Netflix created an anime that uses AI-generated artwork to paint its background and it’s created a massive outrage on social media.
Yes, Netflix Japan has announced that it used AI-generated art in a new short anime film. It claims the move was to “help the anime industry” amid an ongoing labor shortage. Unsurprisingly, anime artists and fans aren’t happy nor impressed.
“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!” the streaming platform wrote in a tweet.
The short film, ‘The Dog & The Boy’, was created by Netflix Anime Creators Base—a Tokyo-based hub the company created to bolster its anime output with new tools and methods—in collaboration with Rinna Inc., an AI-generated artwork company, and production company WIT Studio, which produced the first three seasons of Attack on Titan.
People on Twitter felt that Netflix was using AI to avoid paying human artists. This has been a central tension since image-generation AI took off last year, as many artists see the tools as unethical—due to being trained on masses of human-made art scraped from the internet—and is aimed to further cut costs and devalue workers.
Even the artist who had to support the AI doesn’t appear to be credited at all. The background designer is credited as “AI (+ Human).” This depicts that not only was Netflix Japan experimenting with some sketchy technology, but they’re also showing exactly how little they respect living background painters.
In Japan, artist pay has not risen with the cost of living, which makes it impossible for some to survive in the industry. Even under these conditions, companies continuously underpay their employees. If artists don’t want to work, it’s mainly because of the reason they can’t afford to. Netflix could have easily solved this problem with higher pay. Instead, it’s trying to cut out artists altogether by replacing them with AI.
AI-generated art is becoming more common but many artists are rebelling against having their craft handled by algorithms and their work stolen for use in datasets instead of companies paying them more.