There's a lot of really good stuff coming to Disney+ when it launches in just a few days, but of all the things that the new service promises, what might be the most exciting are the shows we'll have to wait for. Disney+ is going to be a big part of the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
No less than five shows have already been dated for the service over the next two years, with at least three more following after that. If you're a fan of the MCU, this is clearly awesome. It's an amazing amount of content, but with so much happening on Disney+, it makes the upcoming film slate look that much more overflowing.
Several months ago, before we even knew what movies were going to make up the MCU's Phase 4, we were aware we'd be getting as many as three films being released in any given calendar year. Once the arguments over Spider-Man between Disney and Sony subsided, things got even more full as the next MCU Spider-Man movie was dated for 2021.
That means that currently, 2021 has four MCU series on Disney+ scheduled alongside four movies as well, and that might be a couple too many of something at least.
Rather than going the Netflix route of dropping all episodes of a series at once, Disney+ will be going with the more traditional broadcast network plan of one episode per week. Based on the early information Disney+ has released, it appears the plan is for new episodes of all series to hit the service on Friday, the same day that theatrical releases are traditionally put in theaters.
We don't know how many episodes of any given MCU series we're going to get. However, if we assume that about as much time and money is being spent on them as The Mandalorian, we can guess that each MCU show will be receive an eight episode first season, just as the Star Wars show is getting.
An Embarrassment of Riches
In 2021, WandaVision, Loki, What If... ? and Hawkeye will all be released. If each of those runs gets eight episodes, we're looking at 32 episodes of MCU TV, and because it's unlikely that these shows will be running into each other, 32 weeks of new MCU TV.
The other thing that's unlikely is that we'll be getting a new episode of an MCU show the same weekend that a big screen movie is released. The Mandalorian schedule is getting a little wonky itself to avoid clashing with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Based on the simple schedule Marvel showed off at San Diego Comic-Con for Phase 4, series and movies will more or less alternate throughout the year.
This means that between the four series and the four movies, we're looking at 36 Fridays in 2021 where something new from the MCU is going to be released. 36 out of 52 weeks. More than two thirds of the year will be given over to the MCU. If the Disney+ series get 10 episodes rather than eight, as many Netflix or cable series do, we could be looking at even more. The Marvel shows produced for Netflix generally got 13 episodes. Four runs like that and our entire year is already consumed by Marvel.
Too Much Of A Good Thing?
I love the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but even I feel like this is a lot of content. It's certainly true that for those people following the larger MCU story, not all of this will be necessarily required viewing, What If... ? is an animated anthology show that will tell stories specifically outside of the MCU canon, and the Loki series is supposed to take place in an alternate timeline, but Kevin Feige himself has said that Loki will be connected to one of the MCU's upcoming films.
The question of whether or not people will be willing to keep track of so much additional lore is a somewhat different question, one that I've already asked. The issue at hand here is that it just looks like we're going to be swamped with content nearly every week going forward.
It used to be that we had months between Marvel movies. That was plenty of time to digest, dissect and discuss each one. Now, it seems like we're getting to a point where we'll barely have any time to do any of that.
The streaming service model requires a massive amount of original content. It's what each service has that the competitors don't, so it makes all the sense in the world for Disney to seriously focus on the service for the foreseeable future. But perhaps, rather than adding all these new shows to the movies, we could trade off a bit, and slow down on movies during periods when the Disney+ shows are coming strong.
This would give audiences a break. Nobody wants to watch anything out of obligation. As somebody who watches dozens of movies a year out of nothing but obligation, I know this feeling and it's not fun. Breaks are good, no matter what it is you're doing, and we could all use them.
The Comic Book Formula
Marvel Studios' big revelation was the discovery that comic book continuity could be transplanted to the movies. For the most part, it has worked well, but it has the potential to work even better thanks to Disney+.
The way comics work is that each character has their own title and their own adventures. And then, every year or two, there's a big event where characters cross over. This is how the MCU started, but in recent years, every movie feels like it's the big crossover event. And if all you do are big events, they start to lose their significance.
Now, Disney+ can be the equivalent of a solo series. Then, the movies come along and become those big events.The model fits better than simply doing everything on the big screen, but it only works that way if we're not still getting too many "event" movies.
I love the MCU, but I do believe there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. There's the possibility of simply wearing people out. People who can't keep up could simply give up entirely and that's not a good thing for Disney+ or the box office.
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