Disney’s whole new world 🏰

Plus get ready for more AI-generated earworms

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The algorithmic kingdom

The House of Mouse is getting into AI. At least, that’s what Reuters is reporting.

The Walt Disney Company is said to be exploring how AI might be applied across its operations and is actively assembling a team to achieve those goals. (Think the Avengers, but instead of superpowers, everyone’s just really smart.)

Reuters notes Disney is currently searching for a dozen AI experts to add to the task force and that its eventual aim is to implement AI tools for everything from movie effects to customer service handling. While the report doesn’t go into specifics, surely we’ll be able to measure how close we are to the singularity when Tony Stark’s J.A.R.V.I.S. is handing out wristbands at Disney World.

It’s worth remembering that Disney has form when it comes to pushing the technology envelope; the company’s Imagineering unit has developed everything from Stuntronics (think crash-test dummies that can swing through the air like Spider-Man) to a dancing robot Groot, so AI development seems like a logical next step. Although one has to wonder what comes next - particularly considering the urban myth about Walt Disney being frozen after his death…💀

All this talk of AI at Disney comes as screenwriters and actors are on strike - in part because of the perceived threat that AI poses to creative careers. Reuters says Disney was building out its AI squad long before the picket lines formed, but it also notes the company sees potential cost-savings in AI. Needless to say, unions will surely be keeping on eye on what Disney does next.

Why it matters:

While the story presents as Disney being AI-curious, the company is currently being shellacked on the stock market - so don’t be surprised if it goes all in on AI soon. But with Disney employing close to a quarter-of-a-million people, the Magic Kingdom may also become a litmus test for how AI disrupts jobs at scale.

The next BTS could be AI BTS

A few months back, a song by Drake and the Weeknd rolled out on TikTok and quickly became a viral sensation. The track, dubbed “Heart on my Sleeve,” also started picking up traction on Spotify and YouTube. The only problem was, Drake and the Weeknd didn’t record it.

“Heart on my Sleeve” was put out by a mysterious TikTok user going by the handle ghostwriter977. And though some speculated Drake and the Weeknd were in fact behind Fake Drake and Pretend Weeknd, a slew of takedown notices by ​​Universal Music Group (UMG) suggested otherwise.

Fast forward to now, and it seems UMG has changed its mind about AI artists. Or at least, it smells money.

The Financial Times (paywall) says UMG is in talks with Google about establishing licenses for deepfake tracks. Sources for the report say talks are at an early stage and that it’s unlikely any legitimate tools will be released anytime soon. Too bad, I suppose we’ll have to wait a while for an AI Dionne Warwick cover of a Doja Cat track.

Why it matters:

The music industry has PTSD when it comes to technological advances. (iTunes killed the album model, streaming decimated royalties.) But if the sector can get ahead of AI-generated pop star performances, then it could open up a whole new way for artists to make money. Indeed, former mop-top Paul McCartney recently noted AI has enabled the creation of a “final” Beatles track, which is set to release later this year - five decades after the band broke up.

Profile Picture of Tom Wilton

Written By: Tom Wilton

Lead Newsletter Writer

Published Date: Oct 25, 2023

Disney dives into AI, seeking experts for applications from movie effects to customer service, and pushing to reshape entertainment.