Now, Calm offers a soothing bedtime story narrated by the iconic Jimmy Stewart, aiming to guide listeners into a restful night’s sleep. Recognized for its Sleep Stories featuring celebrities like Harry Styles and Idris Elba, the mindfulness app has collaborated with the AI company Respeecher to resurrect Stewart’s distinctive voice. Exclusive to Premium subscribers, the new Sleep Story, titled “It’s a Wonderful Sleep Story,” is introduced by Calm as “a heartwarming new holiday tale.”
Jimmy Stewart, renowned for his roles in major films, including “It’s a Wonderful Life,” was celebrated for his calming voice and signature drawl. Tina Xavie, Chief Marketing Officer of CMG Worldwide (managing Stewart’s estate), expressed that the AI recreation aligns seamlessly with Calm’s bedtime series. Respeecher utilized old recordings of Stewart, merging them with a voice actor’s rendition of the story to create an authentic experience.
The AI-generated Stewart opens with a welcoming introduction: “Hello, I’m James Stewart, but you can call me Jimmy. Tonight I’m going to tell you a story.” He then encourages listeners to get comfortable and sets the stage for “a heartwarming story of love, of loss, of hope and of joy, but most of all — it’s a wonderful sleep story.”
As reported by Variety, the project secured approval from both Stewart’s family and his estate. While this initiative was developed with the explicit consent of the involved parties, the increasing use of AI to replicate the voices of celebrities and public figures has ignited ethical discussions. Instances of unauthorized utilization of likenesses or voices, such as those of Drake, Tom Hanks, and Gayle King, have fueled these debates.
The It’s a Wonderful Sleep Story has faced criticism on social media platforms, with users on X (formerly Twitter) branding it as “despicable” and “terrifying.” One user expressed skepticism, stating there was “no way Jimmy Stewart would be okay with AI using his voice.”
Despite the social media backlash, Stewart’s family is pleased to witness his legacy endure. In a statement, Kelly Stewart Harcourt, one of Stewart’s daughters, remarked, “It’s amazing what technology can do and wonderful to see Dad’s legacy live on this holiday season in new ways.”