Disney’s new task force will investigate how to best incorporate AI

Industry experts say that the media company can either use AI or risk obsolescence.
Loukia Papadopoulos
The Disney logo.jpg
The Disney logo.


A mere three months after Hollywood writers went on strike over the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on their jobs, news has surfaced that Walt Disney has introduced a task force to explore the technology and how it can best be used to serve the needs of the entertainment company.

This is according to a report by Reuters published on Tuesday.

However, the news outlet quoted three sources that said the task force was implemented before the strike and has just come to light now.

Risking obsolescence

One of the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that media companies risk “obsolescence” if they don’t manage to successfully use AI to their benefit. This is because the production costs of movies are particularly high meaning box office returns can’t always pay them off.

Disney already boasts a mixed-reality technology called "Magic Bench" that sees people enter the same space as a virtual character on screen. This impressive feat is achieved without the use of glasses.

Meanwhile, another source told Reuters that Disney Research has spent the last 10 years in Switzerland generating "digital humans" that it claims are "indistinguishable" from the real versions and make-believe characters "puppeteered" by actors.

Last year, Disney Imagineering introduced the firm's first attempts at bringing to life an AI-driven character. The experience took shape in the form of the D3-09 cabin droid in the Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser hotel which was able to answer guests’ questions and adapt to their demands.

"Not only is she a great character to interact with and always available in your cabin, which I think is very cool, behind the scenes, it's a very cool piece of technology," Imagineering executive Scott Trowbridge said at the time, according to Reuters.

Replacing actors?

However, a source made it clear to the news outlet that the technology is not meant to replace actors but rather enhance digital effects. So far, actors have not yet rebelled against the use of AI in films with some even welcoming the practice as it serves to make them look younger amongst other applications

"AI research at Disney goes back a very long time and revolves around all the things you see being discussed today: Can we have something that helps us make movies, games, or conversational robots inside theme parks that people can talk to?" told Reuters an executive employed by Disney.

Finally, Hao Li, CEO and co-founder of Pinscreen, a company responsible for AI-driven virtual avatars, said Disney's lab in Zurich laid the foundation for the technology to be pioneered by the firm.

"They basically do research on anything based on performance capture of humans, creating digital faces," said Li. "Some of these techniques will be adopted by Disney entities."

Over 10,000 writers employed in the US film industry, represented by the Writers Guild of America (WGA), went on strike in May of 2023 complaining about the growing use of AI in the industry and the fear of being replaced by the technology.