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The Rise of Tom and Jerry: How a Classic Cartoon is Defeating Image-Generating AI

By Cecil Gao
May. 16, 2023 updated 06:20

When artificial intelligence painting software NovelAI emerged, more and more people became interested in using AI for drawing. However, NovelAI and similar software require high computer specifications, making it difficult for everyone to use it personally.

NovelAI is capable of transferring any images to animate styleNovelAI is capable of transferring any images to animate style

Many people turned to internet forums seeking help, providing original images for secondary creation, and hoping that the "alchemists" who used AI could bring them creative results. On the largest Chinese internet forum, Baidu Tieba, the NovelAI sub-section was born in response to this demand.

NovelAI sub got 260k joins and roughly 1 million postsNovelAI sub got 260k joins and roughly 1 million posts

However, when you go to the NovelAI sub to post your desired images, you may receive unexpected creations: the results are almost identical in terms of composition, artistic style, and even details like shadows, but they are not generated by AI.

Instead, they are found in various animated shows, games, movies, and even real life. This is the now notorious "human team" of the NovelAI sub, who find screenshots that are almost identical to the original image in their familiar fields rather than using AI.

The early results of the human team were quite significant. Most people tried to find similar images from games, movies, and memes to the images posted by users seeking help.

However, the types and complexity of the images posted by users quickly escalated from ordinary human and scenic images to irregular water stains, cracked floors, and even a tree diagram from a math class. The human team quickly realized that the fields they were pulling from were unlikely to meet their needs. Either the theme was not in line, or the action and picture structure were far off-topic.

The following repeated failures of the human team caused people to return to focusing on using AI to generate images, and the short-lived entertainment activity in NovelAI Sub seemed to fade quickly.

However, at this time, the human team found something that could be used as a reference for an incredible number of images, even reaching a scale that rivaled AI-generated images - that work is the globally known "Tom and Jerry."

The rapid rise of Tom and Jerry in the NovelAI Sub seems to be subtle. It all started when a user from the human team posted a screenshot of the Tom and Jerry cartoon under a post seeking help generating an image. The screenshot was almost identical to the original image submitted by the user in terms of structure, composition, and even color tone.

Tom and Jerry is a globally renowned classic with hundreds of episodes of animation featuring characters with a variety of costumes, appearances, and adventures portrayed in a range of different artistic styles. For the human team, this seemed to be the perfect source of information.

Tom and Jerry did not disappoint the human team. They were able to find answers to almost all the requests for help in generating images in the NovelAI Sub, including people, landscapes, sculptures, and even messy tree branches and decorations. Whatever the user could imagine, Tom and Jerry could help them find it in their unique way.

For a while, NovelAI Sub again stopped serving its original purpose, with users instead challenging the human team and their source of reference. The forum became divided between the human team and the users who were trying to find images that could stump them.

Even today, if you visit NovelAI Sub, there are not many users seeking help anymore. The focus has shifted toward the strange details in life, capturing photos or screenshots of anything that could challenge the human team, and immediately posting them on the Sub.

Most posts have been defeated, either because of the human team's continuous search or because Tom and Jerry truly contain the mysteries of the universe; the human team finds an answer with shocking regularity.

A small number of them may have succeeded, but the human team is also expanding their knowledge base, searching through ever more animated shows and games, attempting to replicate the glory of Tom and Jerry. They seem to want to prove to people and to the world that human creativity will not be replaced by AI, and the wisdom of human will last forever no matter what the outcome of this “war” is.