‘Ms. Marvel directors inspired by “Spider-Verse” and John Hughes

  • Adel Elaraby and Bilal Falah shared the inspiration behind the fun visuals on “Mrs. Marvel.”
  • They told Insider that they gave Kevin Feige a presentation full of Spider-Man and John Hughes movies.
  • “For us, animation was something we always wanted to put into it,” Elaraby said.

The first episode of the new Disney+ series “Ms. Marvel” gave fans a fun taste of the rarely seen Marvel Cinematic Universe.

With previous shows like ‘Moon Knight’, ‘Hawkeye’, ‘Loki’ and ‘WandaVision’ taking on a more serious tone, here comes a refreshingly light premium show.

You could give some of that credit to filmmaking duo Adel Elaraby and Bilal Falah.

The Moroccan-Belgian filmmakers (known together as Adel and Bilal) immediately saw that “Mrs. Marvel” was a show that should be full of colour, life and a celebration of culture.

The Kamala Khan family was shown in a big way in the first episode of ‘Mrs. Marvel’.

Marvel Studios

“When we learned about the project, we took the opportunity because we felt we could bring our Moroccan flavor in,” Bilal told Insider via a phone call with Adel last week. “Bring a distinct style but giving an ethnic and cultural part to it.”

The comic book character “Mrs. Marvel” was created by editors Sana Amanat and Stephen Walker, writer J Willow Wilson, and artists Adrienne Alfona and Jimmy McVeigh. The comics follow a Muslim teen named Kamala Khan (played by Eman Filani in the series) as she navigates her teenage life in Jersey City, New Jersey.

But things get interesting when she unlocks powers that give her the ability to enlarge and stretch her body. Khan, obsessed with Captain Marvel, sets out to become her own superhero.

Adel and Bilal drew inspiration from the author of the show adaptation created by Bisha K. Ali, which ran to Khan’s Pakistani background. Also, the two can relate to the character’s feelings of being an outsider in social settings.

Bilal said about himself and Adel: “We never really feel like we’re Belgian when we’re in Belgium, and we don’t really feel like we’re Moroccans when we’re in Morocco.”

But they felt that “Mrs. Marvel” lacked a touchscreen. Their quest became to take care of one for her sake.

Kevin Feige wears a blue suit and baseball cap

Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios.

Amy Sussman/Getty Images

Bilal said he received a star hit in front of Marvel boss Kevin Feige

Adel and Bilal felt that the animation would make the show more popular. So they put together a presentation with things that inspired them and headed to the Marvel Studios offices to show how to direct the series to studio head Kevin Feige and his team.

“Kevin came in and I have to admit, I was a little surprised,” Bilal said. “We did this whole PowerPoint presentation and we told them that’s our impact on the show. The movie ‘Into the Spider-Verse’ was great because of the animation.”

Iman Fellaini wears the Captain Marvel suit

Animation was prominent throughout the first episode of “Mrs. Marvel”.

Disney + / Marvel Studios

“For us, animation was something we always wanted to put into it,” Adel added. “We wanted to portray Kamala Khan’s dream world and the comic book side of it. We were afraid Kevin would say no because it’s different from other MCU shows.”

The filmmakers said the presentation also showed off the light tone they were looking for, pointing to everything from classic high school John Hughes movies to “Boy Meets World” as guiding lights.

“The American high school from the 80s and 90s was a huge inspiration for us,” Bilal said. “Very colorful and very small.”

The film’s makers admitted they didn’t know if they had convinced Feige when they left the room. But the directors of “Bad Boys for Life” eventually took the call to tell them that they would not only direct two of the six-episode series, but would also become executive producers.

Adel Al-Arabi and Bilal Falah in front of the camera

“Ms. Marvel” Episode 1 Directors Adel El-Araby (left) and Bilal Falah.

Daniel McFadden/Marvel Studios

The result is a pilot episode (one of two directed by Adel and Bilal) that sets the tone for the entire series.

From the opening sequence featuring an animated collage, to the sparkling dream sequences, and Jersey City’s murals brought to life through animation, the fun, colorful and cultural tapestry that Adil and Bilall envisioned come true on screen — all told through Muslim-themed eyes.

The duo still can’t believe this last part.

“It was while editing ‘Bad Boys for Life’ in 2019, Bilal and I were talking, ‘What’s next? Adel recalls that the next step has to do with something with Marvel.” But we joked that if Marvel was to be a Muslim superhero. What we didn’t know was that they were preparing for a show about one.”

“This is the most special thing for me,” Bilal said of bringing Kamala Khan to the screen. “She’s a Muslim/Pakistani.”

The first episode of “Ms. Marvel” is now available on Disney+. New episodes air every Wednesday through July 13th.

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