This holiday season will be more relaxed than happy, with Jimmy Stewart’s iconic southern drawl returning in a new bedtime story for the Calm mental health app.
The late and legendary star of the holiday classic film “It’s a Wonderful Life” has been brought back to life thanks to artificial intelligence. On Tuesday, in a deal with Beverly Hills-based CMG Worldwide, Calm announced it was bringing Stewart back to narrate “It’s a Wonderful Bedtime Story.”
Calling the story a tale of love, loss, and hope, Calm said “Calm users can drift off to sleep with the soothing, iconic voice of the late, beloved Hollywood actor Jimmy Stewart.”
The collaboration was made possible using Ukraine-based AI developer Respeecher’s generative AI-voice platform.
The family and estate of Jimmy Stewart, managed by CMG Worldwide, agreed to participate in the project. Other iconic CMG Worldwide “clients” include Rebel Without a Cause stars James Dean and Natalie Wood, Bettie Page, Clark Gable, Christopher Reeves, Flip Wilson, and Hedy Lamarr.
“In all these cases, we work on each of these lands, and we determine through the use of technology, what is more meaningful, and usually a case-by-case conversation,” said by CMG vice president and CTO Travis Cloyd. Decrypt. “There are so many factors at stake: what are the platforms we’re working on? What kind of content does someone like Hedy Lamarr have to say? Or what kind of content does she have? And then those decisions are made [by] to the right stakeholders.”
A futurist and Senior Fellow at Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management, Cloyd is also the CEO of CMG’s virtual reality division, CMG Worldwide XR. Cloyd notes the complexity of creating digital content of this nature, saying that the process varies based on the medium or experience requested, which can range from deep fakes or a 2D movie to immersive 3D. experiences, based on campaign goals.
“Calm is a unique platform and media company, and just as you pitch movies or documentaries to a platform like Netflix or Amazon, you have the opportunity to present content with recognizable voice synthesis—and Jimmy Stewart is a very recognizable voice,” Cloyd added. .
Born in 1908, Stewart is known for his warm manner of speaking and for playing the “everyman” in films such as “It’s a Wonderful Life” by Frank Capra (1946), Rear Window by Alfred Hitchcock (1954), and Vertigo (1958). Stewart is also a military veteran, serving in the US Army and Air Force. In 1959, he was promoted to the rank of brigadier general. Stewart died in 1997.
“We’re always exploring new technologies and new ways to continue the legacies of every group we work with,” Cloyd said. “Sometimes the families of the estates have no interest in pursuing this kind of tech or even using AI for anything, and sometimes the families of the estates are very strong on it.”
While Stewart’s return is credited to AI, Calm also features bedtime stories by real and still-living actors, including Matthew McConaughey, Peaky Blinders and Oppenheimer star Cillian Murphy, Star Trek’s Lavar Burton, Harriet’s Cynthia Erivo, and Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty star Idris Elba.
In October, Reespecher engaged Cyberpunk 2077 developer CD Projekt Red (CDPR) to recreate Ripperdoc Viktor Vektor’s voice for Phantom Liberty after voice actor Miłogost “Milek” Reczek died in 2021.
As with Stewart’s voice, Reczek’s family allowed CDPR to use AI to bring the actor to life for one more gig.
“Miłek’s sons were very supportive and gave us their permission to continue the project,” a CD Projekt Red representative previously said. Decrypt.
Last month, legendary rock band The Beatles released their “last song,” ‘Now and Then,’ which included the AI-generated voices and musical styles of John Lennon and George Harrison along with two surviving band members, Paul McCartney. and Ringo Starr.
While studios have turned to AI to bring die-hard entertainers back from the dead, the reception hasn’t always been positive.
Last October, players protested the use of AI by Embark Studios, creators of the first-person shooter “The Finals.”
“The reason we’re going this route is that [text-to-speech] ultimately extremely powerful,” said Embark Studios audio director Andreas Almström during an episode of the Meet the Makers podcast. “It gives us enough in terms of quality and allows us to be more reactive to new ideas and keep things fresh.”