as Claire Temple in the first season of Daredevil, Rosario Dawson signed with Marvel to return for the second season of the series as part of an "exclusive TV deal" that also allows her to appear in any other Marvel Netflix series.[172] Dawson's character has been featured as well in all the other Netflix shows, except The Punisher, linking them together similarly to Jackson's Nick Fury in the films.[173] Dawson explained that she signs on with Marvel for a year at a time, for a certain number of episodes, and finds out which series the episodes are for closer to the time of filming.[174]

In August 2012, Marvel signed Joss Whedon to an exclusive contract through June 2015 for film and television. With the deal, Whedon would "contribute creatively" on Phase Two of the MCU and develop the first television series set in the universe.[175] In March 2013, Whedon expanded on his consulting responsibilities, saying, "I understand what Kevin [Feige] is going for and where he's heading, and I read the scripts and watch cuts and talk to the directors and writers and give my opinion. Occasionally there could be some writing. But I'm not trying to get in anybody's soup, I'm just trying to be helpful."[176] Whedon later elaborated that "Since the story has already been approved and everybody knows what we're doing with Avengers 2, we can really lay it out. It's not like anyone's saying "well I don't know, what if I need that?" It's like "doing this is troublesome for us, whereas doing this will actually help us." ... You want to honor the events of the last movie but you don't want to be beholden to them, because some people will see Avengers[: Age of Ultron] who did not see any of the movies in between or even Avengers 1." He also found working in television and script doctoring to be "great training ground[s] for dealing with this ... because you're given a bunch of pieces and told to make them fit—even if they don't."[177]

For the Russo brothers and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely working on Avengers: Infinity War and Phase Three, they saw "a through line from Winter Soldier, through Civil War, right to Infinity War", with films like Doctor Strange and Thor: Ragnarok laying groundwork for the "culmination" in Infinity War. Subsequently, they talked "to the directors and writers of the other Phase 3 movies on an almost weekly basis, to make sure everything lines up right".[178] Peyton Reed, director of Ant-Man and Ant-Man and the Wasp, felt the relationship and collaboration between the Phase Three directors was "probably the closest thing that this generation will have to a '30s- or '40s-era studio system where you are all on the lot and you are all working on different things."[179] Similarly, when developing the crossover miniseries The Defenders, showrunner Marco Ramirez consulted with the creators of all the individual Marvel Netflix series, having them read each of the scripts for The Defenders and provide insight into the individual character's world.[180]

In April 2017, along with his announcement that he was returning to write and direct Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023), James Gunn revealed he would be working with Marvel "to help design where these stories go, and make sure the future of the Marvel Cosmic Universe is as special and authentic and magical as what we have created so far".[181] However, in July 2018, Disney and Marvel severed ties with Gunn following controversy surrounding several old jokes Gunn had made.[182][183] By that October, Disney and Marvel Studios reversed course and rehired Gunn as director of the film, which was announced in March 2019.[184][185]

By December 2020, because of the impact COVID-19 had on theaters and film studios shifting away from theatrical releases, Marvel Studios began exploring updated contracts for actors, writers, directors, and producers to received adjusted compensation in the event a film had to debut on Disney+ instead of in theaters. TheWrap reported it was believed the new contracts would only apply to films about to enter production, and was unclear if any adjustments would be made to contracts for films already completed but not yet released.[186] In February 2021, as part of Ryan Coogler's television deal between Walt Disney Television and his production company Proximity Media, he would work alongside Marvel Studios on select Disney+ series.[143]

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