Jimmy Stewart can now send you off to a blissful night's rest with a Calm bedtime story. The mindfulness app is known for its Sleep Stories, read by celebrities including Harry Styles and Idris Elba, to help users drift off to dreamland. To revive Stewart's iconic voice Calm has collaborated with AI company Respeecher. The new It’s a Wonderful Sleep Story, which Calm has dubbed “a heartwarming new holiday tale,” is now available for Premium subscribers.
Stewart starred in several major films (including It’s a Wonderful Life) and was known for his signature drawl and calming voice. Tina Xavie, chief marketing officer of CMG Worldwide (the company that manages Stewart's estate) said that makes this AI recreation a great fit for Calm's bedtime series. Folks at Respeecher trained its system with old recordings of the star and merged them with a voice actor's rendition of the story.
"Hello, I'm James Stewart, but you can call me Jimmy. Tonight I'm going to tell you a story," the AI-generated Stewart begins, before urging listeners to get nice and comfortable. “It’s a heartwarming story of love, of loss, of hope and of joy, but most of all — it’s a wonderful sleep story.”
According to Variety, the project received the green light from both Stewart’s family and his estate. While this project was created with consent from the necessary parties, the growing use of AI to replicate voices of celebrities and other public figures has sparked ethical debates. There have been several instances of unauthorized use of likenesses or voices, including that of Drake, Tom Hanks and Gayle King.
The It’s a Wonderful Sleep Story has also been receiving some backlash on social media. Users on X (formerly Twitter) have called it "despicable" and "terrifying" with one user saying there was "no way Jimmy Stewart would be okay with AI using his voice."
Despite the backlash, Stewart’s family is happy to see his legacy live on. In a statement, Kelly Stewart Harcourt, one of Stewart’s daughters, said “It’s amazing what technology can do and wonderful to see Dad’s legacy live on this holiday season in new ways.”