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Salad Fingers creator never meant for the seriously creepy character to be scary

Salad Fingers creator never meant for the seriously creepy character to be scary

David Firth speaks to LADbible about the quintessentially creepy noughties cartoon series.

If you’ve spent any time online during the last decade, you’ll surely have come across Salad Fingers – the quintessentially creepy cartoon character with a love for rusty spoons who first took the internet by storm back in the 2000s.

Now creator David Firth has opened up about the cartoon’s origin story and some of the inspiration behind it.

“[It was] a comment that my friend made and then I just sort of made a cartoon based on that comment,” the Doncaster-born artist tells LADbible, referencing a time he was playing guitar at a friend’s house.

“He just said, yeah you've got salad fingers. I don't know what he meant. He probably doesn't know what he meant!”

The cartoon initially went viral back in 2004, during a pre-algorithm and even pre-YouTube era on websites like Newgrounds, and was primarily shared via email and instant messaging.

“It's weird to think how primitive the technology was,” David says of that era. “I think you might have had to copy the link from MSN Messenger into your browser. Before the days when you could even have multiple tabs.”

Part of the cartoon’s appeal and virality was undoubtedly its unsettling nature, especially to kids, but David reveals that he never actually intended for Salad Fingers to be scary.

Salad Fingers creator David Firth has opened up about the cartoon's success.
David Firth

“I don't really think about that as being an appeal,” he says. “I don't think 'people are going to be scared by this', but kids are. It's hard to think like a little kid. Kids are scared, and they'll share something that's scary.”

Eighteen years on, David continues to expand the Salad Fingers universe with intermittent new episodes, with the latest iteration, Salad Fingers 12, involving the titular character seducing a dog corpse – a reboot of an idea that he says first came to him all the way back in 2004.

“That was one of the first ideas we had,” he explains. “I think the original idea was that the dog was too forward. The dog was trying to move things too quickly, and he was a little bit embarrassed, he wants to take things a bit slower.”

David also recently took Salad Fingers on tour, treating fans to a complete screening of the show’s episodes, and since the pandemic has been streaming frequently on Twitch, allowing his audience to watch his animation come to life in real time.

David has recently amassed a substantial TikTok following with over 789,900 likes and millions of views across his videos, many of which feature the Royal Family.

Salad Fingers first went viral back in 2004.
David Firth/ Salad Fingers

“I took a video of Prince Philip and made his mouth move and I put my own voice in,” he explains, referencing a comedic video with over 9 million views where ‘Prince Philip’ complains about a child’s inability to write.

Another video made shortly after the death of Queen Elizabeth II involves King Charles struggling with a pen, before exclaiming “Being King is b*llocks – I’m f*cking done with this sh*t’.

As well as these deepfakes, David continues to upload Salad Fingers clips on TikTok for an entire new generation to discover. “That's probably a good thing to sort of like subliminally, subconsciously plant seeds of Salad Fingers in their brains,” he laughs.

Continuing a long running series for over a decade is pretty impressive, but it makes sense that the process might begin to feel stale and formulaic. As well as using AI in his deepfakes, David admits he’s started experimenting with AI image generators in order to bring a new dimension to his animation – one that is as unpredictable and unsettling to him as it is to Salad Fingers’ younger fanbase.

David says he doesn't see the cartoon as being scary.
David Firth/ Salad Fingers

“If you draw something, you can't really make a drawing that scares you because you know what everything is.” he explains. AI generators eradicate this problem by providing unique, one-of-a-kind images that David can incorporate into existing designs and animation.

“[AI’s] got me excited because I can make a place that actually scares me, or at least has that sort of dreamlike mystery to it.”

Although excited by the prospect of AI, David isn’t worried about it replacing the role of traditional artists and animators. “AI can only look at art that's been made and photos that have been taken. It can't take its own life experience and add it into the mix,” he says.

“Maybe when we do, we'll have one that can actually create new art from its own experiences. But then again, I still can't picture how an AI would gather life experience, unless we sent out drones, like little tiny AI drones we threw out into the world.”

Looks like we won’t be seeing Salad Fingers in the metaverse anytime soon either.

“It's like Second Life or something that is,” he remarks. “I remember when the PlayStation 3 had something called PlayStation Home. And they were like, ‘It’s gonna be an interactive world, you can walk around and hang out with all your friends’ and it was just a bunch of like, crap avatars in a city. That was 12 years ago or something. And now we've got the metaverse, it looks exactly the same.”

He does, however, remain optimistic about similar concepts that might come and build on Zuckerberg’s idea in the future.

“I do hope it works, I don't hope it's a failure,” he admits. “I do think there's potential in a virtual world, I just think that one looks crap.”

Featured Image Credit: David Firth/ Salad Fingers