Here’s How the Disney Research Studios ‘Re-Aging’ AI Works

A new study on “re-aging” technology published by Disney Research Studios proposes an AI program that could render on-screen actors younger or older in a matter of moments.

Disney is no stranger to aging their characters either up or down: they utilized a “younger” Samuel L. Jackson in Captain Marvel (2019), set a decade before the first events within the MCU, a jolly old Tim Allen within the Santa Clause franchise, and even brought back the Skywalker twins just as they appeared in the 20th century for Star Wars media such as The Mandolorian and Rogue One (2016).


Credit: Disney

Once, in order to present a certain character in their youth, or skip ahead to their old age, production crews could only cast a second performer or rely on old-age special effects makeup, often reliably realistic in varying degrees. Then, in a slight development, the process became computerized, although rendering seniority or youth upon already shot scenes for a specific actor could require teams of VFX artists and engineers contributing hundreds of hours of complex work.

Now, the Walt Disney Company has introduced an artificial intelligence program it believes will revolutionize the process of “re-aging” on-screen characters. In fact, its researchers from their Zurich Studio lab are responsible for the creation of the special program, a technique called Face Re-aging Network (FRAN).

Disney reveals AI tool that can re-age actors

Credit: Disney

Says Disney, FRAN is “the first practical, fully automatic, and production-ready method for re-aging faces in video images.” Researchers have trained the network “in a supervised fashion on a large number of face image pairs showing the same synthetic and photorealistic person, labeled with the corresponding source and target ages.”

Specifically, the Disney AI works on existing research on re-aging in order to digitally retouch images of an actor’s face in motion via a 2D, frame-by-frame process or 3D modeling scan.

Disney research studios zurich

Credit: Disney Research Studios

However, unlike the previously time-consuming method similar to a more extreme version of Photoshop, with such a neural network on hand, the now automated process can have film and television actors “production ready” much more quickly than the former, more expensive, methods.

You can view a video demonstrating Disney’s FRAN technology below:

On Wednesday, Researchers Gaspard Zoss, Prashanth Chandran, Eftychios Sifakis, Markus Gross, Paulo Gotardo, and Derek Bradley from the Zurich, Switzerland facility presented their findings in an academic paper.

Moreover, they have submitted the paper, “Production-Ready Face Re-Aging for Visual Effects,” for inclusion at this December’s ACM SIGGRAPH Asia conference due to the AI being the first of its kind to create such high-quality level images for entertainment.

Truly, it seems any sort of story, any time, anywhere, can be told through the new technology. Who would you like to see Disney revitalize next?

About Spencer Beck

Spencer is a lifelong lover of theme parks, princesses, and Disney history that recently relocated to Northern California. She completed her undergraduate studies at UCLA, where she was the founder and first president of the campus Disney Club. A former Cast Member still mourning the loss of the Disney Store, she now haunts the halls of the Walt Disney Family Museum, and shares her opinions with anyone who will listen @pinknpurble everywhere.