Do Fans Really ‘Need’ to Watch Disney+ to Understand the New MCU?

Disney+ has kicked into high gear with the resounding success of The Mandalorian, but one major test still remains: Will the Marvel TV shows have the same kind of success?

That may seem like an insane question, given that almost everything Kevin Feige touches turns to gold. However, the test won’t be whether people will watch the shows. That’s all but guaranteed.

The real question is, will people really need to watch these shows to understand the movies? 

Yes, you need to watch the shows

Kevin Feige speaks onstage
Kevin Feige | Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney

There are different schools of thought on this question and both of them come from the same site, Forbes. One piece, titled “Kevin Feige Confirms You’ll Need To Watch Disney Plus Marvel Shows To Keep Up With The Movie MCU” almost speaks for itself. 

Forbes quotes Feige in an interview he gave to Bloomberg, and the money quote is: “If you want to understand everything in future Marvel movies, he says, you’ll probably need a Disney+ subscription, because events from the new shows will factor into forthcoming films such as Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.”

The implication seems to be that if you don’t watch the Disney+ shows, you’ll be hopelessly lost when you try to see the Doctor Strange sequel in May of next year. At least, that’s what Feige and Disney would like us to believe.

After all, Disney wants to keep boosting those subscriber numbers, and they can’t rely on Baby Yoda to do it now that The Mandalorian is between seasons. As rabid as many Marvel fans are, they certainly won’t mind parting with $7 a month. 

No, you don’t need to watch the shows

On the other hand, a different Forbes piece is called “No, You Won’t Be Forced To Watch Marvel’s Disney+ TV Shows In Order To Enjoy The New MCU Movies.” The basic argument is, sure, Disney would like you to watch the shows.

But they know better than to hurt their golden goose at the movies that routinely make $1 billion at the worldwide box office. 

Scott Mendelson writes, “There is a difference between ‘understand everything,’ and ‘be able to follow the movie.’ As much as Disney wants Disney+ to succeed, they aren’t going to risk sabotaging their biggest theatrical IP.  Contrary to popular belief, at least popular entertainment media belief, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is only as interconnected as your average longform television show.”  

In other words, the movies were like really long TV episodes, with Avengers: Endgame playing like the grandest season finale of all.

But the simplest way to measure this is a test many people already took last year: If I want to see Avengers: Endgame, how many of the other movies do I need to be able to follow it? For a lot of people, all they needed to see was Avengers: Infinity War, and they were good to go. And this was before Disney+ was even in the picture.

What do fans think they need to do?

Fans have debated this question on Reddit, and interestingly, not everyone is convinced that Disney+ will be absolutely essential to the MCU experience. After all, there is only so much money and so many hours in the day. With all these movies and shows, even the most devoted fan will find it a challenge to keep with absolutely everything. 

One fan wrote:

“I don’t know if the general audience are going to watch these. We live in a day and age where there’s so much content that it’s literally impossible to keep up with it all. The hardcore of the hardcore are going to watch …  It’s just my concern that they’re going a little too hard and fast in these shows for the general audience.”

It all boils down to this: Will it help to watch the MCU TV shows to keep up with the movies? Sure. Will your Marvel movie-going life depend on it? Certainly not. 

If you don’t catch up with WandaVision, there are all kinds of sites and videos devoted to catching people up for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. They have people who watch the shows that you don’t have time to watch. 

Kevin Feige may not agree, but he has to keep up with all this because he’s the grand chief. The rest of us will be content to watch as we’re able.