When Disney launched its own streaming platform, the company’s big-name studios were expected to carry the bulk of the load. The sky, it seemed, was the limited for Lucasfilm, Pixar, Disney Animation and Marvel Studios as fans expected projects on the level of HBO’s Game of Thrones and Neflix’s Stranger Things to roll out on the regular. Marvel Studios took the lead, announcing a slew of streaming projects that would introduce new characters and tell the stories of existing characters between their appearances in the MCU’s films. However, after a global pandemic and several less-than-well-received projects (both streaming and theatrical), Bob Iger returned to Disney and pumped the brakes.
For Marvel Studios, Iger’s return came with a mandate to produce fewer projects, give the ones they were producing room to breath before the next one arrived and to make sure fans were getting the quality they’d come to associate with the name. During Disney’s most recent investor conference call, Iger explained his vision for Disney moving forward and singled out Marvel Studios while doing so.
“I’d say we’re leaning a little bit more into sequels and franchises,” Iger told investors. “I think given the environment and given what it takes to get people out of their homes to see a film, leaning on franchises that are familiar is actually a smart thing.” To that end, Disney revealed an animated sequel to Moana and gave updates on Toy Story 5, Frozen 3 and Zootopia 2. In the past few years, Disney has had several films that failed to find an audience in theaters. While some projects such as Strange World found new life on Disney Plus, others didn’t draw much of an audience there. Relying on familiar brands may help but it is only one part of Iger’s strategy.
“In our zeal to greatly increase volume partially tied to this wanting to chase more global subs for our streaming platform, some of our studios lost a little focus,” explained Iger. “So the first step that we’ve taken is that we’ve reduced volume, we reduced output, particularly in Marvel.” For fans who’ve been tracking things Marvel-related very closely, Iger’s comments come as no surprise. Multiple projects, including Daredevil: Born Again and Captain America: Brave New World, were subjected to intense scrutiny that led to creative overhauls on both projects. Additionally, multiple projects that were reported to be in development have been put on the back burner while news on new projects has never been harder to come by than it is now.
What does this mean for the future of Marvel Studios? While the studio certainly won’t stop including new characters in projects, it’s likely that as the Fantastic Four and X-Men start to move into the spotlight, successful franchises such as Thor, Doctor Strange and Captain America might remain prominent. Branding of projects may also change moving forward. Captain Marvel was wildly successful at the box office in 2019; however, Marvel Studios chose to brand the sequel as The Marvels rather than Captain Marvel: cool subtitle or Captain Marvel 2, neither of which would have impacted the story but may have drawn a few more casual fans to theaters.
Whatever the case, it’s likely to be some time before fans really feel the impact of Iger’s change. As of now, Marvel Studios’ 2024 slate is fairly bare and there’s no certainty that all of their projects planned for 2025 will make their release dates. To that end, Deadpool 3–which fans should get their first look at during the Super Bowl–will be carrying the burden of high expectations for the studio this year.