Netflix and Wit Studio, the animation production company behind Spy x Family and Attack on Titan, have released a new short film. Titled “The Dog & The Boy,” the short follows a boy who discovers a robotic dog before they’re separated by a great tragedy. It’s emotional and cute, but the most noteworthy thing about this short isn’t the storyline — it’s the fact that the backgrounds were generated by artificial intelligence.
The Netflix Japan tweet about the short explains that this method is “an experimental effort to help the anime industry, which has a labor shortage.” A blog post on the Netflix Japan site goes into more detail about the process.
Netflix アニメ・クリエイターズ・ベース×技術開発のrinna株式会社×WIT STUDIOによる共同プロジェクトアニメ『犬と少年』のショートムービー。
— Netflix Japan | ネットフリックス (@NetflixJP) January 31, 2023
Using AI to create art has become a very controversial topic in the past few months. With tools like DALL-E, Midjourney, and Free AI Art Generator rising in popularity over the past year, many artists have spoken out about how these programs utilize their art without consent and how their specific art styles can be replicated with just a string of words typed into one of these programs. The #SupportHumanArtists movement started to call attention to the ethical issues that come with AI usage.
On Twitter, many users have called out Netflix and WIT Studio for this short film and for the possibility of using AI tools to replace background artists. The animation industry in Japan, in particular, already faces a lot of issues, chief among them the fact that many animators are underpaid.