Two-and-a-half years ago, Marvel President of Consumer Products Paul Gitter spoke about the future of Marvel Studios and how they were beginning to brand around the tagline "Avengers Assemble." He revealed that there was a master plan in place all way up to 2017.
Since that time, Captain America, Thor, The Avengers and most recently, Iron Man 3, hit theaters, breaking multiple records around the world - all of which was in the planning stages as far back as 2006. Today, Marvel has at least another four years planned out beyond 2017.
In speaking with Wired about the young Marvel Studios and how they began their now-headline-breaking panels at Comic-Con as far back as 2006, Marvel President of Production Kevin Feige teased that there's much more to come.
"I could arguably say what we’re planning for the year 2021. Will that happen? I don’t know. But what we planned for 2015 in 2006 is happening."
Going forward, it's about growing the franchise beyond the characters who've seen success in theaters already.
"Five years ago, looking at our plan, we knew that if Avengers was going to work, the movies had to stand alone. Now we have to prove to the studio that we’re more than just these five characters, these five franchises."
So just how does Feige and Marvel orchestrate a massive shared film universe, managing multiple in-production projects at once, while also picking and choosing obscure characters from Marvel Comics to invest in (i.e. Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, etc.)?
"Disney has allowed us to be a relatively small, tight-knit brain trust. These billion-dollar ventures come down to 10 people or fewer in a room saying, 'You know what would be cool?'"
The big questions of course are what additional new characters and properties could make their way to theaters in between threequels to Captain America, Thor and The Avengers and will the studio ever push three movies out in one year? We know Ant-Man comes after The Avengers: Age of Ultron and sometime after that Doctor Strange will get his own film.
As it stands, Disney and Marvel Studios planted their feet in the ground earlier this summer to lay claim to key summer weekends in 2016 and 2017 but they're not prepared to discuss what those projects are quite yet. Feige previously said we'd learn about those in 2014, and we expect that means it'll be part of their Comic-Con panel next year.
In the meantime, Marvel needs to keep fans focused on what's coming out now. Iron Man 3 offered the strongest start imaginable to Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, cementing its place as the fourth top-grossing film of all-time, sitting right behind The Avengers (and James Cameron). Going forward however, Marvel needs to promote the sequels to Thor (watch the new trailer!) and Captain America which are being used to test non-summer dates for the studio. Thor: The Dark World releases this November, Captain America: The Winter Soldier in April, and even Guardians of the Galaxy - the studio's riskiest bet to date - is testing an August release date, leaving the key summer weekends next year to partners at Fox and Sony to release X-Men: Days of Future Past and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, respectively.
This year Feige has gone on record multiple times explaining his desire and the studio's need to keep crafting movies that offer something different. We saw that in Iron Man 3 and we're absolutely getting it from the Cap/Thor sequels and Guardians. Doctor Strange opens up the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the mystical and magical side of things which has yet to be explored, but what else remains beyond that we don't quite know. Another, different Hulk movie? Heroes for Hire? The Inhumans?
What movies would you like to see going forward? Did we mention that Marvel has literally eight years of movies in development?
Thor: The Dark World on November 8, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014, The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on November 6, 2015, and unannounced films for May 6 2016, July 8 2016 and May 5 2017.
Let me know on Twitter @rob_keyes what Marvel character you'd like to see most onscreen!