In preparation for its 100th birthday, Walt Disney Animations is bringing back one of its most beloved characters, as well as one of our favorite actors. The late Robin William is set to star in Disney’s newest film Once Upon a Studio which was announced this past weekend. The film is going to include around 543 animated characters from the past century of Disney.
The shocking information came when producer Brad Simonsen revealed that all of William’s lines in the film were not generated using AI. Simonsen explained this in an interview with Variety.
“It needed to feel that so the audience response would be visceral. We used our animation research library where we pulled out model sheets for the animators to work from. We had Eric Goldberg who has the studio history, and we did tests to make sure it was all working together in the scenes.”
But this did not come without asking for permission from William’s family first. “We tried to take them on the journey with us to say, ‘We’ve got this very special short that we’re doing. Robin as the genie means so much to so many people and we would really love to involve him,’ ” Simonsen said.
“We went back to the estate and said, ‘This is what we hope to do,’ ” the producer said ” ‘[animator Eric Goldberg], who originally animated the genie, is on the show, and he’s going to be part of it.’ And it was wonderful to see that happen.”
This decision also has not come without criticism. Two weeks before the 13 minute long film was released, William’s daughter Zelda called out companies for using her father’s image and likeness without consent.
“This isn’t theoretical, it is very very real,” she continued in the post, according to screenshots from Entertainment Weekly. “I’ve already heard AI used to get his ‘voice’ to say whatever people want and while I find it personally disturbing, the ramifications go far beyond my own feelings.”
“These recreations are, at their very best, a poor facsimile of greater people, but at their worst, a horrendous Frankensteinian monster, cobbled together from the worst bits of everything this industry is, instead of what it should stand for,” she concluded.