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‘WandaVision’ debuts Friday, kicking off a new era for Marvel on Disney+

  • "WandaVision" debuts on Disney+ on Friday.
  • The show features Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff, aka Scarlet Witch, and Paul Bettany as Vision.
  • "WandaVision" kicks off a slate of shows from Marvel that will direct connect to films released in theaters.

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Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany star as Wanda Maximoff and Vision in Marvel's "WandaVision."Disney

"WandaVision," Marvel's first scripted series for Disney+, arrives on Friday, kicking off a stacked slate of interconnected superhero content.

This new show centers around Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany), characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, who fell in love. The show begins with the pair living in a 1950s-inspired sitcom enjoying blissful suburbia. They cycle through a number of different decades, showcasing television tropes and iconic fashion from each era, as they begin to question their picture-perfect lives.

Like other Disney+ shows made exclusively for the platform, "WandaVision" will air new episodes week to week. However, on Friday's debut audiences will get to see two episodes from the show. In total, the show has nine episodes.

Also part of the cast is Teyonah Parris, who is playing Monica Rambeau, the daughter of Maria Rambeau. Maria is the best friend of Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel. Both Monica and Maria were featured in the 2019 film "Captain Marvel," which was set in the '90s when Maria was just a child.

Kathryn Hahn also stars as Agnes, a seemingly cheery next door neighbor. Little is known about her character and many fans have speculated that she is the villain of the show.

"WandaVision" is the first Marvel project to debut since "Spider-Man: Far From Home" in July 2019 and will be followed by "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" in March, "Loki" in May and the animated series "What If…?" in the summer.

The future of the MCU

In total, Marvel head Kevin Feige has 10 Disney+ shows planned over the next few years, including Jeremy Renner's "Hawkeye," featuring Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop; "She Hulk," starring Tatiana Maslany; and "Moon Knight" with Star Wars alum Oscar Isaac.

These shows are tied directly into the content that Marvel will debut theatrically. For example, "WandaVision" will have implications on Sam Raimi's "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," which is slated to arrive in cinemas in March 2022.

Marvel had produced a number of TV shows set in the MCU for Netflix, although those programs never felt connected to the content in the films. There were vague references to characters or events from the films, but no crossover between them. That will change with the new content arriving to Disney+.

Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany star as Wanda Maximoff and Vision in Marvel's "WandaVision."Disney

There are expectations that the Disney+ series are debuting ahead of 2021's movies because there are events or characters in the episodes that could impact the films. In 2021, Marvel has "Black Widow," set for May 7; "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings," set for July 9; "Eternals," set for Nov. 5; and the Sony co-production "Spider-Man 3," set for Dec. 17.

And characters from those Netflix shows —"Daredevil," "Jessica Jones," "Luke Cage," "Iron Fist" and "The Punisher" — may not be pushed completely to the wayside just because they were part of the Netflix shows. Feige has signaled that these characters could be be utilized in the future.

There have already been rumors that Charlie Cox will reprise his role as Matt Murdock, aka Daredevil, in the third Spider-Man film and that Krysten Ritter could return in "She Hulk" as private eye Jessica Jones. Marvel has not confirmed these appearances.

The power of Disney+

Disney's decision to bring its blockbuster comic book heroes to the small screen is multifaceted. It not only allows the company to explore characters that were introduced in the films, but not top-billed stars, and introduce new characters, but it is part of a larger strategy to bolster Disney+.

In October, Disney reorganized its media and entertainment divisions so that it could focus more heavily on streaming going forward. This move came in the middle of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but the groundwork had been laid over the last few years. After all, Marvel had teased fans back in mid-2018 that these new Marvel shows were on the horizon.

The launch of "The Mandalorian," which debuted on the first day Disney+ was available, cemented that Disney was on the right track. The Star Wars program proved that streaming shows could become a part of the cultural zeitgeist in the same way that Marvel's films had done on the big screen.

According to recent Nielsen data, "The Mandalorian" was one of the top 10 most-streamed original shows in 2020. Its second season began streaming in October.

The Mandalorian and the Child on Disney+'s "The Mandalorian."Disney

Shows like "The Mandalorian," as well as exclusive content like Pixar's "Soul" and the filmed version of the musical "Hamilton," have driven more than 86.8 million subscribers to Disney+, smashing Disney's sign-up expectations.

When Disney+ launched in late 2019, the company expected it would reach 60 million to 90 million subscribers by 2024. In December, it updated that forecast, saying it now expects it will have 230 million to 260 million subscribers by 2024.

Exclusive content, particularly that which feeds a franchise that has garnered more than $22.5 billion in ticket sales in a little over a decade, is vital to the success of Disney+.

As more companies launch their own streaming services and vie for a share of consumers' wallets, Disney will need this kind of must-see content to keep subscribers. Already, the company announced more than 100 projects, 80% of which will be going directly to Disney+, during its investor day in December.

Disney's investment in these projects has lead the company to increase Disney+'s monthly subscription fee by $1 to $7.99.

Investors are eagerly awaiting Disney's next earnings report on Feb. 11 to see how its subscriber numbers were impacted by the launch of "Soul" and "WandaVision."

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