Disney’s Loki Controversy: Allegations of AI Involvement in Season 2 Poster

Artificial intelligence Disney+ The Walt Disney Company

A promotional poster for the second installment of Disney’s Loki on the Disney+ platform has ignited a firestorm of debate within the professional design community. Allegations have surfaced suggesting that this poster was, at least in part, brought to life through the utilization of generative artificial intelligence. Katria Raden, an accomplished illustrator, was the first to draw attention to this matter on the social platform X (formerly known as Twitter). Raden noted that the image of the spiraling clock in the poster displayed what she described as “all the telltale signs of AI intervention,” referencing the occasional emergence of incoherent squiggles left behind by AI-driven image generators.

The creative community is now wracked with concerns that AI-driven image generation may be transpiring without proper consent, posing a threat to the livelihood of human artists by potentially replacing them. Disney had previously faced backlash for similar AI usage in another Marvel series, Secret Invasion. Despite Disney’s assurance that AI tools didn’t supplant the roles of genuine designers, such contentions were met with skepticism.

Several X users, including Raden, have noticed that the backdrop of the Loki artwork appears to have been extracted from an identical stock image on the Shutterstock platform, bearing the title “Surreal Infinity Time Spiral Space Antique.” According to @thepokeflutist, the purchaser of this stock image, it was newly introduced to Shutterstock this year, thereby excluding the possibility of it being too outdated to be AI-generated. Furthermore, this image contains no embedded metadata to validate its creation process. Various AI image analysis tools employed to scrutinize the stock image have also flagged it as AI-generated.

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As per Shutterstock’s regulations, AI-generated content is prohibited from licensing on their platform unless it is produced through Shutterstock’s proprietary AI-image generation tool. This practice ensures that the platform maintains intellectual property rights over all submitted content. Despite this stipulation, Shutterstock has yet to provide a response to inquiries from The Verge regarding the compliance of the time-spiral image with their rules governing AI-generated content or what steps they are taking to enforce these regulations.

The emergence of AI-generated stock imagery has become a significant concern for numerous creative professionals. Raden articulates this concern, stating, “The licensing of photos and illustrations on stock websites has been a crucial income source for many diligent artists. I fail to perceive how replacing them with AI-generated content, crafted via technology rooted in mass exploitation and labor exploitation, is any more ethically sound than supplanting Disney’s in-house personnel.”

Artificial intelligence Disney+ The Walt Disney Company

Companies like Adobe and Getty are likewise promoting methods for rendering AI-generated content a commercially viable option. Nonetheless, it remains uncertain whether these platforms surpass Shutterstock in their ability to regulate submissions that deviate from contributor guidelines.

Equally unclear is the extent to which generative AI was employed by Disney to craft the promotional materials for Loki. Some X users have speculated on the possibility of AI involvement in aspects of the image, such as the placement of miniature characters surrounding Tom Hiddleston’s portrayal of Loki. Disney has refrained from responding to our queries, either to confirm the use of AI in the promotional artwork or to verify their licensing of the aforementioned Shutterstock image.

An argument emerges here, suggesting that since Shutterstock fails to label the clock image as AI-generated, Disney may not have been aware of its origin. However, the glitches present in the stock image would likely be conspicuous to most graphic designers, casting doubt on Disney’s design and editing process.

The creative industry has been inundated with AI-driven tools like Adobe Firefly and Canva Magic Studio over the past year. These tools aim to simplify the design process, particularly for individuals with limited design experience. They are typically marketed to organizations seeking to produce cost-effective art on a large scale. Companies frequently resort to stock images due to their speed, affordability, and accessibility, thus minimizing the necessity of employing seasoned designers to create content from the ground up. As AI-generated stock content gains traction, it is no wonder that creative professionals harbor apprehensions about the future of their industry.

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