In advance of The Walt Disney Co.’s 100th anniversary on Oct. 16, Variety connected with leaders and filmmakers from across its wide creative empire, including Marvel Entertainment and Marvel Studios.

Disney’s purchase of Marvel opened the door to live-action blockbusters including 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame,” the second-highest-grossing film ever. And while some may bemoan superhero saturation, it’s important to remember what a risk it was to build a cinematic universe around comic book characters when “Iron Man,” the first film from Marvel Studios, premiered.

Fifteen years, 31 movies, 25 TV shows and nearly $30 billion later, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been often imitated yet none have proven as successful.

From the start, it’s been guided by Kevin Feige, CCO of Marvel Entertainment and president of Marvel Studios whose first producer credit was as an associate producer on the 2000 “X-Men” — and who is now coming full circle by bringing Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine back into the fold with next year’s “Deadpool 3.”

Even after all this time, Feige says he remains as enthusiastic as the day he started.

“I feel so lucky that I get to do this job,” Feige tells Variety. “Every costume fitting, when we see the actors transform for the first time, there’s always this moment of awe. It’s so incredible to take these characters and bring them to life on the screen.”

The franchise has restarted the careers of Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans, made stars out of the likes of Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston and even given Oscar-winning actors like Ben Kingsley, Brie Larson and Lupita Nyong’o a place to cut loose.

While so much has happened onscreen, Feige notes that there are some things that never change.

“We’ve had a tradition at Marvel Studios that started with the very first ‘Iron Man.’ For every new release, the cast, producers, director, and I will drop in on an opening night showing and watch the movie with the fans. Feeling the excitement in the theater, hearing cheers or gasps from the audience, is always a reminder of what these movies and characters mean to fans,” he says. “Being there on opening night of ‘Avengers: Endgame,’ hearing the crowds, is something I’ll never forget. Also, the feedback we received after ‘Black Panther’ came out. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would have the kind of impact it did.”

With “The Marvels” soon in theaters and the second season of “Loki” on Disney+, there seems to be no signs of slowing down.

“The great thing about Marvel truly is how many wonderful, interesting characters we have in the comics — they’ve been at it for 85 years. Even after 32 movies, it feels like we’ve barely scratched the surface,” noted Feige.

 Kevin Feige reflects on Marvel Studios’ legacy and impact since putting out ‘Iron Man’ 15 years ago.  Read More