North Korean Animators Reportedly Worked on Shows for Amazon and HBO Max, Including Invincible

  • Amazon claims it was unaware that the studios it had worked with on Invincible had purportedly outsourced animation to North Korea.

  • HBO Max's Inayu, Child of Wonder also reportedly features work from North Korean animators.

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Like in video game development, some studios outsource work on their animation projects to artists around the world. Given this practice, it's not uncommon for producers to forget where exactly their international staff is from. According to recently leaked information, Amazon received quite a surprise when it realized it had North Korean animators on the production team for its show Invincible.

A recent report from 38 North, a U.S. think tank that analyzes the newest information coming out of Pyongyang, found evidence that workers from North Korea were subcontracted by third parties to perform different tasks on Amazon Prime's animated series. North Korean animators also purportedly worked on Iyanu, Child of Wonder for HBO Max, another animated show about the journey of an orphaned teenager with no memory of her past.

Documents purporting to reveal that North Korean animators worked on American TV shows were found by cybersecurity researchers, who located the information on a server in the Asian country and shared the information with 38 North, according to CNN. “It is unclear how the files ended up on this strictly controlled part of the Internet, but the investigators who analyzed them told CNN they appear to be the result of work that was unknowingly outsourced to North Korean workers,” CNN stated.

Iyanu, Child of Wonder

Several parts of North Korea's economy have been under international sanctions for years, including its animation industry. However, the investigation found no evidence that any U.S. company associated with Invincible was aware it had North Korean animators working on its show.

Invincible and Inayu Producers Deny Contracting North Korean Animators

Skybound Entertainment, which produces Invincible for Prime Video, stated that it had not hire Chinese and North Korean companies to develop the show but would investigate the allegations. Lion Forge Entertainment, which is responsible for Max's Inayu, claimed that it initially agreed to work with a South Korean animation studio on its series. The studio added that it stopped working with the South Korean company after discovering that it was subcontracting work to other companies in the country.

While it may sound shocking, North Korean animators working for Western studios isn't new. At the beginning of the century, Pyongyang had production studios from both France and Italy as clients, although that was before current sanctions. Invincible just finished streaming its second season on Prime Video to great fanfare. Season three is on the way.

Sources | France Press, CNN

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