Marvel's What If…? series has a very distinct art style and the executive producer just revealed where it came from. Brad Winderbaum spoke to D23 about all the fun with the Disney+ show, which he called a "love letter to the MCU." Beyond that very real fact, it's also an homage to an interesting corner of American art history. J.C. Leyendecker might not be a common name heard outside of print media scholars, but he had a big imprint on the country's advertising. The illustrator was most famous for designing covers of The Saturday Evening Post. Once you see his work in context alongside some of the stills from What If, the influence is unmistakable. Leyendecker's painterly style captures a kind of timeless 1920's advertising spirit. His numerous works with other entities like the Army, Marines, and Navy also feel right at home with that first entry of the Disney+ series as a war story. Check out both what Winderbaum had to say down below and an example of the artist's work.
arrow shirt collar advertisement. (1907) pic.twitter.com/TEzl4EpFaT— leyendecker bot (@hourley_) August 14, 2021
"Both Bryan and Ryan were orbiting the style of J.C. Leyendecker, who was an American illustrator from about 100 years ago," Winderbaum told D23. "It's a very difficult style to achieve. It's very painterly. The light spreads in a very unique way. We worked with that style, while also creating our own technique, because it requires a 3D technique to achieve that 2D look. [It] has influences from J.C. Leyendecker but is very much Ryan Meinerding. With the incredible background work of our production designer, it creates a very rich, photographic feel in a 2D, comic-like world."
The executive producer also spoke with Comicbook.com about the freedom animation provides.
"I mean, you're completely unbounded from any sort of rules, which is both the most exciting and the most daunting thing about it, because then you have to create your own rules," he continued. "But I mean, it really is, in many ways, the purest interpretation of the imagination of the people behind it. There's an element of chaos in all things. There's an element of chaos in animation. Certainly a major factor in live action. Filmmaking is chaos. And how things don't go as planned and how you end up ultimately with a whole different set of tools than you thought you had going in. In an animation, kind of get to work with this infinite canvas where anything you want can be achieved. And if you can conceive it, you can do it. If you can dream it, you can do it."
Did you catch onto this influence on the art style? Let us know down in the comments!