Netflix has upset fans by releasing a trailer fro a new short film titled The Dog & The Boy, which uses AI-generated art for its backgrounds. Netflix Japan recently claimed that the production company was forced to use AI due to labour shortages in the anime industry.
In a tweet, Netflix Japan wrote: “As an experimental effort to help the anime industry, which has a labor shortage, we used image generation technology for the background images of all three-minute video cuts!”
AI has been a source of contention since the technology took off last year, with many commentators and artists maintaining that it will allow big companies to get away with not paying human artists. Many working artists regard the tool as unethical and fear it will render them disposable.
This new development suggests something evermore worrying: that AI will make strike action by workers completely ineffectual. After all, if Netflix Japan was able to use the technology to solve its labour shortage issue, what’s to stop similar companies from using it to counter direct action from employees?
The Dog & The Boy was created by Netflix Anime Creators Base. Based in Toko, the company was created to support the streamer’s anime output using new tools and production methods. The film was made in collaboration with Rinna Inc, an AI-generated artwork company, and WIT Studio, which produced the first three seasons of Attack on Titan.
The trailer for The Dog & The Boy features a sequence where the background designer is listed as “AI _ Human”, suggesting the image was created by a supervised image generation algorithm. In the next two scenes, a completely AI-generated version appears.
The anime industry has long been fraught with labour issues. The reported salary of an entry-level anime illustrator is as little as $200 per month, and many are leaving the industry to find work elsewhere. The timing is less than ideal, given that demand for new anime series has soared in recent years. As a result, AI art is becoming increasingly commonplace, as is legal action from human artists. Back in January, for example, a group of artists filed a class action lawsuit against Stability AI, DeviantArt, and Midjourney, in which they claimed that text-to-image tools violate their ownership rights.