Marvel’s What If…? trailer spins out a universe of alternate animated realities

With only one episode of Loki left, it’s time for Marvel Studios to tease its next Marvel Cinematic Universe TV series for Disney Plus. This time, though, it’s an animated show that isn’t designed to change the grand scheme of the movies, or set up storylines to come.

Instead, the actual design of the show sets it in a series of alternate universes. Marvel’s What If…? offers a look into what the MCU might look like if a few things changed. For instance: What if Erik Killmonger saved Tony Stark from the missile attack that put him on the road to becoming Iron Man? What if it was Peggy Carter who took the Super Soldier Serum instead of Steve Rogers? Or if T’Challa was Star Lord? The different multiverse possibilities are narrated by the mysterious Watcher (Jeffrey Wright), a powerful being who can see these separate realities, but will not interfere in them.

What If…? is the first animated MCU series, and it uses a style of rotoscoped animation familiar from movies like Richard Linklater’s Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly. More recently, a new technology called triscope was used to create similar effects for the Netflix show The Liberator. The approach layers CGI paint over actual footage, letting the show’s creators blend existing footage from past MCU movies (like that missile attack in 2008’s Iron Man) with newly created scenes.

Many familiar MCU actors are reprising their roles in the series, including Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Michael B. Jordan, and the late Chadwick Boseman, who recorded lines for the show before his 2020 death. The series taps into a long tradition of hypotheticals in Marvel comics, and is named after the comic line of the same name that also theorizes about these deviations.

What If…? launches on Disney Plus on Aug. 11, with new episodes airing on Wednesdays.

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