Netflix Faces Backlash for Using AI Software to Create Backgrounds for Animated Short Films

Netflix Japan caused a social media firestorm this week when it proudly announced that artificial intelligence (AI) software had been used to create the background art for a new animated short film.

What happened: Netflix Japan tweeted a claim that it used AI software to generate background images for the short film "Dog and Boy" due to the labor shortage facing the Japanese animation industry.

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- Netflix Japan|????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ????????????????????????? ? (@NetflixJP) January 31, 2023

The 3.5 minute short was linked to a tweet, showing background images of the same scene in progress as "Layout (hand drawn)," "Step 2 (AI generated)," "Step 3 (AI generated)," and "Final BG (hand drawn and corrected)." A credit reel is also included.

By whose hand the corrections were made is a mystery. The credits, which would normally list a human background designer, say only "AI (+Human). In later screens, a number of people are credited as AI development and AI development support. Perhaps one or several of them made the final tweaks.

Backlash: Shortly after the tweet was posted, it received widespread criticism from artists.

Who produced "Dog and Boy" - The short was directed by Ryotaro Makihara and produced by Hiroki Sakurai for Netflix's Anime Creators Base (a Tokyo-based initiative launched by Netflix in September 2021). Dog & Boy was produced with the support of major Japanese anime production companies Production I.G ("Ghost in the Shell") and WIT Studio ("Shinkyoku no Kyojin") AI software company Rinna Inc. was named as the AI developer for the film.

Did Netflix say anything else about the use of AI - not specifically. In the release accompanying the trailer, several quotes from people involved in the production of Dog & Boy mention strategies for providing tools and resources that give artists more freedom, but no specific mention of AI Netflix's chief producer of animation Daiki Sakurai, chief producer of animation at Netflix, is also quoted, but only vaguely describes the evolution of animation production:

If creators are not bound to a fixed production method, but can choose a production method that suits their work, the range of expression will expand. By providing creators with a variety of options, we hope to contribute to the evolution of the animation industry into something freer and more powerful.