Illustration by Sally Thurer

Excerpt from this article:

The creators of Zoobe intended to make their program cute, clean and simple: a mobile app that turns voice recordings into 3-D animated videos, starring woodland creatures with gigantic heads. It was introduced in 2013 as a playful alternative to text messaging and quickly became a hit on its home turf in Germany. Users record brief messages on their smartphones, and anthropomorphic beings recite them back, in a video that can be shared with friends or posted online…

While they talk, Zoobe characters dance and undulate in a disturbingly sensual manner, making the videos exploitable in a way that the Internet tends to quickly discover. Earlier this year, when English-language Zoobe videos began surfacing on American Twitter, YouTube and Tumblr feeds, the Zoobe menagerie adopted a saltier vocabulary.

…‘‘The juxtaposition between the character’s appearance and the horrible things I have it say makes it 10 times funnier… the language got more foul, because as it turns out, it’s hysterical to watch cute, fuzzy little characters yelling obscenities or spewing dark humor.’’