(Burbank) Erected on a mountain in Hollywood, will the debate around artificial intelligence give birth to a mouse? However promising it may be, this technology does not worry the American dubber of Mickey, for whom an AI will never be able to capture the essence of the character.
“Of course there is amazing technology that is being developed with AI, and it’s so impressive,” Bret Iwan, the actor who lends his voice to the Disney mascot, told AFP. “But I think nothing can replace the heart of a character and, more importantly, the heart of the storytelling. »
The character and the narrative are “specific to a performer, a writer, an animator, an artist, a creator”, he insists, during an interview before the centenary of Disney studios, which will take place on 16 october.
If the company is busy celebrating its century of existence, Hollywood is less in the mood for celebration this summer. The screenwriters have been on strike for more than two months, and the actors are threatening to join the social movement.
In addition to inevitable salary issues, this maelstrom is fueled in particular by the fears of the American film industry towards artificial intelligence. Because if it is only in its infancy, this new tool has the potential to produce scripts, clone voices or imitate actors.
But for Mr. Iwan, the originality of the creators remains essential for “storytelling”, the art of telling stories.
“Hopefully it’s this aspect that will stick around and allow real people to do this work for a while!” “Launches the forties, who is only the fourth official interpreter of the character.
The falsetto voice of the famous big-eared mouse was first provided by Walt Disney himself, from the first appearance of the character in the cartoon Steamboat Willie in 1928. Then two other actors took over this high tone for more three decades before Mr. Iwan took over.
“I hope I can keep doing it as long as my vocal cords hold up,” says the interpreter, who notably voices Mickey in the Kingdom Hearts video game series.
But in animation, the kind of cinema on which Disney has built its reputation, technology has already played a significant role for many years.
Computer-generated images have long since taken over from traditional hand-drawing, both at Disney and its competitors.
If humans continue to create the films, the recent use of AI to design the credits of the Secret Invasion series, broadcast on the Disney streaming platform, has caused controversy in Hollywood.
But for Eric Goldberg, the animator who designed the legendary genius of Aladdin in the 1992 cartoon, this new technology poses more of a threat to the newer sectors of his industry.
“I think AI is less likely to affect hand-drawn animation than computer animation, because AI is about reproducing realism,” he sums up. “The characters I draw, the genie’s head can turn into a toaster!” Which is not possible with an AI character! »
“So hand-drawing gives us a bit of an advantage from that point of view,” he adds.
At 68, this passionate craftsman has just completed the training of five new cartoonist apprentices at Disney. He remains convinced that there will always be “a core of us who want to see hand-drawn animations”.
“I don’t think AI will be a problem for this aspect of the medium, because we have to use our imaginations a lot to represent hand-drawn characters, because of the flexibility of what they can do” , he explains.
Traditional cartooning will endure, he concludes, “as long as there are people who still want to do it!” »