The Walt Disney Company has created a “task force” designed to study the use of AI, or artificial intelligence, and how it can be applied across the organization. According to Reuters, the task force was launched earlier this year, before the start of the WGA strike that began in May.
Disney currently lists 11 different job descriptions centered around either artificial intelligence or machine learning, according to Reuters, and they touch multiple sections of the company, including roles in Walt Disney Studios, Parks, Imagineering, Disney Branded Television, and the advertising team. (A quick search pretty easily locates five of the open roles.) A senior vice president role in the post-production space for Disney Branded Television has a salary between $270,500 to $ $371,900 per year and is based out of Burbank. If only AI could make it easy to get to Burbank.
Disney did not respond to IndieWire’s request for comment on the task force.
Sources who spoke to Reuters said some of the AI group’s goals include helping to control the soaring costs on movie and TV productions and enhancing customer support experiences within the theme parks. The task force is even being tasked with using machine learning to create a Baby Groot robot that can learn, move, and perhaps someday interact with parks guests. How hard is it to program one line of dialogue?
The Reuters report does not suggest generative AI is being used to write screenplays or create movies. A source who spoke to Reuters said that Disney’s AI tools in the post-production space are being used to augment digital effects, not replace actors. All the same, it’s a concern of striking writers and actors who have made AI a core piece of their collective bargaining agenda; SAG-AFTRA leadership views generative AI as a potential existential threat that can take gigs away from its members.
Disney CEO Bob Iger on a May earnings call talked about how AI presented “pretty interesting opportunities” and “substantial benefits” for the company; he was referring to how Disney had already started to use AI to better serve consumers and create efficiencies, rather than embracing it as a content-creation tool.
“It is also clear that AI is going to be highly disruptive and could be difficult to manage, particularly from an IP management perspective,” Iger said at the time. He then joked that someday an AI Iger might be able to take his place on earnings calls. Perhaps Iger has finally found his successor.
Jokes (his and ours) aside, some people were not happy when it was revealed the opening credits to the Marvel show “Secret Invasion” were created with generative-AI tools.
Of course, this is in no way just a Disney issue: AI experts are in huge demand these days. Netflix, Sony, and even Donald Glover’s company have all listed roles that specialize in AI. In speaking with the Los Angeles Times last week, SAG-AFTRA lead negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said the big salaries being offered for such jobs suggest the companies are setting up “a post-strike dynamic around AI” and are “looking to the future and attempting to be strategic.”