MCU Production Timelines: Infographic & Methodology

In this piece I’m just going to explain a few of the finer points behind the data I put together for the Phase 3 and Phase 4 production timeline infographic, which João has again so excellently put into a graphic.  My purpose in working with João on this one is just to help people understand another piece of the puzzle of how MCU movies tend to get put together.  Fans understandably love to obsess over the release slate, particularly what’s coming next and when it is coming.  It can get a little confusing as to what is and isn’t further along in the timeline. Hopefully, we’ve laid that out in an understandable format.

A couple of notes I want to make on the data.  First of all, this is a relatively imprecise set of information.  What I’ve put into the spreadsheet is largely the dates as combed from the Wikipedia entries for each film (I did trace back the references in those articles to trade reports in most cases). Now if a director is hired in a forest and it doesn’t make a sound, are they still the director?  In other words, these dates for when writers and directors are hired are based on trade reports.  It may be that someone was hard at work for weeks or even months before the media found out.  I’m taking the information that is publicly available.  In particular, I assume the “filming start” dates are very approximate.  Captain Marvel, for example, filmed a few things before the official start of filming for weird tax purposes.  Also, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania did some kind of plates filming already this year, but the filming hasn’t really started in earnest yet. Again, I’m taking the Wikipedia dates in most cases and there will be some imprecisions there.

As far as director and writer hirings, I have listed the first hiring for each in most cases.  Directors in the MCU haven’t changed that much in recent years.  The major exception that will come to mind for most astute readers is the change from Scott Derrickson to Sam Raimi for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.  As such we’ve included that change as a separate item.  Writers, however, switch with much more frequency.  The process for hiring writers, managing rewrites, and then deciding who gets the final credit for both writing and story is byzantine at best.  To keep it simpler, we just took the first report of any writer or any director, regardless of their final involvement or non-involvement in the project.  I also am somewhat arbitrarily determining what counts as this production.  For some projects, development on the IP might have happened decades ago, but I’m treating those as a different project altogether.

It’s worth noting that sequels are pretty obviously different.  Often the director and lead actor are already in place and returning for the sequel.  As such directors get “named” essentially as soon as the project is greenlit.  This is also the case of writer/directors like James Gunn.

Release dates are a little tricky on this graph, given the interference of COVID.  We’re giving you both the original date and the final date in most cases.  Black Widow, for example, was almost totally finished when the pandemic started.  As such it isn’t that the production really took longer, it just all got delayed.  Sorting out a movie like Thor: Love and Thunder is a much more complicated matter.  We’ve done our best to give you a sense of the normal operating procedure and hide the confusion pandemic delays caused.

Two other major exceptions deserve a mention.  Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is another one that looks rather weird due to the firing and rehiring of James Gunn.  The movie never officially got a release date, but I think before the whole mess it was likely that the May 2020 date would have been Guardians Vol. 3’s planned landing spot.  Also, Avengers: Endgame was shot pretty tightly with Infinity War, so there is some weirdness in its extended production time.  I think it is highly likely that those two Avengers productions mixed and mingled quite a bit.  Certainly, the screenplays seemed to happen at the same time.

I think that is all the details. I hope you all enjoyed this. Again, this is all an exercise with approximation. I’m sure some slight variance in the data is possible if you look at different reports. Enjoy!

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