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We Finally Know Where The Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special Fits In The MCU Timeline

In its presentation at San Diego Comic-Con last month, Disney and Marvel Studios dropped the most mind-breaking news about the next few years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The long-running superhero franchise has traditionally divvied up its release slate into distinct "phases" of storytelling, and the latest announcement was no different.

The studio revealed that Phase 4, which began in earnest with "WandaVision" on Disney+, will culminate in "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" this November. In February 2023, "Ant-Man: Quantumania" will kick off Phase 5, which will end with "Thunderbolts" in July of 2024. Five months later, a "Fantastic Four" film will open up Phase 6, which is currently set to end with "Avengers: Secret Wars" in November 2025. The entire storyline encapsulating Phases 4 through 6 is now officially dubbed "The Multiverse Saga."

However, there would seem to be a glaring hole in Marvel's grand vision. If the final film of Phase 4 is "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" and the first movie in Phase 5 is "Ant-Man: Quantumania," where does that leave "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special," a short film which is slated for a release date on Disney+ in between those other two this December? 

After directing both "Guardians of the Galaxy" and its follow-up, director James Gunn has referred to the Disney + special as "the greatest thing I've ever done in my life." That's a bold claim coming from Gunn, and it certainly makes it all the stranger that the special wasn't among the many projects mentioned at Comic-Con. Luckily, Gunn took to social media today to clear things up about the schedule, adding in some exciting teases about what to expect when the Guardians return on Disney+ this upcoming holiday season.

James Gunn says The Guardians Holiday Special is the epilogue to Phase 4

Responding to a confused fan on Twitter who was puzzled about the film's place in the MCU's timeline, writer and director James Gunn clarified, "Guardians [of the Galaxy] Holiday Special is the epilogue of Phase 4" (via James Gunn on Twitter).

In a sense, this would seem to mirror the function served by "Spider-Man: Far From Home," which capped off Phase 3 in the wake of 2019's "Avengers: Endgame." Interestingly, Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige reportedly saw "Spider-Man: Far From Home" as the perfect film to slot in as the last movie in Phase 3, following the death of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). 

However, it doesn't seem like similar intentions were at work in the case of "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special," as Gunn appears to have been totally out of the loop regarding which phases his upcoming "Guardians" films would fall under. When asked in a reply to his tweet whether the MCU phases helped him as a creative, Gunn admitted, "I didn't know [Guardians of the Galaxy] Vol 3 was Phase 5 until the presentation at Comicon [sic]."

However, Gunn remains excited about "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special," promising fun things ahead for fans. In another exchange, Gunn confirmed that the special will be canonical, and said it's a must-watch before "The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3," writing, "There's a lot of big information in there." We last saw the Guardians parting ways with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) in the recent "Thor: Love and Thunder," so it will be interesting to see where they wind up next time.