The shock firing of Marvel’s top VFX exec might be heading into nasty legal waters
Earlier this week—amidst much discussion in the trades, but not many murmurings elsewhere—Disney made a massive and drastic change to the leadership team at Marvel Studios: They fired Victoria Alonso, with extreme and shocking abruptness, and “for cause.” Alonso, despite not having the front-facing name recognition of her boss Kevin Feige, has been one of the biggest architects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe project for a decade-plus at this point, dating all the way back to Iron Man, and eventually rising to the role of President of Physical, Post Production, VFX and Animation at the studio. In that position, she served as one of Feige’s primary right hands, with her job to ensure that both the physical production, and—increasingly importantly, and controversially—the digital production of the Marvel movies went forward smoothly.
Now, reports are emerging that Alonso, who was fired by a committee of Disney bigwigs in a decision that Feige, according to Variety, ultimately chose not to intervene in, may be pursuing legal action over her termination. That includes issuing threat-ish statements this weekend firing back at Disney’s alleged reasons for firing her, calling them “absolutely ridiculous,” and saying she was “silenced” by the company for LGBTQ+ rights advocacy.
Here’s the general state of things, from both sides: Disney says it’s firing Alonso for no other reason than her recent participation in Argentina, 1985, an Argentine legal drama that was nominated at the Oscars this year, and which the Argentina-born Alonso produced on. (Disney says she breached her contract by working on, and then continuing to promote, a non-Disney film; Alonso’s team says she had permission to do so.)
Alonso’s lawyers, meanwhile, have suggested that Alonso (who’s LGBTQ+) was fired for being one of the most vocal internal voices pushing Disney to fight back against Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” laws last year. That included getting up in front of GLAAD and calling then-Disney CEO Bob Chapek out by name, saying, “So I ask you again Mr. Chapek: please respect—if we’re selling family—take a stand against all of these crazy outdated laws. Take a stand for family.” Deadline reports that Alonso was “benched” from press duties by Disney after that, and refused to participate in promotion of recent Marvel films; they also say she says she was asked to do something “reprehensible” (but undescribed) by a Disney exec that served as a last straw that led to her firing.
(Disney has taken issue with this version of events, issuing a response statement in fairly familiar “Gosh, we’re sorry you’ve got this so wrong,” language, saying that, “It’s unfortunate that Victoria is sharing a narrative that leaves out several key factors concerning her departure, including an indisputable breach of contract and a direct violation of company policy.”)
What neither side is saying (at least officially) is that Marvel’s production and post-production practices have increasingly been viewed, over the last year or two, as a shitshow, with visual effect houses reporting massive overwork and too-tight deadlines, and critics and audiences heavily criticizing the look of recent films like Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania. (THR quotes unnamed sources suggesting that Disney execs were pissed that Alonso was promoting Argentina, 1985 while the Marvel VFX pipeline was coming under increasing criticism.) Regardless of the actual causes of these pile-ups—which include some anonymous reports of harsh treatment by Alonso of VFX artists, but also, much more widely, complaints at Marvel’s blend of unfocused work requests and grueling production schedules—it’s not hard to see Alonso as a convenient target for all of the company’s recent production missteps.
The question, now, is whether all of this will end up getting aired in court. Alonso’s lawyer, Patty Glaser—who’s currently suing Disney in a whole other suit for the firing of executive producer Karyn McCarthy from Star Wars TV show The Acolyte—has certainly suggested it’s a possibility, ending a recent statement by saying, “There is a lot more to this story and Victoria will be telling it shortly—in one forum or another.” (Alonso also has a memoir, Possibility Is A Superpower, due out in May; it’ll be interesting to see how she updates the narrative in light of the last week.)