Before release Willow continuation series for Disney+, showrunner John Kasdan stated that the show will take some time to showcase Val Kilmer’s character madmartigan from the original movie on screen. (It’s worth saying that Kilmer had throat cancer in 2015 and has since undergone chemo and two tracheostomies.) However, the series has taken steps to ensure the character’s presence is felt throughout the series, thanks to archival stills from the 1988 film, and thanks to the recent appearance Christian Slater as Allagash, a close friend of the hero who crosses paths with the show’s young protagonists.
Episode from last week,Prisoners of Skellinmanages to bring Kilmer’s character back in a different way. As Allagash and the teenagers search for a magical artifact in Wiggledum’s tomb, Kit (Ruby Cruz) hears the voice of her father, Mudmartigan, calling to her from somewhere in the tomb. He doesn’t make a physical appearance, as he’s either locked in Skellin (or another dimension that Skellin leads to), but it looks like getting him out of there will be part of the drive for the last two episodes of the season.
As for how the show got Mudmartigan into a vocal life, Kasdan revealed that it was a combination of several things, two of which were that they recorded a performance by Kilmer and his son Jack. (He told 2021 documentary Shaft, and apparently hassupernatural coincidencefor his father’s voice, according to Kasdan.) Jack’s voice was taken by Lucasfilm sound engineer David W. Collins and then mixed with Sonantic, which uses AI to create a real person’s voice.
Use of AI technology in Willow comes along with larger conversation about the place of technology in the artistic community. Many of those who work in the arts, as far as the entertainment industry is concerned, are not exactly thrilled that ArtStation and Kickstarter are taking a “well, let’s wait and see” approach to allow art created with technology to exist on their platforms. This is especially egregious since AI art is simply made from art created by human creators who know how to accurately draw hands and fingers.
As far as Disney is concerned, this isn’t their first artificial intelligence rodeo. James Earl Jones back in September handed over his voice to an AI firm so Darth Vader’s vocal performance could never be lost and the technology was also used for Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker in Boba Fett book. It was weird then and weird here — and that feeling that AI is questionable from a business and creative point of view may simply never go away.
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