January 28, 2023

The makers behind the animated satire show South Park have raised $20 million for their deepfake and artificial intelligence studio, Deep Voodoo, per Variety.

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Matt Stone and Trey Parker op

It represents the group’s first outside funding, the outlet noted — the company previously funneled capital from the Park County entertainment company, owned by the animated show’s creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

South Park, the adult animated comedy series, has been running since 1997 and has just completed its 25th season. The show has been renewed for projects continuing through 2027. The creators said in 1998 that they were in the process of letting people go: “‘What the f[—] is this?'”

In 2020, Stone and Parker began working on what they hoped would be a full-length film about deepfakes. But once the pandemic hit, the project turned into the much shorter — but highly viral — satire video called “Sassy Justice with Fred Sassy,” which poked fun at figures like Mark Zuckerberg and then-President Donald Trump.

But it is an expensive affair. The 15-minute video cost the couple “millions” (including the initial investment that didn’t materialize due to the pandemic) and was “probably the most expensive YouTube video ever made,” Parker told the outlet.

Still, after the YouTube video, the duo decided to continue their deepfake work. Now, the company has raised a $20 million round led by Connect Ventures, a partnership between talent and media agency CAA and a venture capital firm, New Enterprise Associates (NEA).

“Connect Ventures is pleased to lead the investment in Deep Voodoo and provide unique access to CAA and NEA’s resources and relationships,” Michael Blank, CAA’s consumer investment leader, said in a statement Tuesday.

Deepfakes are videos that imitate another person’s appearance or face, and the technology has alarmed disinformation experts. The term seems to have been coined on Reddit.

Related: The Elon Musk Deepfake Was a Joke. But there may be more celebrity face fakes to come

“Deepfakes could still be poised to corrupt the basic ways we process reality — or what’s left of it,” The Atlantic wrote Tuesday.

Stone, meanwhile, said he hopes the technology will support artists.

“We came across this amazing technology and ended up recruiting the best deepfake artists in the world,” said Stone. “We’re excited to share their brilliance with Hollywood’s creative community.”

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