Toto, we have a feeling WandaVision proves we're not in the regular MCU anymore. The first live-action Marvel series for Disney+ is situated in a bizarre sitcom world where Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) are attempting to make a go of normal suburban life, despite the fact she's a psychic witch and he's a human-android hybrid powered by a mystical crystal.
WandaVision is weird, if you couldn't tell, but it is also a really fun watch. No small part of that is due to the fact that each episode of the Disney+ series pays homage to a different sitcom era, beginning with the '50s and early '60s in the season premiere and moving further into the '60s in Episode 2. Director Matt Shakman helped shape the world of WandaVision, using visual cues from iconic sitcoms to create this new world that Wanda and Vision call home.
"We were developing the larger narrative, and then figuring out sort of stylistically what worlds we wanted to create and [finding] reference points for the '50s like I Love Lucy and [The Dick Van Dyke Show]," Shakman told TV Guide. "We're looking at shows that still resonate today, that are really funny today, that are timeless, and a lot of that has to do with just the quality of the writing and the acting. We were looking at family sitcoms, shows about a family unit coming together and triumphing over the daily problems of life. We are a show about Wanda and Vision, who are a very unusual family unit, doing [that] same thing."
With each episode taking on a new sitcom era, sets, lighting, hair, make-up, and costuming had to reinvent the wheel for each new decade of inspiration. Shakman credits his hardworking crew for creating a world that looks completely different but feels the same for each new chapter of the show.
"It did feel a little bit like we're doing a new pilot every time. There's a lot of hard work. My department heads did an extraordinary job. We started with Wanda and Vision's house and designed what we thought it would be like in a multi-cam sitcom set from the '50s, and then we iterated that through time," he explained. "That meant we had to create a whole new version of that house many times. They did an extraordinary job. Every time we shot it in a different era, it had to be shot in a different way, lit in a different way, the costumes, the hair, the makeup, so it was a big job for everybody, and they crushed it."
Even though the sitcom inspirations are clear in each episode, the central narrative is still about Wanda, Vision, and their love story. Tracking their relationship and their dynamic with each other gives the series connective tissue as it goes through various twists and turns throughout the season.
"Ultimately all of it is the love story. That's the through-line story of WandaVision. They are such an unusual couple. She's incredibly fiery and strong, and he's synthezoid part-human, but maybe more human than any of us because he is this philosopher who seems to understand so much more about humanity. They come together as complete opposites and they complete each other in this great way," Shakman stated.
"That love story that we've seen developed in the MCU is what we really want to be telling more of in this show," he continued. "That is the spine, and ultimately, we were creating WandaVision in every one of those episodes, even as we were stylistically drawing from shows like Dick Van Dyke and I Love Lucy. None of it was a strict homage or copying; we definitely wanted to avoid parody. It was always creating our own show that just kind of drew from the feel of that time."
Can Wanda and Vision channel their sitcom inspirations from past eras and overcome whatever mysterious force is at work in the series, though? Only time will tell.
WandaVision Episodes 1 and 2 are now streaming on Disney+.