First, some Marvel fans were unhappy with the “low stakes” film that explored the origin story of Johansson’s Avenger, Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow. Then, Johansson herself caused a media flurry when she sued The Walt Disney Company for $50 million due to an alleged breach of contract regarding the release of her solo movie.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Disney began releasing numerous movies — including Mulan (2020), Raya and the Last Dragon (2021), Cruella (2021), and Jungle Cruise (2021) — on the Disney+ Disney Premier Access tier.
This allows Disney+ subscribers to pay an additional $29.99 to view movies the same day as their theatrical release. Johansson’s camp alleges that her Black Widow contract specifically prevented a simultaneous theatrical and streaming release, but it happened anyway.
Now, the writers who have been part of the “Disney Must Pay” movement have thrown their support behind Johansson, as well.
…the Disney Must Pay Task Force—the SFWA’s initiative for seeking proper royalty payments for writers of licensed material across comics and books like Alien, Star Wars, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer prior to Disney’s acquisition of those licenses—released a statement supporting the actress. “The #DisneyMustPay Joint Task Force calls on Disney to respect Scarlett Johansson’s professional and artistic work on the film Black Widow,” the statement provided to press begins. “The first way to respect Ms. Johansson is to pay her properly and not use unethical contractual maneuvers to avoid payment. This is not the first time the Task Force has seen Disney attempt such twisting of contractual language.”
Led by legendary Star Wars writer Alan Dean Foster, the movement began when numerous Disney writers alleged they did not receive the royalty payments they were owed for their work
Per a previous BookRiot report, numerous well-known authors, including sci-fi icon Neil Gaiman, formed a task force to attempt to take legal action against The Walt Disney Company, with the aid of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America organization:
…about a dozen authors know they have been denied royalties going back years–but likely others are affected that aren’t aware of what they’re owed. Now, Alan Dean Foster and other authors, including Neil Gaiman, Tess Gerritsen, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Chuck Wendig, have put together a #DisneyMustPay Task Force to fight to have all these authors get paid for their work.
While these authors signed contracts that assured them royalties as long as their books were being published, when Disney was contacted by the SFWA, they claimed they have “purchased the rights but not the obligations of the contract.” Disney is claiming that they can continue to profit off the intellectual property of these authors without giving royalties.
The authors involved in this situation wrote books for some of Disney’s more recently acquired IPs, such as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Alien, and SpiderMan. Marvel Studios (Spider-Man) was purchased by Disney in 2009, Lucasfilm (Star Wars and Indiana Jones) was sold to Disney by George Lucas in 2012, and Disney acquired 20th Century Fox (Alien) — now 20th Century Studios — in 2019.
It is worth noting that Foster has confirmed he reached a resolution with Disney.
More on Black Widow
The official description of the movie reads:
In Marvel Studios’ action-packed spy thriller “Black Widow,” Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow confronts the darker parts of her ledger when a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past arises. Pursued by a force that will stop at nothing to bring her down [Taskmaster and Dreykov (Ray Winstone)], Natasha must deal with her history as a spy and the broken relationships left in her wake long before she became an Avenger.
Scarlett Johansson reprises her role as Natasha/Black Widow, Florence Pugh stars as Yelena, David Harbour portrays Alexei/The Red Guardian, and Rachel Weisz is Melina. “Black Widow” — the first film in Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — is directed by Cate Shortland and produced by Kevin Feige.
What do you think about the “Disney Must Pay” task force supporting Johansson?