Toys”R”Us premiered a film made with OpenAI's artificial intelligence text-to-video tool Sora at this year's Cannes Lions Festival. “The Origin of Toys”R”Us” was produced by the company's entertainment production division Toys”R”Us Studios, and creative agency Native Foreign, who scored alpha access to Sora since OpenAI hasn't released it to the public yet. That makes Toys”R”Us one of the first brands to leverage the video AI tool in a major way

 “The Origin of Toys”R”Us” explores the early years of founder Charles Lazarus in a rather more whimsical way than retail giants are usually portrayed. Company mascot Geoffrey the Giraffe appears to Lazarus in a dream to inspire his business ambitions in a way that suggests huge profits were an unrelated side effect (at least until relatively recently) for Toys”R”Us.

“Charles Lazarus was a visionary ahead of his time and we wanted to honor his legacy with a spot using the most cutting-edge technology available,” four-time Emmy Award-winning producer and President of Toys”R”Us Studios Kim Miller Olko said in a statement. “Partnering with Native Foreign to push the boundaries of OpenAI's Sora is truly exciting. Dreams are full of magic and endless possibilities, and so is Toys”R”Us.”

Sora Stories and the uncanny valley

Sora can generate up to one-minute-long videos based on text prompts with realistic people and settings. OpenAI pitches Sora as a way for production teams to bring their visions to life in a fraction of the usual time. The results can be breathtaking and bizarre.

For “The Origin of Toys”R”Us,” the filmmakers condensed hundreds of iterative shots into a few dozen, completing the film in weeks rather than months. That said, the producers did use some corrective visual effects and added original music composed indie rock band Copeland's Aaron Marsh.

The film is brief and its AI origins are only really obvious when it is paused. Otherwise, you might think it was simply the victim of an overly enthusiastic editor with access to some powerful visual effects software and actors who don't know how to perform in front of a green screen.

Overall, it manages to mostly avoid the uncanny valley except for when the young founder smiles, then it's a little too much like watching “The Polar Express.” Still, when considering it was produced with the alpha version of Sora and with relatively limited time and resources, you can see why some are very excited about Sora.

“Through Sora, we were able to tell this incredible story with remarkable speed and efficiency,” Native Foreign Chief Creative Officer and the film's director Nik Kleverov said in a statement. “Toys”R”Us is the perfect brand to embrace this AI-forward strategy, and we are thrilled to collaborate with their creative team to help lead the next wave of innovative storytelling.”

The debut of “The Origin of Toys”R”Us” at the Cannes Lions Festival underscores the growing importance of AI tools in advertising and branding. The film acts as a new proof of concept for Sora. And it may portend a lot more generative AI-assisted movies in the future. That said, there's a lot skepticism and resistance in the entertainment world. Writers and actors went on strike for a long time in part because of generative AI, and the new contracts included rules for how companies can use AI models. The world premiere of a movie written by ChatGPT had to be outright canceled over complaints about that aspect, and if Toys”R”Us tried to make its film available in theaters, it would probably face the same backlash.

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