During a recent interview with The Independent, the filmmaker was asked about a Buzzfeed story published in July that used AI to show what Disney movies would look like if they were directed by Burton.
“They had AI do my versions of Disney characters!” he exclaimed in response. “I can’t describe the feeling it gives you. It reminded me of when other cultures say, ‘Don’t take my picture because it is taking away your soul.’”
Some of the AI-generated examples included Elsa from Frozen with a pale white face and wearing a black dress while in what appeared to be a haunted forest, as well as Aurora from Sleeping Beauty with a similar colored face but with stitches across her cheeks and lying in a long, dark dress.
While Burton acknowledged that some of the creations were “very good,” it didn’t take away from the less-than-enjoyable feeling he got seeing his creative style imitated.
“What it does is it sucks something from you,” he explained. “It takes something from your soul or psyche; that is very disturbing, especially if it has to do with you. It’s like a robot taking your humanity, your soul.”
The use of AI in Hollywood has been an ongoing debate across the industry, with many wanting protections against the technology. It has particularly been one of the main concerns for actors and writers, who have been on strike for months after contract negotiations faltered with studios and streamers, and AI was one of the focal points that they haven’t been able to agree on.
Later during the interview, Burton also opened up about how making big studio films can be such an exhausting experience, but that he still tries to focus on the positives with all his projects.
“That’s why it is hard for me to watch the movies afterwards, because I still feel the emotional whatever of it. I don’t get a release from that. But I do enjoy all the people I’ve worked with,” the director said. “On this last one, Beetlejuice 2, I really enjoyed it. I tried to strip everything and go back to the basics of working with good people and actors and puppets. It was kind of like going back to why I liked making movies.”
Burton added that the Beetlejuice sequel, which stars Michael Keaton, Winona Ryder, Catherine O’Hara, Jenna Ortega and Willem Dafoe, was nearly finished filming before the strikes were called. He hopes to finish once the strikes are resolved.
“I feel grateful we got what we got. Literally, it was a day and a half,” he said of the film, which is set to be released on Sept. 6, 2024. “We know what we have to do. It is 99 percent done.”