Exclusive: Animation producers on the Pandora’s box of AI


The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in animation production is becoming increasingly widespread, but the sector is – for the most part – opposed to its use in script writing, producers have told TBI here at MIFA.

The potential for AI to replace writers is one of the main points of concern in the current Writers’ Guild of America (WGA) strike in the US, though speaking to animation producers here in Annecy, many have already begun using AI as production tool on their shows – albeit cautiously.

Terry Kalagian, who was recently promoted to president of global animation, kids & family, at Gaumont said the Paris-based firm is firmly opposed to the use of AI in scriptwriting.

“We haven’t done that and we’re not planning to. We love our writers, we respect our writers, and we feel like what they bring to the table is unique.”

However, Kalagian did explain that Stillwater producer Gaumont has begun to make use of a AI as a tool to speed up the production process on shows currently still in development.

“We’re not afraid of it and we’re using it as a tool, not to replace anyone, but as an initial inspiration for visual development, so that we can have a better language to go to artists and say, ‘Okay, this is the thing we’re kind of looking for’ – and before, where it would have taken us maybe months to get there, now it’s taking us weeks.”

Shasha and Milo

Human Intelligence

“At Banijay, we are using human intelligence… HI, it is a new concept,” joked Benoît Di Sabatino, CEO of Banijay Kids & Family. However, he explained: “We are also using AI as supporting tools, but not more than that, because I think we are opening the Pandora’s box. Also, as a producer and entertainer we are keen to protect author’s rights.”

Hee Seok Shin, CEO of South Korea’s Pingo Entertainment, who are co-producing upcoming kids’ CGI animated action-comedy Shasha & Milo alongside Banijay-owned Zodiak Kids & Family France, told TBI that AI should be viewed as a useful tool, so long as it is used “in a smart way.”

The exec added that Pingo is considering implementing a team for using AI tools for internal development and said that the swift emergence of AI is a sign of the changing times which he, as an animation producer, must learn to adapt.

The Snowman And The Snowdog

Dubbing duties

Meanwhile, Colin Williams, chief exec at Belfast-based The Coop Troop and Odo firm Sixteen South suggested that AI has the potential to be a “game changer” for dubbing.

“Dubbing is hugely expensive and takes a huge amount of time. But if there’s a way of doing that where it sounds authentic then that would be awesome, because it’s not creating anything new, you’re repurposing content in another language.”

However, Williams also shared the concerns about AI being used to replace human creativity. “I think the big scare, literally the terror, comes from people using it as a creative tool. It is not a creative tool, there is nothing creative about AI, it is taking things that exist and rehashing them.”

Williams added: “There are producers using it to work on story. That’s just the beginning of the end. That’s not going to create anything worth watching.”

Camilla Deakin, joint-MD of Lupus Films, the London-based indie behind The Snowman And The Snowdog and the upcoming adaptation of Mog’s Christmas, added that AI is “a tool like any other” but that it must be used carefully.

I think that if you can use AI to speed up certain laborious processes that enable you to get to the creative nub of what you’re trying to say more quickly and more easily, then that’s a good thing,” she said.

“But I think we’re slightly in the wild west of AI at the moment and it just needs a bit of thoughtful, shepherding to get it to the right place.”

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