Jeffrey Katzenberg Says Animated Films Costs Could Plummet 90% With AI

DreamWorks co-founder and former Disney exec says artificial intelligence will require new forms of creativity

Jeffrey Katzenberg, a bald man wearing a suit, gestures while he speaks. A sign on the wall behind him says "Bloomberg New Economy Forum."
Jeffrey Katzenberg speaks at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum on Nov. 9.

Media, entertainment and creation will be the industries most impacted by the emergence of artificial intelligence, DreamWorks SKG cofounder Jeffrey Katzenberg said Thursday, and that will likely mean drastic cuts in the number of people needed to produce the art forms.

“If you look at sort of a historical perspective, you know, whether we went from a pen, a paintbrush, a printing press, a still camera, a movie camera,” the longtime industry executive said at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum. “These are things that just expanded creativity and all sorts of storytelling and extraordinary ways.”

The evolution of the industry has been “explosive” in the last decade, said Katzenberg, who was one of the losers in the explosive growth of streaming when his Quibi service shut down after just seven months in 2020.

“I think if you look at how media has been impacted in the last 10 years by the introduction of digital technology, what will happen in the next 10 years will be 10X as great, literally, by a factor greater,” said Katzenberg, who is also a founding partner of the investment firm WndrCo.

“I think AI as a creative tool — think of it as a new form of a new paintbrush, or a new camera — has so much opportunity around it,” he continued. “I think that on the one hand, it will be disruptive and commoditize things that are very inaccessible for artists and storytellers today.”

In “the good old days,” the former Disney exec said, “it took 500 artists five years to make a world class animated movie. I think it won’t take 10% of that.”

He added that the tech is already creating new roles for creatives.

“You can have access to all of this knowledge, it’s your ability to prompt it that actually produces a result,” he said. “And so prompting is in fact going to be a creative commodity. And across many, many many, different aspects of storytelling.”

No stranger to animation, Katzenberg served as chairperson of Walt Disney Studios under Michael Eisner in the 1980s and early 1990s, helping to spearhead the creative turnaround at Walt Disney Animation Studios with films like “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast.”

After exiting Disney, Katzenberg headed up DreamWorks Animation and oversaw films like “The Prince of Egypt,” “Antz” and “Shrek.”

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