Spider-Man: Freshman Year is reportedly in danger of being canceled amid wider cost-cutting measures at Marvel Studios.
According to multiple industry insiders, the fate of the Marvel Phase 5 project has not been officially determined. However, all signs point towards the animated Spider-Man TV series – a non-canonical entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) – being canned as Marvel and Disney rein in spending and begin laying off members of staff.
The first signs that things weren’t rosy came courtesy of those working on Freshman Year, which is slated to arrive sometime in 2024 on Disney Plus. On November 9, Freshman Year director Liza Singer tweeted out that she was actively searching for work opportunities from mid-December onwards.
Ordinarily, this wouldn’t set alarm bells ringing. But, given Freshman Year isn’t expected to launch (if it does at all) for another 13 months – at the very earliest – it’s likely that there’s still plenty of post-production work to carry out. If Singer is departing the project now (mid-November 2022) when there’s still work to be done, it doesn’t bode well for the show’s future.
Hi there! I will be looking for Directing and Story opportunities starting in mid-December! Please keep me in mind! I’m also open to Feature, Live Action and Games! freelance, full-time, etc. My email is email@example.com (Please use for serious inquiries only) https://t.co/VlVXpbxnwoNovember 11, 2022
In the days that followed, other key Freshman Year employees also revealed they were leaving Marvel Studios. 2D animator and character designer Li Cree (opens in new tab)as well as writing assistant Dan Park (opens in new tab), confirmed they were disappointed to see their time on Freshman Year end so soon. The duo’s tweets follow hot on the heels of Singer’s original tweet – Cree’s being posted on November 11 and Park’s on November 15.
Rumors of Freshman Year’s cancellation have grown in the days since Park’s tweet. The Spider-Man Updates Twitter fan account (opens in new tab) – not a reliable source, admittedly – implied that they’d heard “bad news” about Freshman Year, even going as far as to suggest it was “not a delay either”.
Countering that claim, The Cosmic Circus (opens in new tab) – a Marvel insider with a good track record – claimed that no decision had been made on Freshman Year’s future yet. Per their sources, the animated Spider-Man TV series is still expected to launch in 2024, but the idea of canceling it outright “has been floated around”.
Clearly, there’s a lot of confusion about what the future holds for Spider-Man: Freshman Year, which isn’t being helped by the rumors and conjecture that’s being spread by MCU insiders. Clichéd as it is to say, though, there’s no smoke without fire. Right now, Freshman Year is in some form of trouble – we just don’t know how much danger it’s really in. We’ve reached out to Marvel/Disney for comment and will update this article if we hear back.
Spider-Man: Freshman Year is one of many TV projects in the works at Marvel Studios. Some hotly anticipated live-action shows, including Loki season 2 and Secret Invasion, are due to be released in 2023. Only one animated series – What If…? season 2 – is slated to arrive next year, with reports suggesting it’ll land in early 2023.
Analysis: tangled in a web of cost-cutting measures
Spider-Man: Freshman Year’s apparent woes aren’t the only issues that Marvel’s animation department is reportedly facing.
According to an industry insider KC Walsh (opens in new tab), other animated MCU TV series are in trouble, with lay-offs already underway and showrunners unclear on what the future holds for their projects. Currently, Freshman Year and What If…? are the only officially announced Marvel Disney Plus shows. If other productions were in the early stages of development, though, they might be canned before they even see the light of day.
If these reports are true – and you should take them with a giant pinch of salt for now, in our view – they speak to wider financial issues that Marvel and Disney are having. Talking to employees on November 9 (per CNBC (opens in new tab)), Disney CEO Bob Chapek confirmed that the world famous studio was implementing a hiring freeze with immediate effect. Chapek also revealed staff layoffs were likely, saying: “As we work through this evaluation process, we will look at every avenue of operations and labor to find savings, and we do anticipate some staff reductions as part of this review.”
As Marvel is a Disney subsidiary, it’s sure to be affected by its parent company’s cost-cutting measures. Unfortunately for Marvel’s animation department, it’s likely to take the biggest financial hit, with shows like Freshman Year and What If…? not technically canon in the MCU. Subsequently, they’ll bear the brunt of any cutbacks and contract terminations. Marvel won’t want to pull the plug on its live-action series, including its upcoming Daredevil TV reboot, so its animation division will take the hit instead.
If Marvel’s animation team is hit hardest out of the studio’s various departments, it’ll be another big blow to the animation industry, which has been ravaged throughout 2022. Earlier this year, Netflix canceled multiple shows due to huge subscriber losses and spiraling costs, with its animation department losing out.
In August and September, animated offerings on HBO Max suffered an even bigger blow, with Warner Bros. Discovery removing entire animated series, such as Infinity Train, from the streamer’s back catalog. In-development animated shows, including Batman: Caped Crusader, were also canceled by HBO in a bid to save money and streamline the service. Further afield, thousands of Twitter employees have been let go following Elon Musk’s controversial takeover (read more in our live blog about the chaos engulfing Twitter) while Amazon is said to be shedding up to 10,000 employees in the near future.
Marvel and Disney, then, aren’t the only companies tightening the purse strings, but that’ll be small consolation to the employees who have lost, or will lose, their jobs. For these two entertainment powerhouses, Spider-Man: Freshman Year might just be the start of cutting back financially – and that’s a worrying sign for every MCU project, the staff working on them, and fans of the world’s most profitable superhero film franchise.
For more Marvel-based content, find out what’s left to be released as part of the studio’s MCU Phase 4 slate. Alternatively, read up on how to watch the Marvel movies in order, or find out which Marvel TV shows made it onto our best Disney Plus shows list.