Man smiling(l), Toys R us(c), Boy smiling(r)

SAUFIRADZI/Shutterstock Toys R Us/Youtube (Licensed)

Toys “R” Us animated its iconic giraffe using AI—and people are upset

‘Shame on Toys “R” Us for contributing to this madness…’


Mikael Thalen


The iconic toy company Toys “R” Us is facing backlash online after releasing a short promotional film generated almost entirely by artificial intelligence (AI).

The film, made using OpenAI’s new text-to-video tool Sora, premiered this week at the 2024 Cannes Lions Festival in France and quickly made its way to social media.

The roughly minute-long promo depicts Toys “R” Us founder Charles Lazarus as a young child working to create the brand alongside its iconic mascot Geoffrey the Giraffe.

But reactions online were mixed. While some described the video as “pretty dope” and “awesome,” many instead argued that the promo was unsettling.

“I don’t know what Toys “R” Us is trying to do here but I do know that this commercial 100% comes off as super creepy,” one user on X wrote.

The once-prolific toy chain was purchased by private equity firms in 2005 and has since been reduced to only selling toys in select locations such as Macy’s, another company struggling under the weight of the e-commerce industry.

Numerous social media users took issue with the brand relying on AI instead of filming at real locations with actors.

“Toys R Us isn’t even really a company anymore because private equity destroyed it,” another X user said. “Commercial made by no one to advertise a company that doesn’t exist featuring childhood experiences that will never happen again.”

“Shame on @ToysRUs for contributing to this madness and also for making such a shitty looking commercial,” a separate X user said.

In a press release, Kim Miller Olko, the Toys “R” Us Global Chief Marketing Officer and President of Toys “R” Us Studios, argued that the film represented the same innovation that the toy company has had for years.

“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,” Olko said of the company’s founder. “Our brand embraces innovation and the emotional appeal of Toys “R” Us to connect with consumers in unexpected ways. We aim to capture that nostalgic feeling and deliver it uniquely to Toys “R” Us kids of all ages.”

Users online disagreed and instead argued that the use of AI merely highlighted the company’s unwillingness to pay for a normal film.

“Someone said using AI in your advertising is basically waving a big flag at your customers/clients/audience that reads ‘WE HAVE NO BUDGET,’” another added. “Few things illustrate that better than a bankrupt company making an AI generated commercial.”

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