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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is likely to mark the end of James Gunn’s involvement in the Marvel film series. Fortunately, fans have a Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special to look forward to before reaching the big conclusion.

Slated to arrive on Disney+ in 2022, the project will offer a fun adventure that segues into what appears to be a more serious ending in Vol. 3. However, anyone hoping to skip the special, take heed: Gunn confirmed that watching the holiday-themed project will be necessary to understand certain elements of the final film.

What do we know about the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special’ so far?

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special was announced during The Walt Disney Company’s Investor Day in 2020. Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige confirmed that Gunn would return to direct and write the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first live-action holiday project, something Gunn reportedly pitched on numerous occasions.

The main cast of the films will reprise their roles in the holiday special, including Chris Pratt as Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Bradley Cooper as Rocket, Dave Bautista as Drax, and Vin Diesel as Groot. It will take place after the events of Avengers: Endgame and Thor: Love and Thunder, but before Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

According to Gunn, it’s important fans check out the Disney+ special before heading to theaters to see Vol. 3. That’s why it’s arriving on Disney+ during the 2022 holiday season, just ahead of the final film’s release date in 2023.

Yes, Marvel fans will need to watch the holiday special before ‘Vol. 3,’ says director James Gunn

James Gunn, director of the Guardians of the Galaxy holiday special, wears a dark blue shirt and stands in front of a blurred white background
‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ director James Gunn | Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

During a recent interview with Collider, Gunn teased what viewers can expect from his upcoming holiday-themed project. Most notable was the director’s insistence that fans watch the special prior to seeing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. According to him, the Disney+ project is part of Marvel’s canon and contains critical information for moving forward in the series.

“It’s in-canon, it’s about the Guardians, you’re gonna learn stuff that you need to learn before Volume 3, and it’s great,” Gunn explained.

Although viewers must watch Gunn’s special before Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, the director assured them that the Disney+ release won’t be that long. Rather than a full-length film, Gunn opted for a television special that will clock in at around 40 minutes, making it a relatively short viewing experience.

James Gunn plans to film ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ and the holiday special at the same time

RELATED: When Does ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ Begin Filming? James Gunn Confirms Plans ‘Have Not Changed’

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The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special and Vol. 3 are slated to release separately, but Gunn told Collider he plans on filming them together. Doing so will prove convenient for the cast, especially since they’ll already be all in one place.

“I’m gonna film it at the same time as the movie,” he said. “I’m using a lot of the same sets, the same actors obviously, so we’re filming simultaneously with the film but it’s gonna have to be edited and finished sooner.”

The director finished the script for the holiday special back in April, posting a picture of the front page on Twitter to celebrate. That puts a long wait between its completion and filming, which is expected to begin later this year. Fortunately, Marvel fans have plenty of content to look forward to in the meantime — including Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Eternals, and Spider-Man: No Way Home.