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Netflix slammed for using AI-generated art in new anime short

netflix the dog and the boy
via Netflix Japan

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    Netflix’s recently released Japanese short animation “The Dog & The Boy” is being criticized online for its AI-generated art.

    The three-minute sci-fi short film released on Tuesday follows the story of a young boy whose robot dog waits for him as he goes off to war. 

    The anime was produced by Netflix Anime Creators Base in collaboration with Rinna Inc., an AI artwork company, and WIT Studio, the production company behind the first three seasons of “Attack on Titan.”

    According to the streaming platform, its reason for using AI-generated art was due to the anime industry’s “labor shortage.”

    “As an experimental effort to help the anime industry, which has a labor shortage, we used image generation technology for the background images of all three-minute video cuts!” Netflix Japan wrote.

    AI-generated backdrops of cityscapes and mountain ranges can be seen throughout “The Dog & The Boy.”

    The credits for the short shows step-by-step how a hand-drawn layout of a snowy road is morphed by AI. Netflix simply credits the background designer as “AI (+ Human),” without naming the human artist.

    The announcement on Twitter instantly drew criticism from social media users, who claimed that Netflix was using AI-generated art to avoid hiring and paying human artists. 

    Twitter users also contended that there is no labor shortage, but rather a shortage of companies willing to pay a decent living wage for anime talent.

    “Netflix Anime ‘Dog and Boy’ was created with AI because of ‘labor shortage,’ not mentioning artists experience massive layoffs in the last months in the anime industry + starving payments,” one user tweeted. “AI once again goes the most  unethical and capitalistic way. Don’t watch or support this.”

    “Imagine stealing from artists by using AI, then saying it’s because of labor shortages when there are countless starving artists out there, yet you choose to ride off the backs of them instead of support them. Do better Netflix,” another user wrote.

    “Not something to be proud of babes,” a Netflix showrunner said.

    As the rise of AI-generated art has highlighted unethical practices, artists have expressed anger and fear over issues of copyright, theft and job losses.

    In September 2022, Netflix Animation laid off 30 employees in an effort to streamline production.

    According to reports, the 2019 median average income for top anime talent was $36,000, while low-rung anime illustrators can earn as little as $200 per month.


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