As we continue to see AI developments across the board and in pretty much every aspect of film and video production, the great debate about the future of AI use for the biggest feature films and streaming services is probably raging the hottest right now.

It was a central issue at the heart of the writers and directors strikes last year, but in many ways its future is still unresolved and clouded both by the technology itself, as well as the intentions of the studio executives who will eventually make these important AI decisions.

However, in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, Warner Bros. animation president Sam Register shared some important (and promising, perhaps) quotes about how he plans to protect the artists against AI… at least for as long as he can.

The Most Important Industry Issues From 2023

In a roundtable discussion with other industry insiders from companies including Sony’s TriStar Pictures, Warner Bros., and United Talent Agency, as well as with producers of projects like Barbarian, Wednesday, and BS High, and hosted by Ryan Faughnder, senior editor of Company Town, the Los Angeles Times article covers a wide variety of subjects that were all at the heart of the film industry in 2023.

However, while their insights into the different strikes and the resolutions offered are interesting, perhaps the most exciting tidbits have to do with the use of AI in the film industry — and most notably in the realm of animation, where our esteemed WB executive resides. And in particular, his thoughts on what AI can do for the visual medium of animation.

To start, though, Register shared some encouraging words about the future of storyboarders in the industry and how he can help protect the artists and the art form.

Protecting the Art of Storyboarding

As you can see in the quote above, Register affirms his promise to “protect the artists and the art form” when talking about storyboarding. He adds, "We should give jobs to people who really do that so they can get their entry-level experience.”

This is a nice statement, but one which — upon closer examination — may not be as promising as it sounds.

Storyboarders absolutely deserve recognition and protection because their craft is challenging and hugely important to the filmmaking process. Still, Register’s quote seems to indicate that he’s only focused on helping those get their “entry-level experience” with the art form.

He also adds to the end of his statement about protecting the artists that he thinks it's important to do only “as long as we can.” This further seems to indicate that this support will most likely end at some point, likely when it makes more financial sense to fully use AI for the art of storyboarding.

Animation as a Visual Medium

The other most noteworthy quote from Register has to do with AI in animation, which he would know about as the President of Warner Bros. Animation. Here’s the full, two-sentence quote from Register on the subject:

Animation’s a visual medium. But so far, I haven’t seen anything AI can do visually that an artist doesn’t do better currently. — Sam Register, president of Warner Bros. Animation.

Again, this quote is full of promise and respect for the artists producing animated films and series content. However, it’s hard not to overlook the “currently” at the end of the sentence, which feels like it’s leaving open the possibility of ending this support at a later date.

Still, taken as a whole in the context of the roundtable discussion, it does appear that these industry insiders are indeed very aware of the complex nature of these AI innovations and discussions. We’ll have to wait and judge them not just for their interview quotes though, and more for their actions here in 2024 and beyond.