Jeffrey Katzenberg Says AI Will Reduce Animation Workforce

Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award recipient Jeffrey Katzenberg during the 2012 Governors Awards at The Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood, CA, Saturday, December 1 (Todd Wawrychuk / ©A.M.P.A.S.).

While appearing on a panel, Jeffrey Katzenberg discussed animation and how AI will lead to numerous animators and artists losing their jobs.

Katzenberg’s comments were made during the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore. AI was a key topic during the WGA and SAG-AFTRA contract negotiations. Whether people working in the entertainment industry like it or not, AI is here to stay. Executives will look for any way to save a buck during production. Not having to pay a large number of animators is one such way. But should they? What happens to animators when they begin losing jobs? The question that Hollywood needs to answer is how does the industry utilize it going forward in a way that protects artists. We’re all listening.

AI is likely to be the biggest disruptor since the rise of Netflix. There’s no denying the changes in movies and TV shows because of advances in digital technology. Look at the Volume, for instance. The stagecraft technology now allows for filmmakers to shoot talent on sets with the background already in place. It is in lieu of using a green screen and adding in backgrounds later. And now, we have AI, which many are seeing as a threat to their jobs. As Katzenberg says, “I don’t know of an industry that will be more impacted than any aspect of media, entertainment, and creation.”

The former DreamWorks/Disney executive then discusses the history of advances: pen, paintbrush, printing press, a still camera, a movie camera. They “expanded creativity and all sorts of storytelling in extraordinary ways.” We are seeing an evolution.

“I think if you look at how media has been impacted in the last 10 years by the introduction of digital technology, what will happen in the next 10 years will be 10x as great—literally–by a factor greater. And I think AI as a creative tool—think of that as a new form, a new paintbrush or a new camera — has so much opportunity around it. I think that it, on the one hand, it will be disruptive and commoditized–things that are very inaccessible for artists and storytellers today.”

A telling remark from Katzenberg is that many animators are likely to be out of jobs sooner than later.

“Well, the good old days when I made an animated movie, it took 500 artists five years to make a world class animated movie. I think it won’t take 10% of that–literally. I don’t think it will take 10% of that three years out from now.

AI still requires individuals to prompt it in order to produce results, meaning that a number of artists will still have jobs. “Prompting is actually going to become a creative commodity across many different aspects of storytelling.”

How soon before the Annie Awards add a category for Best Prompting? I kid, I kid. There’s a serious threat here from AI and it will not surprise me if The Animation Guild (TAG) members decide to authorize a strike. The guild is just beginning to prepare for their upcoming negotiations.

Watch Jeffrey Katzenberg’s full comments below:

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.