Can AI Play Disney Characters?

in Disney, Star Wars

Mickey and Hal

It’s amazing what Disney has done with technology in its nearly 100-year existence. From the invention of the multi-plane camera to the astounding amount of detail given to the Parks’ audio-animatronics, Disney has been responsible for creating some of the biggest mechanical marvels in the entertainment industry, the question of “how much is too much?” is undoubtedly going to be asked.

Walt Disney hosting 1960s Wonderful World of Disney on TV
Credit: Disney

Disney has captivated millions with some of the innovations they’ve created. Thanks to Disney, our perspective on theme parks, film, and especially animation has all changed tremendously. Walt Disney was always of the mindset of “keep moving forward,” and it resulted in some powerful steps forward in entertainment.

Related: Is Disney Wasting Tech With Its New Feature?

Disney has since continued this way of thinking and used it to drive the company. However, there are some new developments that have some fans wondering if they’re moving too fast. It’s not as though Disney has Frankensteined together some sort of Five Nights at Freddy’s version of Mickey Mouse, but their recent dive into A.I. voice technology should be kept under some close examination.

David Prowse as Darth Vader in 'Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Credit: Lucasfilm

James Earl Jones announced his retirement at the age of 91, and he has given Disney his permission to use his voice and likeness to keep Darth Vader alive through Respeecher’s vocal-modulating technology, resulting in the character continuously being used for future projects without the need for a new voice actor. A talent like James Earl Jones is impossible to replace, but what could this mean for other performers?

Related: ‘Star Wars’ Officially Replaces Actor James Earl Jones as the Voice of Darth Vader After 45 Years

Darth Vader, as Master Kenobi so eloquently put it, is more machine than man, so it makes sense that an AI would be able to eventually assume the role, but what about performers and roles that require a more human touch? Mark Hamill has already had his voice and likeness enhanced by the same software for The Mandalorian, but how long will it be before Disney uses that same technology for projects outside of Star Wars? The same program that keeps Darth Vader as the terror of the galaxy could also be used for Disney’s host of beloved animated characters.

Mickey and Donald on a ship
Credit: Disney

Some of Disney’s biggest stars have been brought to life by phenomenal performers such as Jim Cummings, Bret Iwan, and Angela Lansbury just to name a few. It’s honestly quite chilling to think that they can be replaced with the right computer program manipulation. Does this mean Disney will start incorporating these practices to replace flesh-and-blood performers? Probably not, but it will definitely change how characters are brought to life.

Of course, that’s not to say this technology is all bad. It might not be long before Guests at the Park see more interactive Meet and Greets. However, it’s still a practiced that should be carefully monitored as Disney continues to keep moving forward.

Do you think Disney should use more AI in their projects? Tell us in the comments below!

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