Patty Glaser is one of the town’s best litigators, especially for fired entertainment figures taking on their powerful former employers (see, Conan O’Brien vs. NBC; Dan Aloni vs. CAA). But Patty has some bad facts to overcome for new client Victoria Alonso in her public crusade for a payout from Disney. Because, let’s be clear, that’s what this is. Beyond Glaser dropping a headline-generation bomb on Friday that a gay Latina was “silenced” for speaking out against her company’s handling of Florida’s Don’t Say Gay bill, this is a simple money fight.
Disney could have ended Alonso’s employment as Marvel’s president of physical, post-production, VFX and animation, and simply paid her out, for many reasons—her belittling behavior towards vendors, the relentless self-promotion, or the fact that the visual effects in Marvel productions (her actual job) have been specifically and repeatedly called out as lacking by fans, the media, and actual VFX professionals. (Vulture’s headline: “Honestly, I equate it to human greed.”) But instead, Disney chose to terminate Alonso without pay for what it said, on Friday, is “an indisputable breach of contract.” Basically, an invitation to fight in public. So here we are.
At the risk of giving this dispute too much attention—after all, Alonso never had that much power at Disney, despite her public profile and personal positioning, though she did lord over Marvel’s VFX contractors—here are the key facts, in my view: It wasn’t until mid-2021, when Alonso’s employment agreement was last renegotiated, that Disney found out she was producing a side project, Argentina, 1985, for Amazon Studios. Disney’s Alan Bergman and Marvel’s Kevin Feige were super annoyed at yet another example of Alonso prioritizing her personal endeavors over the company, and the bad precedent it would set for other Disney executives. Can you imagine if, say, Disney Studios president Sean Bailey decided to quietly produce the new Amazon pic Air with his buddies Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, then, when Disney found out about it, downplayed it as simply a “passion project”? Nonstarter. But not wanting to poke a hornet’s nest, and acknowledging Alonso’s 17 years at Marvel, Disney let her keep her name on the project while specifically inserting language in her deal that prohibited her from promoting Argentina, 1985.