Spider-Man: Freshman Year could be canceled amid wider Marvel animation cuts

The official artwork for the Spider-Man: Freshman Year Disney Plus show
Spider-Man: Freshman Year might not be released after all. (Image credit: Marvel Studios)

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 hasn't officially been 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.

In the days that followed, other key Freshman Year employees also revealed they were leaving Marvel Studios. 2D animator and character designer Li Cree, as well as writing assistant Dan Park, 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 – 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 – 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 two animated series – What If...? season 2 and X-Men 97 – are slated to arrive next year, with reports suggesting they'll land in early and late 2023 respectively.

Analysis: tangled in a web of cost-cutting measures

Uatu the Watcher looking shocked in What If? episode 8

What does the future hold for The Watcher and other animated MCU offerings? (Image credit: Marvel Studios/Disney)

Spider-Man: Freshman Year's apparent woes aren't the only issues that Marvel's animation department is reportedly facing.

According to industry insider KC Walsh, 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), 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 forthcoming Daredevil TV reboot, so its animation division will  take the hit instead.

A close-up shot of Daredevil looking over his shoulder in She-Hulk episode 8 on Disney Plus

Daredevil's standalone Marvel TV show should be safe. (Image credit: Marvel Studios/Disney Plus)

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.

Senior Entertainment Reporter

As TechRadar's senior entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You'll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.

An NCTJ-accredited journalist, Tom also writes reviews, analytical articles, opinion pieces, and interview-led features on the biggest franchises, actors, directors and other industry leaders. You may see his quotes pop up in the odd official Marvel Studios video, too, such as this Moon Knight TV spot.

Away from work, Tom can be found checking out the latest video games, immersing himself in his favorite sporting pastime of football, reading the many unread books on his shelf, staying fit at the gym, and petting every dog he comes across. Got a scoop, interesting story, or an intriguing angle on the latest news in entertainment? Feel free to drop him a line.