After spending the first few episodes introducing the disparate cast of multiversal characters in largely standalone adventures, Marvel’s What If…? eventually revealed that there was an overarching storyline in play, one that saw Ultron secure Vision’s body, attain a full set of Infinity Stones and set its sights on taking control of the entire multiverse.
The Watcher was forced to break his oath not to interfere, bringing Strange Supreme on board before traveling across multiple realities to recruit the Guardians of the Multiverse, who ended up defeating Ultron and saving the day, but not before Killmonger tried to keep hold of the Stones for himself.
The climactic battle took up a huge chunk of screentime, giving every hero their moment in the spotlight, but the influences behind the concept, design and execution of the final showdown came from some very unexpected sources, as director Bryan Andrews revealed in a new interview with ComicBook.
“Our awesome production designer Paul Lasaine, he worked on Prince of Egypt back in the day and he was one of the guys who helped design the “Angel of Death” sequence, when the hand of God comes through and takes the first born children. It had a very stark look, it was very monochromatic and very stripped down. I’ve always been looking for an opportunity to do something in that vein, and when it came to this, when Ultron was zeroed in on Strange and realized, ‘Okay, I’m going to do my ultimate death spell, where I’m just hitting you with so much different Infinity things’. It strips color away, in a way.
So we got to use that, and since Paul Lasaine is our guy, and he’s the one who did it, he’s just like, ‘Yeah, I’m bringing back the thing I did on the thing’. I’m like, ‘That’s right, man!’. And then the other thing was Sleeping Beauty, actually. Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, when Maleficent turns into the dragon. There’s a moment when Prince Phillip looks up. Oh my God, Disney loves it. He also did the same thing in Cinderella, when the evil stepmother realized that Cinderella was the one at the ball. They do this thing, and it’s an old school technique from way back in the day, the silent era and the early thirties, where everything gets dark, everyone turns into a silhouette almost, but the room stays bright.
Some sort of juxtaposition of the lighting. A lighting change. So I wanted to do that to show tremendous power, because it worked so well back in the old days. So, some of the old tricks, I brought in and used visually. But when it comes to the composition of that stuff, that’s just us. And I think for the final battle, I also got my older brother Mark, who basically boarded a ton of The Incredibles, had a story in Incredibles, all this other stuff. So he came up with some cool stuff as well. It was fun to work with my bro again, ever so briefly, on this episode.”
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Watching What If…?‘s grandstanding battle between the Guardians of the Multiverse and Ultron, you’d never have guessed that Prince of Egypt, Sleeping Beauty and The Incredibles played such an important part in how it all came together, but that’s the magic of the Marvel Cinematic Universe on full display; anything can be mined for inspiration and applied to the comic book franchise’s established mythology.