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Tim Burton says AI imitations of his art style are missing 'humanity' and 'soul' — even if the results are 'pretty good'

Picture of Tim Burton with a gray background
Tim Burton was impressed by AI recreations of his artwork but also felt it took out the "humanity" of his work.
  • Tim Burton said AI art generators' imitations of his work felt soulless and lacked "humanity."
  • He was referring to a BuzzFeed article that used AI to give Disney characters a Tim Burton makeover.
  • This is the latest in an ongoing conversation about the ethics of AI being used to create artwork. 

You've probably seen the trend before.

Someone online prompts an AI art generator to imagine what a Wes Anderson version of "Star Wars" would look like, or Disney characters in the spooky style of Tim Burton. The results are published in a TikTok video, or in the case of the Tim Burton-esque Disney characters, a BuzzFeed article

It turns out Tim Burton is very aware of the latter example, and weighed in on the results — and his mixed feelings about them — in a recent interview with The Independent

Burton said that while the AI-made artwork was "very good," something about the pictures made him feel uneasy and that something important was lacking.

"I can't describe the feeling it gives you. It reminded me of when other cultures say, 'Don't take my picture because it is taking away your soul," Burton told The Independent, "What it does is it sucks something from you. It takes something from your soul or psyche; that is very disturbing, especially if it has to do with you. It's like a robot taking your humanity, your soul."

Screenshot from Buzzfeed article of Tim Burton style Disney characters include an image of Elsa in a foggy, dark graveyard wearing dark makeup, curly hair and a black dress.
This BuzzFeed article features dark and creepy versions of Disney characters, like Elsa from Frozen.

BuzzFeed's article, which is well worth a look, used the AI art-generation tool Midjourney to create images of Disney characters in Tim Burton's charming but creepy art style, applying the treatment to characters in popular movies like "Frozen" (pictured above), "The Little Mermaid," "Princess and the Frog," and "Beauty and the Beast."

Burton's remarks add to the growing conversation and debate on AI artwork, which burst onto the scene in the last two years as AI art tools like Midjourney, Stable Diffusion, and Dall-E launched and allowed anyone to type in a simple text prompt and quickly get an AI-generated image. In one instance that made headlines internationally, an AI-generated artwork won a Colorado competition, sparking anger among many in the art community as creatives worried about whether AI could eventually steal their jobs.

Other artists and photographers are concerned that AI art tools could be crawling the internet and training on their copyrighted artwork to influence their style and inform what the tools spit out from text prompts. The result of this practice is AI-created artwork that looks eerily similar to the work of certain artists. 

Because of this, some artists are targeting the companies that make AI-art tools in lawsuits. According to The Register, three artists are in the process of trying to sue Stability AI, Midjourney, and DeviantArt, accusing the companies of using their copy-righted artwork to train AI.

Some major entertainment companies, like Marvel, have already started experimenting with the technology. The opening for Marvel's "Secret Invasion," for example, was made by AI. This furthered concerns about AI replacing human artists and Marvel saw backlash on social media. 

In an interesting twist, a federal judge recently ruled that AI artwork is not able to be copyrighted, according to The Hollywood Reporter. This means there could be little preventing people from stealing AI-created art and using it however they want, which could give the entertainment industry pause.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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