An American company says it has deciphered the formula for making an episode of South Park using artificial intelligence – and it allows users to be the star of the show.
Fable Simulation has created an AI tool capable of creating original brief episodes of the cartoon. “Not just the dialogues. He animates, he does the voices, he does the editing,” the company’s chief executive, Edward Saatchi, told the GamesBeat website.
The tool, called AI Showrunner, allows users to enter a one or two-sentence prompt which then generates an episode and can create a character based on the user’s appearance and voice.
Generative AI, the catch-all term for technology systems that produce compelling text and images from prompts, has captured the public imagination since the launch of ChatGPT in November. He was also instrumental in getting Hollywood actors to join writers on the picket lines on salaries, technology and how to split profits in the age of digital streaming.
Saatchi stressed that the South Park tool, produced without copyright clearance, was for research use only and would not be available for public use.
“We did the South Park episode as an example and for research into generative television. We don’t want to take advantage of it and we don’t offer others to do so. We realized it was difficult to illustrate how the model works without comparison,” he said.
He added that the show’s creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, as well as the show’s broadcaster, Paramount-owned Comedy Central, had not been approached about the experience.
Last year, Parker and Stone said they had secured a $20 million investment for their own AI-powered entertainment company, Deep Voodoo, which creates “cutting-edge deepfake technology, profitable visual effects services, and original synthetic media projects,” according to its website.
This year, South Park released an episode partially written using ChatGPT. In the fourth episode of Season 26, titled Deep Learning, students at the town school explore new technologies that can do their homework for them. The episode features voices that were created by an AI-powered text-to-speech generator.
The potentially transformative role of generative AI in television and film has been a major concern among writers and actors participating in the Hollywood strike. Fran Drescher, president of the SAG-AFTRA union, said when announcing the strike last month: “This is a historic moment… We are all going to be threatened with being replaced by machines.”
A letter signed by more than 300 actors, including the likes of Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence, reiterated members’ concerns about AI.
Copyright proves bone of contention around creating AI models, and Saatchi stressed that he would work with intellectual property owners before allowing such technology to become publicly available.
“We are talking with several studios and IP holders to potentially use this with their IP to allow fans to create shows,” he said. “We think for any show, fans can create their own episodes, potentially even competitively, with permission from the intellectual property holders — we think that can lead to something interesting.”
South Park Studios has been contacted for comment.