Victoria Alonso’s sudden exit from Marvel Studios on March 17 reportedly “blindsided” the 17-year studio veteran who served as president of physical and postproduction, visual effects and animation production, according to a new report in Variety. However, between a massive surge of new content since 2019 and a perceived decline in quality, some writing may have been on the wall.
Two VFX industry sources who spoke with IndieWire on the condition of anonymity said some VFX artists who worked on Marvel projects faced last-minute deadlines that made it very difficult to produce quality work — and found themselves embarrassed by some of the work they produced. And the sources added that while Alonso was remarkably successful at keeping the VFX pipeline flowing for as long as she did, results became increasingly inconsistent.
While there’s still no official word as to the reason for Alonso’s dismissal, it arrives amid allegations of turmoil in the company’s VFX process, most recently evidenced in the reception to “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.” Released February 17, the film has struggled at the box office and with critics, and faced criticism of its visual effects work.
In a recent interview with IndieWire, “Quantumania” VFX production supervisor Jesse James Chisholm said the work required more than 2,800 shots divided between Digital Domain, ILM, Luma Pictures, MPC, Pixomondo, Rising Sun Pictures, Sony Pictures Imageworks, and Spin VFX, among others. He defended the quality of the work and denied reports that the film underwent significant last-minute third-act changes.
Alonso, who has been with the studio since 2006 and co-produced the first “Iron Man,” was elevated to her role in 2021 and became a fixture alongside Marvel chief Kevin Feige and co-president Louis D’Esposito. Her promotion came at a time when Marvel was in the midst of a massive production swell.
Before 2019 and the launch of Disney+, Marvel made up to three films a year. Since 2019, Marvel has released seven films and eight TV series. The VFX sources explained that many visual effects artists felt overworked, cut corners and believed they produced subpar work. This issue was also reflected in a recent IATSE-commissioned survey published March 1 that saw two-thirds of VFX workers say that their working conditions were unsustainable due to a lack of health care, retirement options, overtime pay, and training in their field. IATSE is working to unionize VFX workers, who currently operate as freelancers.
Sources who spoke to IndieWire suggested that Marvel has several potential in-house successors for Alonso, including post production VP Chris Russell, physical production VP David Grant, and Danielle Costa and Jen Underdahl, who both serve as VPs of visual effects and were mentored by Alonso.
Alonso’s exit came less than a month after Disney CEO Bob Iger spoke at a Morgan Stanley conference, saying he’s willing to re-evaluate Marvel’s future slate in terms of quantity, specifically whether it’s worth doing third or fourth sequels to established characters that may be seeing diminishing returns.
For now, the 2023 Marvel pipeline includes season 2 of “Loki” and “Secret Invasion,” as well as features “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” and “The Marvels.” Last month, THR reported that other series that were dated for 2023 at ComicCon 2022, including “Echo, “Agatha: Coven of Chaos,” and “Ironheart,” could slide back into 2024.
Alonso’s exit also came just days after she attended the Oscars on behalf of the Oscar-nominated “Argentina, 1985,” on which she’s a producer. Alonso told IndieWire’s Anne Thompson that when it came to Marvel, “Every day is mayhem and a privilege.”
Alonso told Thompson, “To this day, I pinch myself every time I walk into Marvel Studios for the privilege of telling stories that empower kids all over the world, of all colors and creeds and ways of being, and actually see themselves in our movies and in our stories. It’s an incredible feeling to be able to give the joy to a kid that can buy a costume for Halloween that represents them.”
Marvel Studios did not respond to repeated requests by IndieWire for comment.
Wilson Chapman contributed to this report.