Marvel Studios has gradually increased its content output over the years, but Phase 4 marked the biggest jump yet as the MCU arrived on Disney+. Many are naturally ecstatic to now see upwards of half a dozen new MCU entries annually, but it's easy to forget the impact the increase in content is having on those developing these projects, namely the VFX houses.
The comic book genre is infamous for its expansive use of CGI, for which the workload is handed off to VFX houses who work for studios across Hollywood. Following the pandemic, these VFX houses have grown overrun with a backlog of work to be completed, leading to hold-ups, release delays, CGI mishaps, and occasionally questionable designs.
Now, VFX artists have spoken out about how it feels to work for Marvel - something many would consider being a dream come true, but what may be more of a nightmare.
VFX Artists Reveal 'Horrible' Marvel Working Conditions
Former VFX artist Dhruv Govil opened up on Twitter about his experiences working on Marvel projects, explaining why they're so "horrible" to work for.
Govil revealed that working with Marvel is what "pushed [him] to leave the VFX industry." He explained that he has frequently seen colleagues struggle with being overworked "while Marvel tightens the purse strings:"
"Working on #Marvel shows is what pushed me to leave the VFX industry. They're a horrible client, and I've seen way too many colleagues break down after being overworked, while Marvel tightens the purse strings."
The Spider-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy VFX artist continued to share that this has been the case "since the earliest days of the MCU," and is not a recent change under the new management of Disney CEO Bob Chapek:
"So just because a lot of folks have mentioned it, this has been the case since the earliest days of the MCU. It didn't start recently, and it's not because of Chapek. The issue is #Marvel is too big, and can demand whatever they want. It's a toxic relationship."
Govil's post came in response to an article from The Gamer which explored a number of unverified comments from supposed Marvel VFX artists which were shared on Reddit under a thread titled "I am quite frankly sick and tired of working on Marvel shows!"
Reddit user u/Independent-Ad419 described how Marvel has the "worst methodology of production and VFX management." They also shared their belief that the artists working on Marvel projects are "definitely not paid equivalent to the amount of work they put in:"
"Marvel has probably the worst methodology of production and VFX management out there. They can never fix the look for the show before more than half the allocated time for the show is over. The artists working on Marvel shows are definitely not paid equivalent to the amount of work they put in. The charm of working on a Marvel movie is way overrated now, and I would rather be happy working on a TV series after decades and decades of this."
In a comment on the thread, u/Mickeym00m00 had a similar account, explaining that Marvel tends to request multiple design options "so they can change their mind three more times:"
"I request to not work on [Marvel] movies and TV shows. Unfortunately, they're becoming our biggest client. They expect a smorgasbord of options, so they can change their mind three more times."
A thread from several months ago was flooded with negative stories with regard to working for Marvel after a user shared their frustration at losing out on the chance to work on a project for them. u/Mickeym00m00 once again responded with their negative account, describing their accounts of the frustration and stress it generates:
"Marvel has seen grown men punch walls and throw monitors from stress. I broke down a couple of times and have seen the strain it can put on marriages. But hey the $$ was fantastic. Fuck Marvel as a client, the credit name is not fucking worth it."
RANDVR described their decision to "apply someplace that has projects other than Marvel because [they] can't do this anymore," after waking up due to stress:
"I am on my third Marvel project in a row and literally just woke up at 5:30 am on a Saturday with stress going 'I don't want to do this anymore. It's 6 am now, and I am making a reel to apply someplace that has projects other than Marvel because I can't do this anymore."
Other users continued to offer similar accounts of frustration, sleep deprivation, poor diets, strained relationships, and a general feeling that there are better projects in the industry to be working on.
Is Hollywood Overworking VFX Artists?
As the landscape of Hollywood continues to change, the workload for VFX houses is only growing. While once CGI-heavy projects were limited to a few action blockbusters a year, most theatrical releases will now utilize it to an extent, meaning the requirement has grown exponentially.
Additionally, more TV and streaming series than ever are being produced on high budgets, with insane VFX requirements. These projects are arguably even tougher on VFX houses due to the massive runtime of a six to ten-episode season as opposed to a two-hour theatrical flick.
Focussing particularly on the MCU, the franchise has gone from outputting two movies a year to at least three movies and three series - only counting live-action projects. With Govil's comments indicating Marvel Studios has had these tough requirements from the beginning, the current workload must be intense, to say the least, after Phase 4's uptick in content.
These unverified accounts certainly indicate poor VFX management going on at Marvel Studios, with claims that they only finalize the look of the show halfway through the allocated production time, while also requesting multiple design options to choose from. Interestingly, VFX has previously been said to be the one area Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige no longer has time for.
Perhaps this may offer the explanation for why recent projects have begun to suffer from an increasing number of VFX blunders and arguably questionable CGI. If the MCU intends to maintain its current output, the only solution to the current VFX problem may be to hire more artists to better distribute the intense workload.
Marvel Studios' latest outing, Thor: Love and Thunder, has seen widespread criticism for its own VFX and is playing now in theaters worldwide.