Disney AI extras in the “Prom Pact,” a teen comedy-drama, have created controversy considering SAG-AFTRA’s standing point and strikes that happened a while ago. Here is what you need to know about the Disney AI background actors and the current occasion!
Disney has been scrutinized for using artificial intelligence (AI) to create digital extras in its productions, reigniting the ongoing debate surrounding the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) strike. As the clash between Hollywood actors and major studios continues, the focus is squarely on AI-generated actors and their potential impact on the entertainment industry.
Disney AI extras scandal in “Prom Pact”
Earlier this year, Disney+ introduced “Prom Pact,” a popular teen comedy-drama that tells the story of a high school student’s deal to attend prom with a popular classmate, securing her Harvard enrollment. The film achieved high viewership and received mostly favorable reviews. However, a closer look reveals a hidden issue.
Noticed it's a whole row of AI actors. Yikes!
Disney is insane and just more reason why the AMPTP needs to ditch this plan to replace background actors with AI. The uncanny valley will always make your show/film look like hot garbage and age like milk. pic.twitter.com/NpfNbx2X1T
— Christopher Marc Supports SAG-AFTRA (@_ChristopherM) October 12, 2023
Sharp-eyed viewers quickly noticed something amiss after the film’s release in March, and the controversy intensified as the SAG-AFTRA strike negotiations hit a roadblock. One particular clip from the movie showed a basketball game scene where the audience displayed a complete lack of emotion, revealing that these were digitally created Disney AI extras. This discovery triggered a wave of criticism, with many expressing discomfort at the idea of AI actors infiltrating their favorite films.
We created our Disney AI movie story, meet Lila!
Disney AI background actors: AI’s Role in the SAG-AFTRA Strike
The employment of artificial intelligence technologies to recreate performers’ digital likenesses is a key issue of dispute in the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike. Big studios, including Disney, have been scanning extras’ faces and likenesses without their consent or remuneration to replicate them in numerous projects digitally. While this cost-cutting approach has advantages, the unfavorable response to “Prom Pact” is a cautionary note to Disney and other companies, pushing them to reconsider their attitude toward AI-generated performers.
“We have sacrificed too much to capitulate to their stonewalling and greed,” SAG-AFTRA said, according to the NY Post.
Reminder this is what SAG-AFTRA is fighting against pic.twitter.com/dsZl130uif
— Caiden Reed | Ghostface-Doo (@caiden_reed) October 12, 2023
Furthermore, several reviewers noted that the synthetic Disney AI extras were overwhelmingly people of color, raising concerns that AI actors may replace performers from various backgrounds, CBR added. This situation arose after discussions between Hollywood actors and studios stopped, casting doubt on the possibility of a quick settlement to the continuing strike.
AI and Hollywood: A clash of interests
AI technology has emerged as a major source of friction in the current talks. Actors are concerned that this technology will be used to clone their voices and likenesses, allowing them to be exploited indefinitely without their consent or proper pay. In response, studios claim to have suggested strict precautions, such as requiring performers’ “advance consent” and limiting the repeated use of a performer’s “replica,” subject to their agreement and remuneration.
“These companies refuse to protect performers from being replaced by AI, they refuse to increase your wages to keep up with inflation, and they refuse to share a tiny portion of the immense revenue YOUR work generates for them,” SAG-AFTRA said in a statement.
However, SAG-AFTRA remains dubious, noting that the studios’ AI approach still requires “consent” on the first day of work to use a performer’s digital duplicate across an entire cinematic universe or franchise production. The impasse seems far from over, with both parties remaining steadfast in their beliefs.
The ongoing debate surrounding Disney AI extras in “Prom Pact” underscores the potential impact of technology on the entertainment world. As Hollywood continues to grapple with these complex issues, the future of filmmaking hangs in the balance, with AI actors taking center stage in the unfolding drama.
Featured image credit: Seif Ak/Unsplash