AlloCiné was able to discuss with the French and American teams who worked on “What If…?”, The new production from Marvel Studios for Disney +.
With: Gaëlle Banet (production manager), Adrien L’ALEXANDRE (Animation Supervisor), Jeffrey Wright (The Watcher), Bryan Andrews (director), AC Bradley (screenwriter), Brad Winderbaum (producer).
AlloCiné: How did you get on What If…? and what was your role?
Adrien L’Alexandre: I have been doing animation for more than 15 years and since 2015 I have been the supervisor of all the animation of a project. They took me for What if…? because they needed someone like me, with a lot of experience. I also volunteered on my side because I was fascinated by the idea of working on this production. So I am the supervisor of all the animation on this new series. I supervise all the animators and I liaise with the producer client, Marvel Studios.
Gaëlle Banet: As for me, I am in charge of production on the first two episodes of the series. I have to drive all the teams here in France and maintain contact with Marvel Studios in the USA. I have to make sure that the whole production is clear and smooth. That there is a full understanding of the intent of what Marvel expects of us and that we can execute it perfectly. I wasn’t in animation before this experience, I worked for Warnermedia.
What were the various challenges you had to face with this series?
Adrien L’Alexandre: It was a little different experience from the previous ones I was used to. Before, I worked mainly with French clients. To work with the Americans, these are other requirements. It is also another style of animation. We are dealing here with a very realistic animation. We had to understand the style and adapt to their vision. I think the result is quite successful.
Gaëlle Banet: For me, it was an incredibly enriching experience. In two years of production I have the impression of having learned ten years of the trade! I was really surrounded by people who allowed me to grow in my branch. It’s a real challenge because it’s a huge production to manage with a lot of different departments with a lot of information to process, analyze and transmit. So you have to structure yourself, as well as your team, for the smooth running of everything there is to accomplish.
How is this series different from other animated series?
Adrien L’Alexandre: The animation is on another level with this series and with a successful cinematographic dimension. However, the result is that of all those people who have worked with Marvel for at least ten years. They applied the same recipes and used the same tools to move from movies to Marvel series. It’s new to have the style and vibe of the Marvel films now put into a series like What if… ?. It’s really an ultra realistic style, as I explained and the storytelling is very dynamic like in the Marvel movies that we have seen for a decade.
Gaëlle Banet: I agree with what Adrien has just said. The challenge is to adapt the cinematic style of Marvel films to the codes of the cartoon. You have to find this in-between, both in terms of characters who look like actors and with ultra-realistic graphics. It is not easy to make an animated cartoon that wants to be so realistic and so cinematographic. In any case, we are in a period when animation is having a real boom with big companies, like Marvel, who want to put the means to give life to an animated series never seen before.
Was there a particularly complicated scene or episode to produce?
Gaëlle Banet: Each sequence, each scene has a different approach. And so, each time, it’s a real challenge. You have to constantly renew yourself and it is not easy. But that’s what’s also fascinating because you never fall into a routine when working with Marvel Studios.
What do you think this series is about, what are the themes?
Gaëlle Banet: I think there is some feminist reach with Peggy Carter. This is the first super soldier. And at the same time the series remains very mainstream. I find it nice when a show like this brings in such a fluid way that a woman can be a super soldier. It’s great that it’s a woman and that she saves the world. It is a strong message and, at the same time, not forced.
Adrien L’Alexandre: In general, this kind of character always has somewhat magical powers. While there, she is just using her fists and physical strength. She has muscles and we can see them well. It’s a subtle feminist message.
Why produce a series on the multiverse now?
Brad Winderbaum: In fact, it’s the result of a conversation with Kevin Feige. I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do and he encouraged me to go for it with this series. From the start there was no doubt that it would be animation because of the number of characters and the different backgrounds. There were so many Marvel Universes to showcase that it would have been nearly impossible in live action and way too expensive to fund.
Jeffrey, what was your character’s approach?
Jeffrey Wright: So I play the role of the Watcher. I was inspired by Marvel’s vision of 1963 when they launched this character. It’s an ultra dramatic and classic version. He’s supposed to rule the entire Marvel multiverse. So he’s a massive character.
Tell us about your vision for directing this series, Bryan.
Bryan Andrews: We really wanted to put the cinematic style you find in Marvel movies into this series. Sometimes we fall into pure action, sometimes into science fiction or even pure comedy or drama. It’s a series that is ultra rich in style and ultra realistic in terms of staging. I treated it like we were producing a really long movie. I also loved the freedom to write all kinds of stories across all of Marvel’s universes using any character I wanted. We really wanted to explore everything with this series, to go beyond the costume of these superheroes and understand the complexity of their existence, of their universe.
AC Bradley: As a writer I really wanted to reveal who these characters were beyond what we knew about them, their costumes, their powers, etc. I wanted the audience to be able to connect with them on a more emotional level.
What can we expect from this series?
Brad Winderbaum: To be clear, this series begins, at the timeline level, after the Loki series which you can see on Disney +. With everything we’ve seen with the various series, the various Marvel films, we could go even further with What if…? and ask us what could happen if such and such hero met such another in such a universe. It’s fascinating because there is no limit to what we can imagine and create. And of course the series will also be connected to the next Marvel films like the next Spiderman or Doctor Strange…