Because Disney+ and Marvel’s What If is an anthology series, each of its self-contained episodes can be appreciated as individual stories set within the MCU’s expanding multiverse. As a whole, though, What If is establishing just how important the multiverse itself is going to be for the MCU’s future, something that’s previously been alluded to in series like WandaVision and Loki.
Following the events of Loki, the MCU is poised to descend into its new multiverse with characters like Doctor Strange, the Scarlet Witch, Loki, and America Chavez dealing with the new status quo in Sam Raimi’s upcoming Multiverse of Madness.
The new Doctor Strange movie’s premise and its connections to Spider-Man: No Way Home both dovetail with Loki’s introduction of the multiverse in a way that has made it seem like the studio’s film plans were its first priority. But when Gizmodo recently caught up with What If’s head writer A.C. Bradley and series director Bryan Andrews, the pair explained how their plan to broach the multiverse was an independent one that came long before they were made aware of what their peers were working on.
“We were already deep in development and writing the show by the time Loki got up and running,” said Bradley, who signed onto What If back in the fall of 2018. “So we had a meeting and talked about what we wanted to do with the multiverse — kind of as an aside — because Doctor Strange 2 was still in the very early stages.”
Because of the freedom and flexibility that comes from What If’s being an animated anthology, Bradley likened the series to a sampler of assorted chocolates meant to give you a taste of what all is possible now that the multiverse is in play. But she also emphasised that she left most of the multiversal “rules-building and all that to the Loki team and the Doctor Strange team.”
“Basically I was like, OK, I’m just going to go and show all the fun we can have in the multiverse,” Bradley said. “I’m going to show all the things that can happen and the places we can go, I’m not going to lay down any serious rules I’m not going to touch anything to do with the TVA.” Once What If was fully in production, some of the big-picture connective tissue that Marvel head Kevin Feige was engineering became more clear to the show’s creative team. According to Andrews, though, there was less direct collaboration between What If and other Marvel projects and more of a general understanding that Marvel’s executive leadership were aiming for all of these stories to align once finished.
“Not until we were already working on it did we find out, ‘Oh, by the way, the next Doctor Strange is going to be Multiverse of Madness,’ and we were like ‘Wait, what?’” Andrews recalled. “It’s funny because like the people making those movies and shows would check — Kevin and Brad [Winderbaum, Marvel Studios’ vice president of production and development] would show them where we were at because we were already moving before they were.”
After this first batch of episodes, there’s going to be at least one more season of What If stories pulled from the initial batch of pitches Andrews and the rest of the creative team gave to Feige. While Andrews is personally proud of everything they did with what What If and has some idea about what might come next, he emphasised that Feige “and the top brass — they’re the ones really orchestrating stuff, and sometimes we’re just busy with the mission statement that we have.”