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Documents show North Korean animators worked on Prime Video, Cartoon Network shows

Files also included completed video footage from a BBC children's television program.

Files also included completed video footage from a BBC children's television program.

A North Korean animator works on a television series. (Still frame via Korea Central Television)
A North Korean animator works on a television series. (Still frame via Korea Central Television)

Researchers have unearthed a trove of documents that show animators in North Korea contributed to shows that were distributed by Amazon and Warner Bros Discovery’s (WBD) media outlets.

The documents, discovered on a misconfigured server tied to a North Korean network, showed animators worked on programs like the Prime Video cartoon “Invincible” and the Cartoon Network show “Iyanu: Child of Wonder.”

Researchers who spoke with the tech publication Wired said it was unlikely the production companies at the center of the shows — Skybound Entertainment and YouNeek Studios — and the American media companies that distributed the programs were aware that animators from North Korea helped contribute to them.

Instead, the researchers proffer that the involvement of North Korean animators proved the country was able to successfully circumvent economic sanctions imposed by the United States to generate its own income.

A cell from the Prime Video series "Invincible" that was found on a misconfigured server associated with a North Korean organization. (Courtesy image)
A cell from the Prime Video series “Invincible” that was found on a misconfigured server associated with a North Korean organization. (Courtesy image)

A spokesperson with Skybound said it was working with authorities on the matter, and denied any foreknowledge that anyone in North Korea was working on its products.

“We do not work with North Korean companies, or any affiliated entities, and have no knowledge of any North Korean companies working on our animation,” the spokesperson said in a social media post. ” Our policies strictly prohibit any subcontracting to any third-party without our express prior written consent, which, in this case, was neither sought nor granted. We also mandate that all our service providers fully comply with all applicable rules and regulations and prohibit disclosures of materials by our service providers to third parties.”

Officials with Amazon, WBD and YouNeek Studios have not commented on the matter.

Researchers say it is likely that North Korea used a front company in China to contribute to the shows. Those researchers found evidence that the server where the documents were stored was access from three different Chinese cities, all of which are “known to have many North Korean-operated businesses and are main centers for North Korea’s I.T. workers who live overseas.”

Other documents were found on the server as well, including video files from the BBC children’s program “Octonauts,” though researchers said those videos “appeared to be completed” and that it was “possible these were not worked on by the animators.”

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 10 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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