*This post contains images that may be unsettling for some. Viewer discretion is advised.
Recently, there’s been chatter online about some fairly questionable films reportedly in production at Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios–films that most Disney fans would deem not only insensitive and inappropriate but also wholly unnecessary and unfitting for any studio to produce, especially a studio like Disney’s.
Disney isn’t new to controversy–or to controversial films. Disney’s soon-to-be-released live-action take on the 1937 feature film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is only the latest example of such controversy, some of it spurred on by the lead actress in the film, Rachel Zegler.
But many of Disney’s classic films have been criticized lately for various reasons–reasons that might not have been so prevalent decades ago when the films were originally released. Thanks to the undeniable staying power of Disney’s many productions over the years, new generations of fans have come to love the wonder and the magic of Disney.
Others, however, have taken issue with films that were released more than 50 years ago, citing problematic themes, harmful depictions, and the use of over-generalizations and stereotypes. As such, many of Disney’s classic films are shown on Disney+ with related content warnings that allow viewers who’ve never seen the films to know beforehand about the presence of potentially insensitive or harmful content.
Recently, however, images of movie posters claiming to be the work of Disney and Pixar have appeared in various places across social media outlets, leaving some to wonder why the studios would produce such films and others to wonder whether the images are authentic in the first place, especially as the posters depict themes and imagery reminiscent of one of Disney’s most controversial films of all time.
Disney’s Most Controversial Production Yet
As recently as the late 1980s, Walt Disney Imagineering used Song of the South as the inspiration for one of the parks’ most popular attractions at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort, Splash Mountain. But in recent years, growing frustrations and complaints from some about the ride only grew louder, and Disney ultimately decided to do away with the attraction, despite its popularity among guests of every skin color.
“Disney” Film Posters Appear Online
In recent months, images of film posters with the Disney and Pixar names on them have emerged online across various social media platforms, which at first seems like a non-issue. Disney-owned studios routinely release film posters ahead of the theatrical and streaming debuts of their films as part of their branding and marketing campaigns.
But the posters in question are extremely questionable in content.
One poster features an image of a black man standing in front of a group of black people of various ages. He’s wearing a cowboy hat, leather suspenders, and a cream-colored shirt, and the words “Disney Pixar presents” can be read at the bottom of the image. The image also reads, “based on a true story.”
The type of animation seen in the poster looks similar to the animation styles used by both Disney and Pixar, making it all the more believable for some. But the poster campaigns for a fake film–just one of dozens of fake film posters making their rounds across social media platforms, and it’s all thanks to artificial intelligence or AI.
Some of the posters feature animated versions of Adolf Hitler on fake posters for a film titled ‘Caust, while other posters feature AI-generated imagery of the World Trade Center, allegedly part of a branding campaign for a Pixar film titled Towers.
The Age of Artificial Intelligence
While the use of artificial intelligence is hailed by some as the way of the future–and even necessary for the livelihood of the human race by others–society is already getting a taste of some of the things that can happen when technology is used for nefarious purposes.
In early October, imagery depicting Mickey Mouse at the controls of a 747, brandishing a gun, and setting a course directly for the now-fallen Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City surfaced online.
Though the image features Mickey, an animated character, the imagery itself is difficult to view. But it left some asking why Disney would allow such imagery to be created–and why corporations like Microsoft, OpenAI, and other entities include such capabilities within their respective AI image generators.
Not only do the fake film posters, as well as other potentially harmful AI-generated imagery, raise questions about copyright infringement, but they can also lead to more serious issues as consumers attempt to make the distinction between what is real and what is AI-generated. Hint: not everyone who views AI-generated imagery is capable of making that distinction.
What’s the Truth?
Is Disney or Pixar making an animated film titled Slaves? Absolutely not.
But as AI becomes more and more sophisticated, viewers will have to be even more cautious about what they accept as the truth and what they recognize as fake. Uncle Remus, in his wisdom, would likely encourage consumers not to believe everything they see–but instead, look more closely and seek the truth above all else.