Marvel’s Victoria Alonso on Exploring Diversity and Inclusion Through ‘What If’ and the Hunt for Global Animation Partnerships

Victoria Alonso
Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

In Marvel’s character universe, what if British secret agent Peggy Carter was injected with super soldier serum, rather than her boyfriend, Steve Rogers?

During Women in Animation’s virtual fireside chat on Monday at Annecy, with Marvel Studios’ EVP Victoria Alonso, the exec explained how the firm’s new ten part series “What If” – Marvel’s first foray into animation since becoming its own production company – is enabling creatives to explore a more inclusive universe.

Dropping on Disney Plus this summer the exec says that the series, which is being led by Marvel VP of production and development Brad Winderbaum, turns the Marvel character universe on its head by asking: “What if someone who is not, becomes ‘it’?”

Alonso explained: “This gives us an opportunity to look at things through a different lens. It’s full of surprises and includes the characters we know and love who are doing other things and a lot of different characters too.”

Annecy and WIA Summit members were also shown a sneak peak of “What If’s” “Captain Britain” episode, available to view on Annecy’s site, which features more details of Peggy Carter’s transformation.

In the extended clip, Carter takes the place of Steve Rogers – who, in the traditional telling of the story, becomes Captain America – but in this universe is deemed ‘too weak’ to go ahead with the experiment.

Injected with serum by Iron Man’s father, Howard Stark, Agent Carter is transformed into Captain Britain and is seen battling the Nazis with her Union Flag-emblazoned shield, which she addresses like a boyfriend as she asks it: “Where have you been all my life?”

The Buenos Aires-born exec added that the Marvel reimagining went hand-in-hand with “showing the world as it is”.

She said: “There are about 6,000 characters in the Marvel library that we have access to. If this goes right we will be telling these stories for many generations to come.

“The importance of laying the ground today for what is to come is that within the stories there are some very different characters that you can give a voice to,” she added.

Alonso, a former VFX producer who has worked on “Big Fish” and “Shrek,” said that Marvel’s journey towards representation, diversity and inclusion also extends to seeking other production partners to work with outside the U.S.

“I truly believe part of having a more cohesive storytelling voice is when you gather people from all over the world – you have the freedom to do that with animation. We’ve been doing that with VFX forever but we see animation now as an opportunity to work with people from lots of different countries,” she said.

For Alonso, diversity is a no brainer and she attributes Marvel’s global success to ignoring the perceived wisdom of the industry: that female-led films or an all-black cast could never open a weekend: “Well ‘Black Panther’ made $1.34 billion; ‘Captain Marvel’ made $1.13 billion,” she retorted.

She added: “You can look at it from a social point of view or a cultural point of view but truly this is a business and from a fiscal point of view we are leaving money at the table if we don’t represent these people, because they will go elsewhere, because somebody else will figure it out and make it,” she added.

Alonso also hinted to session host, WIA secretary and diversity chair Julie Ann Crommett, that there was more to come in terms of animated series, and teased that there were three more titles in the offing.