Disney Taking 'Very Cautious Approach' to AI for Animated Movies, Says Producer (Exclusive)

By Russ Milheim Posted:
Frozen, Wreck it Ralph, Disney

An executive producer at Disney Animation revealed the company will be taking a “very cautious approach to AI.”

The topic of AI is a tricky one. In fact, it's one of the key issues that prolonged both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. There’s no denying that, like it or not, AI is here to stay in one form or another.

Recently, when speaking on the topic of AI, former chairman of Walt Disney Studios Jeffrey Katzenberg spoke about how the technology will be embraced.

With AI in the equation, Katzenberg doesn't think it will "take 10 percent" of the workforce that animated movies use now:

“I think that on the one hand, it will be disruptive and commoditize things that are very inaccessible for artists and storytellers today... In the good old days when I made an animated movie, it took 500 artists five years to make a world-class animated movie... I don’t think it will take 10 percent of that three years out from now.”

The executive went on to exclaim how “[he doesn't] know of an industry that will be more impacted than any aspect of media and entertainment and creation.”

Disney on AI's Use in Animation

Disney Wish

In an exclusive interview with The Direct's Russ Milheim, Wish executive producer Peter Del Vocho responded to the recent comments of former Walt Disney Studios chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg on the use of AI.

Vocho, who has produced over a half-dozen Walt Disney Animation Studios movies (including Frozen and Winnie the Pooh), confirmed that the studio is "taking a very cautious approach" to artificial intelligence tech and "waiting to see how things develop:"

“Look, we're taking a very cautious approach [to AI]. We are waiting to see how things develop. Truthfully, we like tools that let the artist enhance the work that they're doing. But we don't view it as an end means in and of itself.”

The Thorny Subject of AI in the Industry

Secret Invasion AI opening

There’s no denying that AI is a thorny subject. If abused, the new technology could have plenty of negative impacts on anything it touches.

As it stands now, audiences seem to react fairly quickly and strongly against anything it touches, which was recently seen with the reactions towards Marvel's AI-generated intro for Secret Invasion. So, the public certainly hasn’t embraced it all too much yet, especially when it comes to its usage in any art form.

In theory, AI could be great for animators if used correctly as a tool. It could help simplify file organization and workflow, speed up busy work (say, texture detailing or extraneous background detail), and more.

Though admittedly, it is hard to swallow how the embracing of AI might mean many jobs are taken away in favor of using the technology.

Director Zack Snyder thinks AI lacks key abilities the filmmakers themselves provide to the process, while James Gunn hopes the technology can "be used for benevolent purposes."

It’ll certainly be interesting to see how the landscape looks in a few years and if the progress of creating animated movies has truly changed forever.

Disney Animation’s next film, Wish, can be seen in theaters worldwide starting on November 22.

- About The Author: Russ Milheim
Russ Milheim is the Industry Relations Coordinator at The Direct. On top of utilizing his expertise on the many corners of today’s entertainment to cover the latest news and theories, he establishes and maintains communication and relations between the outlet and the many studio and talent representatives.