DreamWorks co-founder predicts AI as a “creative commodity” slashing 90% of animation jobs

DreamWorks co-founder Jeff Katzenberg has expressed an optimistic outlook on the future role of artificial intelligence (AI) in the animation industry, suggesting that it could potentially reduce the need for human labor by a significant 90%. In a recent interview with Bloomberg Television, Katzenberg shared his belief in the positive impact of AI as a creative tool, comparing the current animation landscape to his early years in the industry.

Katzenberg painted a picture of a bygone era in animation, stating, “In 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 from now.” He sees AI as the next logical step in the evolution of creative tools, akin to historical advancements like the pen, paintbrush, printing press, still camera, and movie camera.

Despite the positive framing of AI as a creative asset, Katzenberg’s comments have sparked backlash within the animation industry, particularly in the aftermath of recent strikes by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA). These strikes, which concluded after extensive negotiations with studio executives, addressed crucial issues, including the unions’ demands to keep AI out of their respective industries.

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The Animation Guild (TAG), anticipating potential negotiations in 2024 when their contract is up, has been actively working to safeguard its members from the potential ramifications of AI integration. The TAG AI task force, having collaborated with experts for over six months, is diligently preparing comprehensive recommendations aimed at defending against the encroachment of AI into creative spaces.

In response to Katzenberg’s comments, the TAG tweeted, “For more than 6 months, the TAG #AI task force has met with experts & is working to protect TAG members from the ramifications of AI. These collective efforts are paving the way for comprehensive recommendations that will be presented early next year to prepare for negotiations.” The guild’s proactive approach underscores the growing concerns within the animation community regarding potential labor cuts and the perceived threat of AI to the creative aspects of their work.

As the animation industry grapples with these challenges, it remains to be seen how negotiations, technological advancements, and the evolving role of AI will shape the future of animation and the creative workforce.

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