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Hayao Miyazaki Criticizes AI-Generated Zombie Clip as “Insult to Life Itself”

In a clip from “NHK Special: Hayao Miyazaki –The One Who Never Ends” that has since gone viral, Studio Ghibli’s Hayao Miyazaki responded negatively when presented with an AI-generated CGI animation by Nobuo Kawakami, chairman of Dwango Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and producer-in-training.

The presentation was meant to demonstrate an artificial intelligence model that learned how to move and what that could possibly add to animation. Kawakami described these as “grotesque” and “disturbing movements that humans can’t think of,” suggesting they would be useful in a zombie game. He also comments that, “Basically there’s nothing like sensitivity to pain, and it lacks the concept of the head being important, so it’s using the head like a foot for movement.”

Iconic animator Miyazaki took a pause, before talking about a friend with a disability whom he sees every morning, saying:

It’s so hard for him just to do a high five, his arm with stiff muscle reaching out to my hand. I can’t watch this stuff and find interesting. Whoever creates this stuff has no idea what pain is or whatsoever. I am utterly disgusted. If you really want to make creepy stuff, you can go ahead and do it. I would never wish to incorporate this technology into my work at all. I strongly feel that this is an insult to life itself.

Kawakami pointed out that this was “ultimately an experiment,” to which Miyazaki responded that he understands. Tokyo Reporter shared some reactions to this clip, from commenters who were hesitant about his zombie comparison to cartoonist Junichi Inoue, who tweeted that an animator’s “origin lies in empathy.”

I don’t think Miyazaki has ever shied away from the creepy (see: Princess Mononoke), but his stories are typically about understanding what might be seen as “grotesque” and having empathy for that. Ghibli’s work often has themes about preservation and valuing life, which clashes with the message of Kawakami’s animation. The artist has also worked primarily with traditional hand-drawn animation, and he can be seen at the end of the clip saying, “We humans are losing faith in ourselves.” While new technology has revolutionized storytelling, it’s not hard to see why he found this clip off-putting in its dehumanization.

What did you think about Miyazaki’s reaction to the AI?

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