Marvel Studios Slowing Down Disney+ TV Show Releases May Delay Echo, Ironheart, And More

Well, well, well, how the turntables. For the last several years, certain skeptics have watched with mounting concern as the Marvel Cinematic Universe and other superhero IPs have completely taken over the film industry, subsuming practically all other kinds of movies and crowding out most other competition. This has started to coincide with somewhat less-than-quality efforts beginning to crop up with more and more frequency — from the tepid response to "Black Adam" to Marvel's most recent "Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania" becoming only the second film in the franchise to garner a "rotten" score on Rotten Tomatoes. Perhaps the cart has been placed ahead of the horse?

Lucasfilm learned this the hard way after the release of "Solo: A Star Wars Story" proved that even "Star Wars" isn't a surefire box office hit anymore, and now it appears that Disney is applying this lesson to its superhero division.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Kevin Feige has been compelled to pump the breaks just a bit and slow down the breakneck pace that the MCU has been on. This comes on the heels of Disney CEO Bob Iger's comments during a recent shareholders call that indicated that their priority is in cost-cutting measures. It may be hard to believe that this directive would ever affect the cash cow that is the MCU, but even the Avengers may not be immune to their greatest foe yet: economics. THR cites an unnamed source who explained, "There is going to be a level of rigor on Marvel and across the entire company. Numbers matter now, and costs are going to be outlined and enforced."

So what are the tangible results, as far as fans and viewers are concerned? Well, we're going to get fewer TV shows spaced out over a longer time period.

So about those Disney+ shows...

It wasn't even that long ago when Disney was excitedly pushing its slate of streaming shows that would undoubtedly capture the public's attention all throughout 2023. With regards to Marvel specifically, that meant bracing ourselves for "Loki" season 2, "Secret Invasion," the next round of the animated "What If...?" series, the "Hawkeye" spin-off show "Echo" starring Alaqua Cox as the deaf superhero, the "WandaVision" spin-off "Agatha: Coven of Chaos," and "Ironheart," following Dominique Thorne's Riri Williams after her introduction in "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever." Well, plans change in a hurry and it now it seems as if those series won't all premiere in 2023 as originally scheduled.

THR reports that, out of those shows, only "Loki" and "Secret Invasion" are locks to debut as expected later in 2023. Describing the others as "unlikely" to premiere this year, the trade's sources single out highly-anticipated projects like "Echo" and "Ironheart" in particular as destined to be pushed back, despite wrapping production months ago. This aligns with Feige's recent quotes about spacing Phase 5 and 6 out a bit more, in which he outright stated the concerns that now seem to be plaguing the upper levels of management in Disney:

"I think one of the powerful aspects of being at Marvel Studios is having these films and shows hit the zeitgeist. It is harder to hit the zeitgeist when there's so much product out there — and so much 'content,' as they say, which is a word that I hate. [Laughs] We want Marvel Studios and the MCU projects to stand out. So, people will see that as we get further into Phases 5 and 6. The pace at which we're putting out the Disney+ shows will change so they can each get a chance to shine."

Content is king?

Well, that's certainly an about-face from the MCU's normal MO. Fans have certainly noted how much Marvel has ramped up production with each subsequent Phase, which is either a great thing or cause for alarm depending on your perspective. For sake of comparison, Phase 1 and 2 consisted of six movies each. Simple enough! From that point on, however, Phase 3 expanded to 11 total movies, while Phase 4 recently wrapped up 7 films, 8 Disney+ shows, and 2 television specials. Phase 5, which officially kicks off with "Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania," appears set to be its most ambitious yet.

While Marvel seems to keep fending off allegations of "superhero fatigue," one has to wonder whether such a breakneck pace has had unintended consequences. For one thing, the pandemic ended up scuttling many of Marvel's carefully laid-out plans, leading to some confusion when delays caused certain projects to come out before others and rendered certain moments a little difficult to parse. One has to wonder whether giving each project more breathing room would've helped the studio adapt to such unprecedented conditions. On a more pressing note, there's the plight of VFX artists and vendors hired by Marvel who are working under non-unionized conditions, leading to toxic levels of crunch and noticeably subpar work. And as the franchise continues to grow more and more interconnected between film and television, wouldn't spacing things out just feel more convenient for audiences who hardly have time to keep up with entertainment in general?

This certainly feels like a pivotal moment for studios, especially those that have gone all-in on the streaming craze and valued sheer volume of "content" above all else. For once, Disney might have the right idea that cutting back is the best way to move forward.