Disney’s “Black Mirror” Machine Lets Them Own Actors’ Bodies Forever

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(left to right) Iron Man, Joan Tait from Black Mirror: Joan Is Awful, and Disney CEO Bob Iger

Credit: Inside the Magic, Marvel Studios, Netflix

In 1937, the release of Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs by Walt Disney Pictures marked a significant milestone for The Walt Disney Company as it became their first-ever full-length animated feature film. This revolutionary cinematic accomplishment completely changed the animation industry and firmly established Disney as a pioneer in both storytelling and outstanding artistry. Over a century, Disney’s impact has grown immensely, even leading to the creation of its exclusive streaming platform, Disney+ (Disney Plus). Disney has created an almost insular world of entertainment — that naturally houses all their acquired franchises from Pixar Animation Studios’ Toy Story series, to Lucasfilm’s Star Wars saga(s) and even James Cameron’s money-printing Avatar franchise.

Star Wars content Disney
Credit: Inside The Magic

Related: Disney Is Scrapping ‘X-Men’ Fox Universe From the MCU

The growth of Marvel Studios

But it was after the surprising success of Marvel Entertainment’s Iron Man (2008) film, which not only revitalized Robert Downey Jr.’s acting career but also the Marvel Comics superhero franchise, that the Walt Disney Company acquired Marvel Studios. More than a decade passed since that acquisition, and under the leadership of Kevin Feige, Marvel Studios’ Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has experienced an almost ridiculous amount of growth. The initial three Phases, collectively known as the Infinity Saga, concluded with industry-defining Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019). Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, Endgame depicted the original six Avengers retiring in their own ways.

Tony Stark Infinity War Stones death
Credit: Marvel

However, with the advent of the new Multiverse Saga, and a steadily worsening state of affairs for the superhero-led studio — from accusations of domestic abuse and sexual harassment of one of their top stars, Jonathan Majors (Kang the Conqueror) meant to headline Avengers 5/Avengers: The Kang Dynasty, to the concurrent Writers Guild of America (WGA) and Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) strikes — it seems that Marvel Studios, and its parent company The Walt Disney Company, are not above resorting to (what some might deem) “inhumane” tactics to get what they want.

The Marvel machine, and the new allegations

marvel-studios-disney-plus-characters
Credit: Disney Plus

Related: Disney Is Erasing Their Own Beloved Show From MCU History

And what does Disney and Marvel want? Well, the ever-churning superhero movie machine to continue, of course. Actors from within the Marvel Studios apparatus itself have even come forward slamming (and swearing at) the studio — and it’s really Disney CEO Bob Iger who’s facing the brunt of the criticism, indicating that it’s those executives behind the wheel that are at the heart of the alleged issues, and the true targets of union action.

Now, it appears that their true colors are surfacing, after some industry whistleblowers and young actors came forward to report on their experiences. Nicole Demerse, screenwriter and Governor at the Television Academy, has opened up about the seemingly true goings-on behind the scenes at Marvel Studios, and to a larger extent, The Walt Disney Company — in an account that sounds like something straight out of the Netflix Black Mirror anthology’s Joan Is Awful (2023), no less.

De-aged Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury in 'Captain Marvel'
Credit: Marvel

Of course, Marvel has used AI before — to tweak actors’ faces to look younger, like Nick Fury’s (Samuel L. Jackson) de-aging in Captain Marvel (2019), or change how their bodies look for special effects, think Steve Rogers’ (Captain America) Captain America: The First Avenger (2011),  — for example,  Taking to Twitter, Demerse details her experience speaking to a young background actor in their “early 20s”, who explained how she was sent to “the truck” while working on a Marvel series. This “truck” was where they “scanned her face and body three times”, subsequently owning her image in perpetuity across the Universe” — all for a measly 100 dollars:

The first week of the strike, a young actor (early 20s) told me she was a BG actor on a Marvel series and they sent her to “the truck” – where they scanned her face and body 3 times. Owned her image in perpetuity across the Universe for $100. Existential, is right.

Demerse continues, backing this up by reiterating that the story was only being told due to the SAG-AFTRA press conference about the studios’ AI proposal. Here, she claims that the recount has been corroborated — by some of the most voiceless, “vulnerable actors out there”:

Okay, so this is blowing up. Want to reiterate that the reason I told this story is because of the SAG-AFTRA press conference today – this was the studios AI proposal. Corroborated by the most vulnerable actors out there. Most without a voice.

User Mizz Marsha quickly floated the idea of a class action lawsuit against Marvel Studios regarding this creepy revelation — to which Demerse added even more context: the young Marvel actor in question had reluctantly agreed to the full face and body scan in order to get into the SAG union, to secure more rights and safety from that very same dilemma. Demerse ends with the cheery note that studios will just tell you that they’ll “hire someone else” if you don’t agree to their (rather dystopian) terms:

She was bummed because she agreed to it, but was also doing it to get into SAG. This is why “approvals” mean nothing. They’ll just tell you if you don’t do it, they’ll hire someone else.

It really does seem that the Marvel Studios and Disney intend to use these digitally-scanned bodies and faces to their own ends — by recreating real human bodies with Artificial Intelligence (AI) for eternal use in their movies — in turn, wiping out even more jobs from the industry by “replacing” working humans with digital copies and actors’ “AI dolls”.

Do you agree with the direction that Hollywood studios and companies like Disney are heading? Would you watch a Marvel Studios movie consisting of AI actors? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Marvel Comics (and Marvel characters) have definitely come a long way. Ever since Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) parted from the original six Avengers team with Thor Odinson (Chris Hemsworth) and the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), a lot has happened in Marvel Entertainment. Marvel Studios’ recent theatrical release, the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 directed by James Gunn and starring Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord tales his space-roving pals on a final adventure across the galaxy. Upcoming Marvel films include The Marvels (2023) to debut 10 November 2023, and Captain America: Brave New World (formerly New World Order), to star Liv Tyler (Betty Ross) and Harrison Ford (Thaddeus Ross/Thunderbolt Ross). While Disney+’s Secret Invasion (2023), follows Samuel L. Jackson as Director Nick Fury and tells of his spacetime and Krull-centric exploits. Later, upcoming Ironheart Disney+ series will star Marvel Studios newcomer Dominique Thorne as Riri Williams. Right now, you can watch Moon Knight (2022), She-Hulk: Attorney at Law (2022), Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022), and Netflix Marvel television favorites like Daredevil (2016) and Marvel’s Jessica Jones (2015). If you don’t want to watch a full series, there’s always Marvel Studios Special Presentation short films — like the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special (2022) to Werewolf by Night (2022).

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