Disney Is Experimenting With AI To Cut Costs

By Douglas Helm | Updated

disney robots

In thoroughly unsurprising news, Disney is going all-in with its AI efforts. According to Reuters, the House of Mouse is putting together an artificial intelligence task force that is seeking to cut costs and enable the technology across the company’s different channels. This includes putting out eleven applications for artificial intelligence-related positions.

Disney is moving forward with AI, looking into ways to use the technology across all parts of the company, from theme parks to media productions.

Additionally, Disney’s AI task force is seeking out various different startups to partner with. This decision by the company comes amid the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes that seek more compensation for writers and actors while also seeking to regulate artificial intelligence technology to prevent it from replacing jobs. CEO Bob Iger’s previous comments about the union members on strike not being “realistic” about their expectations makes this task force news even less surprising.

For now, Disney’s primary AI goals seem to be implementing the technology to improve guest experiences at theme parks. This presumably means creating animatronics, like the company’s Baby Groot animatronic, that will interact with customers and use machine learning and artificial intelligence technology to respond and interact in real-time. This seems harmless enough (if you ignore the Westworld-esque implications), but it seems unlikely that the company will just be content to stop there.

For now, Disney’s primary AI goals seem to be implementing the technology to improve guest experiences at theme parks.

Disney is also using AI to help cut costs, which will likely be primarily focused on its TV and film endeavors. This will make sense and could even help solve problems like crunch for VFX artists. Artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies can be incredibly useful for automating tedious, time-consuming tasks that allow artists to focus on more creative, big-picture work.

Disney demonstrating an emotional robot

AI can help artists automate tasks like de-aging an actor, amongst other things. However, companies like Disney could also easily abuse AI and use it to replace the jobs of people in the entertainment industry altogether. This is one of the biggest reasons that the writers and actors are on strike and the VFX artists are trying to unionize.

It would make a lot of sense to put regulations in place to prevent companies like Disney from abusing AI in the name of cost-cutting and profitability. While a company undoubtedly needs profits to run, companies like Disney already make unfathomable amounts of money. Cutting creativity in the name of profit seems like a bad long-term strategy.

Disney is already using AI, including to create the opening credit montage for Marvel’s Secret Invasion.

Disney has already started to use AI in major productions in an obvious way, most recently in the intro montage for the Secret Invasion Disney+ series. While there were attempts by the show’s creator and the company to give a story-related reason as to why the intro was generated with artificial intelligence, the decision was mostly met with derision by the general public. It didn’t help that people didn’t like the show that much as a whole.

Disney’s decision to put its AI task force into action at such a suspicious time (during the strikes) makes it seem like a bit of a declaration on the company’s part. It remains to be seen if there can be some agreements made next time the writers and actors return to the negotiating table. We’ll keep you updated either way.