Toys “ЯNT” Us

Weirdly elated face of AI child with improbable hairdo, freckles, strangely oversized glasses, gingham shirt and fugitive denim overall straps

by John Saward

In late June, Toys “R” Us premiered a commercial generated using a text-to-video artificial intelligence model. 

The ad opens with the exterior of a bicycle shop, sometime in the 1930s. It’s a sunny day but there are almost no shadows anywhere. There is a bicycle standing straight up by itself, balanced on two wheels while its seat flickers. A tree is growing in the pavement. All the cars are parked not on the street but on the sidewalk; one of them has a rear windshield Frankensteined onto the front of it.

Inside the shop, a smiling man is turning to look at someone; he has an $85 haircut, and is wearing a chambray shirt with only two buttons on it and no apparent buttonholes. Parts of his face have the blur of animation but his mouth looks strangely real, like it has been cut out from a magazine. He is smiling at his son, Charles Lazarus, the founder of Toys “R” Us, who is just a boy here, maybe 10 years old. When Charles looks around the room to smile back, his head turns in a grotesque motion, almost like someone twisting on a faucet. 

Now Charles falls asleep at a wooden table, and here the overalls he was wearing have partially disappeared and his bangs have grown longer, his freckles have migrated, and the lenses of his glasses are bigger. 

It’s a paywall, but a small one

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