by Graham Pierrepoint
Is this the most bizarre headline I’ve ever written in my tenure here at One News Page thus far? Possibly – it’s also a story which bears writing about purely for the novelty factor – as well as how it could signal where our animation techniques could be headed in decades and centuries to come. The animation industry is one which has long been based on incredible hard work, aching wrists and pioneering technology – it’s certainly a lot easier to get things done for animated movies and TV alike these days, but expectations have ramped up, too. The days of flipbook animation may still be with us in one form or another, but as it stands, things are only set to get more and more bizarre.
Researchers have reportedly been able to train artificial intelligence to undertake the mammoth task (pun intended) of animating completely new episodes of classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon The Flintstones from scratch – from thousands of pre-existing clips and descriptions of scenes to be produced. The Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence is responsible for the research being undertaken, and what’s transpired is a series of odd, yet fascinating shorts – all based upon a simple series of requests asked of the AI, and a library of characters, scenes and animations which it is asked to work from. All in all, this could point towards a fascinating future for the animation industry – though it could sadly mean the end of traditional means if the technology is to get anywhere fast.
Watch: ▶ AI creates 'Flintstones' cartoons from text descriptions
Reports haven’t exactly pulled their punches – the animation quality pumped out by the AI is pretty shoddy stuff – but it’s remarkable that an automaton can effectively build an entire show or series of shorts just from a simple library of existing images and animations and a handful of descriptions. This is effectively the equivalent of giving someone a recipe and the ingredients for a cake and asking them to make it – it’s mind-boggling, slightly scary stuff – but the possibilities are boundless. Perhaps it is only apt that the likes of The Flintstones – set in ancient times – are being used as the first prototype for such a project.
The Flintstones hasn’t seen any official new episodes air in decades – shy of a few feature-length adventures and certain breakfast cereal commercials – but it seems that, soon enough, we could be seeing new adventures from Fred, Wilma, Barney and Betty thanks to the hard work of an AI that seems to know what it’s doing!