[Article] WHAT IF…? Marvel Zombies, Twilight Zone, & Beyond!
Courtesy of Disney+

I’ve been a Disney fan since I was a child, and credit a lot of their animated films for introducing me to the creepier side of things at a young age, eventually resulting in a full-fledge obsession with horror. Though they are few and far between, every so often Disney puts something out that has more of an adult edge to it. That pushes the envelope. And viewers will get to see that in the upcoming Disney+ Marvel series, WHAT IF…?

WHAT IF…? is an anthology that showcases the reimagining of famous events from films in the MCU, which creates a multiverse of impossibilities. The series features fan-favorite characters, including Peggy Carter, T’Challa, Doctor Strange, Killmonger, Thor, and more. 

Recently, Nightmarish Conjurings attended the press conference for WHAT IF…?, which was moderated by Brandon Davis of ComicBook.com and featured Director Bryan Andrews, Head Writer A.C. Bradley, Executive Producer Brad Winderbaum, and the voice of “The Watcher,” Jeffrey Wright. During the conference, we learned about everything from the addition of Marvel Zombies, the comparisons to The Twilight Zone, and more.

WHAT IF…? is sure to expand the multiverse with its take on alternate timelines within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). But how does an idea like this come together? Apparently, by luck! When discussing how this series came together, EP Brad Winderbaum stated:

“To be honest, it was a stroke of inspiration that happened on the drive home from work one day. I found myself in my driveway texting back and forth with Kevin Feige about what this show could be. And by the next day, the wheels were in motion and we were on our way to making this thing.” 

Unlike the live-action movies/series within the MCU, WHAT IF…? stands tall as the first animated series. When discussing the reasoning behind that, Winderbaum explained:

“It was obvious from the beginning that it needed to be animated because of all the locations and sets of characters and elements from the MCU. If we were going to revisit it, it had to be in a medium that would allow us an infinite scope of whatever we could conceive of.” 

Narrating the viewer through each episode is “The Watcher,” a particular individual who knows all there is to know about the MCU. Voice acting as The Watcher is acclaimed actor Jeffrey Wright (Westworld) who gave us some further insight into this character.

“I’m playing THE WATCHER, who is described in his first appearance in Marvel Comics, I think it was in 1963, something like the most dramatic being in all the known universe. He’s a fairly dramatic guy. He’s a fairly powerful guy. He’s kind of overseeing the multiverse and he plays somewhat of a Rod Serling role here, kind of narrating, kind of not. In some ways, he may be the biggest Marvel fan there is watching all that transpires and dealing with certain temptations to involve himself. But at the same time, just kind of living vicariously through these characters, these stories, this mythology and taking it all in.”

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Each episode of WHAT IF…? centers around an individual story that has its own distinct feel and tone. While discussing the importance of this anthology set up, Director Bryan Andrews stated:

“Well, I think that it was important to all of us right from the beginning, from talking to Brad about it being an anthology. And part of the aspect of it being an anthology, just like those Twilight Zones back in the day, you never know what you’re gonna get. You might get an episode that’s a comedy, you might get an episode that’s dramatic and serious, super emotional, full of action. AC, Brad, myself, Kevin, Victoria, we all love cinema. We all love movies. And this gave us an opportunity to apply a little taste of a variety of genres into the MCU.”

Moderator Brandon Davis then opened the floor to questions from the press. With the comparison to The Twilight Zone already at play, Kaitlyn Booth of Bleeding Cool asked if these one-shot episodes would include a season-wide story that would span the length of the series. Commenting on that, Winderbaum explained:

“It is an anthology and there are standalone stories, much like we do with the films and now the shows, we are trying to create stories that exist on their own terms. So if you were to watch any episode of WHAT IF… and that was the only episode you watched, you get a full experience, hopefully. But it is Marvel and as we know there’s always strange alchemy at work. So you never know. They could all connect. We’ll have to see!”

As for horror fans, Tessa Smith of Mama’s Geeky asked the one question we were all waiting for: what about the Marvel Zombies!? While laughing, Head Writer AC Bradley stated:

“The Zombies. Marvel Zombies were a pie in the sky throwaway. Kevin kind of surprised us by being like, ‘Yeah, no, you’re doing Marvel Zombies.’ The fun part of Marvel Zombies, at least for me, was to delve into that initial run, and probably more than any other WHAT IF…? episode, we drew directly from the comic for inspiration and for actual scenes because it is so good. That was actually a no-brainer that we kind of came up with by accident. I just made a zombie pun with a no-brainer. I just realized that.”

From what I’ve seen so far, WHAT IF…? is a series that’s fresh, exciting, and action-packed. It’ll pull on your heartstrings just as much as it’ll make you cheer for your favorite character in a new role. Even more, it’s a series that will appease both the die-hard MCU fans as well as the newbies. What does the rest of the season have in store for fans? You’ll find out soon, just make sure to prepare for one hell of a ride.

WHAT IF…? arrives exclusively on Disney+  Wednesday, August 11th.

Shannon McGrew
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