‘Creepy’ AI reimagines South Park characters as real people

South Park fans have been left divided over a “creepy” deepfake recreation of the show’s animated characters as real people set in an Eighties sitcom.

The Berlin-based artificial intelligence (AI) artist known as “demonflyingfox” used deepfake technology to depict what Eric Cartman, Kyle Broflovski, Stan Marsh, and Kenny McCormick would look like if they were played by real actors on the sets of a live-action sitcom, which is on its 27th season.

The artist also recreated characters like Mr Mackey, delivering his infamous “drugs are bad” dialogue, as well as Stan’s father Randy Marsh, fourth-grader Timmy Burch, and Mr Garrison, in a YouTube video that has resurfaced on Reddit.

Deepfakes are photos and videos that have been digitally manipulated or altered using AI or machine learning.

Reacting to the YouTube video, some users suggested the deepfake versions were “creepy and weird” while others said the recreations were “on point”.

“’Yeah make them blink, that will make them less creepy, for sure,’” one user wrote sarcastically, referring to the unsettling way in which the characters continue blinking through the entirety of the video.

A more nuanced criticism of the video read: “Randy, Stan, and Mr Slave are absolutely spot on. As much as I want to like Kenny, it botched too many details – he’s supposed to have blond hair and wear a parka, not a hoodie.”

“I’m still in awe,” a third comment read, while another person noted something about the video feels “oddly unnerving”.

“Just the fact that these faces that look real, and move around but don’t really exist gives me this weird creepy feeling,” they added.

Deepfake of Eric Cartman as a character on an Eighties sitcom (YouTube/demonflyingfox)
Deepfake of Eric Cartman as a character on an Eighties sitcom (YouTube/demonflyingfox)

The artist “demonflyingfox” also shared the images on Instagram, with one person noting the deepfake characters “all look old and young at the same time”.

Last year, an American company created an AI tool that would allow users to create their own episodes of the long-running cartoon show.

US tech company Fable Simulation said the tool, AI Showrunner, only requires a one or two-sentence prompt to generate a brand new South Park episode – including creating an original character based on the user’s voice and appearance.

“Not just the dialogue. It animates, it does the voices, it does the editing,” British businessman and Fable’s chief executive Edward Saatchi told GamesBeat.

He added the tool was purely for research and will not be released publicly, adding “we don’t want to profit from it”.

The artist known as “demonflyingfox” regularly shares AI-generated art, including reimagining Harry Potter characters as Balenciaga models, a French version of iconic Batman villain The Joker, and an all-female cast of Breaking Bad including Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman’s (Aaron Paul) characters.