Even the friendliest, furriest cartoon characters might seem a little disconcerting if you saw them in the flesh. Many of these un-tooned ’toons, however, look like they’ve been plucked from our screens and delivered straight into our nightmares. And whether they’re darkly disturbing Disney darlings or seriously sinister sitcom stars, they’ve all been sculpted, painted and digitally remastered into freakishly lifelike forms. Most of them, in fact, are more than a little unsettling to look at…
This geriatric Tweety, for example, cuts a forlorn figure on his perch in this disturbing piece by mystery guerrilla street artist Banksy. This sculpture appeared in London’s Parliament Square in 2009, with the once-chirpy cartoon character sitting un-tooned and considerably aged in what many interpret as a comment on animal captivity.
Blogger Pixeloo used Photoshop to bring Homer Simpson to life, giving the iconic yellow skin of the Simpsons character a more realistic flesh-like quality while, on the other hand, choosing to retain his bulging eyeballs. “These aren’t studies of what Homer would look like if he was a real person,” explained Pixeloo next to his work, “it’s just what a cartoon-like Homer would look like if he kept his toon proportions but had realistic texturing and lighting.”
This is Toy Story’s spacefaring hero Buzz Lightyear in incredibly human – and actually rather handsome – form. Artist Raoni Nery took inspiration from the sci-fi game StarCraft for the ultra-lifelike impression, which has unsurprisingly bagged him several awards. Nery, moreover, used a combination of 3ds Max, ZBrush and Photoshop to complete the digital portrait, which he has said on his website is “the image that Buzz [would] have of himself – a true real space ranger, not only a toy.”
Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth
Futurama’s mad scientist Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth looks even madder in the flesh. This pretty disconcerting piece is the computerized handiwork of digital genius Carlos Lopez, and a lot of effort and talent went into getting the wrinkly Prof just right. First, Lopez had to draw a rough outline of the character. Then, he used a rendering tool to add layers and texture – giving this awesome 3D effect – before fine-tuning the piece on Photoshop.
Artist Rick Baker used a technique called “ZBrushing” and 3D printing to achieve this hyper-realistic sculpture of everyone’s favorite spinach-loving sailor. The ZBrush allows digital artists to basically sculpt on screen, using a mixture of 3D modeling and more traditional 2D paint software. And here, it’s helped bring Popeye to life in all his wrinkly, weather-beaten glory – warts and all.
Pixeloo makes another appearance on the list with this realistic rendering of Family Guy’s infant badass Stewie Griffin. However, the artist has subsequently revealed that he found Homer Simpson a little easier to bring to life, simply because the absence of wrinkles and imperfections on little Stewie’s baby-smooth face means he inevitably ends up looking more cartoonish.
Philip J. Fry
Futurama’s dim-witted delivery boy Philip J. Fry looks even more dozy in the flesh. Spanish superfan Miguel Miranda created the piece using a variety of 3D graphics software, and the character now looks very human indeed – if a little bit sweaty.
Here’s one Pokémon you possibly wouldn’t want to catch. This pretty aggressive-looking Pikachu is the work of 3D animators Colorbleed Studios. The fictional creature was sculpted in incredible detail using 3D-modeling software, with artists paying close attention to every nuance – from the creases around its eyes to the kinks in its tail.
This 3D silicone model of Sesame Street favorite Bert is probably a little too creepy for the kids. Spanish artist Nacho Diaz went to painstaking trouble to bring Ernie’s best friend to life, adding intricate details such as bloodshot eyes.
This terrifying rendering of Stitch, from the 2002 movie Lilo and Stitch, imagines a darker side to the Disney animation. In fact, Lilo’s canine pal is looking considerably less pettable in the flesh. Berlin-dwelling concept artist Boris Kiselicki is the man behind this slightly unnerving masterwork.
Groundskeeper Willie has always been one of The Simpsons’ most grotesque characters. Even so, there’s something particularly ghastly about this three-dimensional reimagining by digital artist Amroosi. For it, he expertly used digital software to give the cantankerous Scot realistic creases, popping veins and a brilliantly textured beard.
This lifelike rendering of steam-pumping Majin Boo from the Japanese comic and video game series Dragon Ball is simply incredible. After all, the pink-fleshed Manga character looks altogether too real, albeit not quite human. And extra marks to the artist for gruesomely illustrating the character’s unconventional talent.
Everyone’s favourite cartoon rodent-turned-corporate icon treads a fine line between lovable and loathsome in this freakish depiction. Mickey Mouse was brought to life by Andy of How To Be A Dad, who admitted to creating “a nightmare-fuel image of what a mouse would look like if there was a species that looked like our favorite jamboree-leading rodent.”
The world guffawed when Shinzo Abe appeared as “Super Mario” at the 2016 Rio Olympics closing ceremony. Yet the Japanese Prime Minister was eight years late, as Pixeloo created this brilliant three-dimensional version of the gaming icon way back in 2008. Sorry, PM, but we prefer Pixeloo’s version.
This frighteningly realistic “hero in a half shell” comes courtesy of Pakistani concept artist Adnan Ali. The very muscular – and rather grumpy looking – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle was digitally sculpted using ZBrush technology. Ali then used Photoshop to add further detail to the waxy reptile.
SpongeBob SquarePants’ neighbor Squidward Tentacles looks typically unimpressed to be out of the ocean and walking around as a two-legged human. This disconcerting creation is the work of a ZBrush and Photoshop-wielding digital artist who goes by the name of HabibityNickerson.
Another SpongeBob SquarePants favorite, Patrick Star, gets a digital makeover in this quite disturbing piece of fan art. German illustrator Thorsten Denk fleshed out the starfish to make him look uncomfortably human – and then decided to give him squinty eyes, a double chin and an exceptionally creepy grin to boot.
Peanuts character Charlie Brown has never been one of life’s optimists, but he’s looking particularly pessimistic, bordering on suicidal, in this digital painting by artist Tim O’Brien. It was created for an exhibition titled Monsters?. We think that’s rather apt.
In case anyone was ever in any doubt, here’s proof that Beavis and Butt-Head are two juvenile delinquents you’d never want to meet in real life. Special effects pro Kevin Kirkpatrick created scarily lifelike busts of the gormless teens for a 2012 exhibition entitled Conjoined 2. In some neighborhoods, this Butt-Head is perhaps a little too familiar looking for comfort. And of course, no Butt-Head would be complete without his equally incompetent counterpart, either…
If there’s one thing more terrifying than a real-life Butt-Head, it’s a real-life Beavis. Kirkpatrick – whose talents have been put to use on films such as Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and The Avengers – has managed to bring out a more sinister side to the animated sitcom star, not least by giving him crazed eyes and a mad mop of hair.