It can a long time to animate cartoons -- just ask the Rick and Morty team. But what if you could ask computers to do some of the lifting? They just might. Researchers have produced an AI system, Craft, that automatically produces The Flintstones scenes based on text descriptions. The team trained Craft to recognize elements from the classic cartoon by feeding it more than 25,000 three-second clips, each of which included descriptions of who was in the scene and what was happening. From there, the AI only needed a line or two referencing a scene to stitch together characters, backgrounds and props.
To call the current results crude would be an understatement. While the AI usually gets things right, it sometimes mangles the output. Also, The Flintstones is a relatively easy target. Hanna-Barbera's signature animation style frequently involved limited animation on top of static backgrounds. This would be much harder with a more dynamic art style.
All the same, Craft hints at how AI could be used for animation going forward. A refined system with larger, more complex training samples could theoretically animate the routine parts of a cartoon, like back-and-forth conversations or walking through a room. Whether or not that's a positive depends on who you ask. It could lead to job cuts and a drop in creativity, but it could alternately lead to animators focusing more on unique scenes or putting out more content. You might spend less time waiting for animated shows to return and more time enjoying them.