SpongeBob SquarePants is an American animated television series created by marine science educator and animator Stephen Hillenburg for Nickelodeon. The series chronicles the adventures and endeavors of the title character and his various friends in the fictional underwater city of Bikini Bottom. The fifth-longest-running American animated series, its popularity has made it a media franchise, as well as the highest rated series to ever air on Nickelodeon, and the most distributed property of Viacom Media Networks. As of late 2017, the media franchise has generated $13 billion in merchandising revenue for Nickelodeon.
|Created by||Stephen Hillenburg|
|Narrated by||Tom Kenny (various episodes)|
|Theme music composer||Derek Drymon|
|Opening theme||"SpongeBob SquarePants Theme", performed by Patrick Pinney|
|Ending theme||"SpongeBob Closing Theme", composed by Steve Belfer|
Brad Carow (1999–2002)
The Blue Hawaiians (1999–2002)
Eban Schletter (2000–present)
Barry Anthony Trop (2006–13)
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||12|
|No. of episodes||245 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||11 minutes (regular episodes only)|
22 minutes (special episodes only)
|Distributor||Viacom Media Networks|
|Original release||May 1, 1999 –|
|Related shows||Rocko's Modern Life|
Many of the ideas for the series originated in an unpublished educational comic book titled The Intertidal Zone, which Hillenburg created in 1989. He began developing SpongeBob SquarePants into a television series in 1996 upon the cancellation of Rocko's Modern Life, and turned to Tom Kenny, who had worked with him on that series, to voice the title character. SpongeBob was originally going to be named SpongeBoy, and the series was to be called SpongeBoy Ahoy!, but both of these were changed, as the name was already trademarked.
Nickelodeon held a preview for the series in the United States on May 1, 1999, following the television airing of the 1999 Kids' Choice Awards. The series officially premiered on July 17, 1999. It has received worldwide critical acclaim since its premiere and gained enormous popularity by its second season. A feature film, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, was released in theaters on November 19, 2004. A sequel followed on February 6, 2015, as well as a third film coming out May 22, 2020. In 2018, the series began airing its twelfth season.
The series has won a variety of awards, including six Annie Awards, eight Golden Reel Awards, four Emmy Awards, 16 Kids' Choice Awards, and two BAFTA Children's Awards. Despite its widespread popularity, the series has been involved in several public controversies, including one centered on speculation over SpongeBob's intended sexual orientation. In 2011, a newly described species of fungus, Spongiforma squarepantsii, was named after the cartoon's title character. A Broadway musical based on the series opened in 2017 to critical acclaim, and a spin-off series titled Kamp Koral is currently in development.
The series primarily takes place in the benthic underwater city of Bikini Bottom, which is located in the Pacific Ocean beneath the real-life coral reef known as Bikini Atoll. In 2015, Tom Kenny confirmed that the fictitious city was named after Bikini Atoll, but denied an Internet fan theory that connected the series' characters to actual nuclear testing that occurred in the atoll. The citizens are mainly multicolored fish who live in buildings made from ship funnels and use "boatmobiles," amalgamations of cars and boats, as a mode of transportation. Recurring locations within Bikini Bottom include the neighboring houses of SpongeBob, Patrick, and Squidward; two competing restaurants, the Krusty Krab and the Chum Bucket; Mrs. Puff's Boating School, which includes a driving course and a sunken lighthouse building; the Treedome, an oxygenated glass enclosure where Sandy lives; Shady Shoals Rest Home; a seagrass meadow called Jellyfish Fields; and Goo Lagoon, a subaqueous brine pool that is a popular beach hangout.
When the SpongeBob crew began production on the series' pilot episode, they were tasked with designing the stock locations where "the show would return to again and again, and in which most of the action would take place, such as the Krusty Krab and SpongeBob's pineapple house". The idea for the series was "to keep everything nautical", so the crew used a great amount of rope, wooden planks, ships' wheels, netting, anchors, boilerplates, and rivets in creating the show's setting. Transitions between scenes are marked by bubbles filling up the screen, accompanied by the sound of water rushing.
The series features "sky flowers" as a main setting material. They first appeared in the pilot and have since become a common feature throughout the series. When series background designer Kenny Pittenger was asked what they were, he answered, "They function as clouds in a way, but since the show takes place underwater, they aren't really clouds. Because of the tiki influence on the show, the background painters use a lot of pattern." Pittenger said that the sky flowers were meant to "evoke the look of a flower-print Hawaiian shirt".
The series revolves around the title character and an ensemble cast of his aquatic friends. SpongeBob SquarePants is an energetic and optimistic sea sponge who physically resembles a rectangular kitchen sponge. He lives in a submerged pineapple with his pet snail Gary, who meows like a cat. SpongeBob has a childlike enthusiasm for life, which carries over to his job as a fry cook at a fast food restaurant called the Krusty Krab. His greatest goal in life is to receive a license to drive a boatmobile. His favorite pastimes include "jellyfishing," which involves catching jellyfish with a net in a manner similar to butterfly catching, and blowing soap bubbles into elaborate shapes.
Living two houses down from SpongeBob is his best friend Patrick Star, a dim-witted yet friendly pink starfish who resides under a rock. Despite his mental setbacks, Patrick still sees himself as intelligent. Squidward Tentacles, SpongeBob's next-door neighbor and co-worker at the Krusty Krab, is an arrogant and ill-tempered octopus who lives in an Easter Island moai. He enjoys playing the clarinet and painting self-portraits, but hates his job as a cashier and dislikes living between SpongeBob and Patrick, due to their childish nature. The owner of the Krusty Krab is a miserly red crab named Mr. Krabs who talks like a sailor and runs his restaurant as if it were a pirate ship. Mr. Krabs is a single parent with one teenage daughter, a sperm whale named Pearl, to whom he wants to pass down his riches. Pearl does not want to continue the family business and would rather spend her time listening to pop music or working at the local shopping mall. Another friend of SpongeBob is Sandy Cheeks, a thrill-seeking and athletic squirrel from Texas, who wears an air-filled diving suit to breathe underwater. She lives in an oak tree entrapped in a clear glass dome locked by an airtight, hand-turned seal and is an expert in karate, as well as a scientist.
Located across the street from the Krusty Krab is an unsuccessful rival restaurant called the Chum Bucket. It is run by a small green copepod named Plankton and his waterproof supercomputer, Karen. Plankton constantly tries to steal the secret recipe for Mr. Krabs's popular Krabby Patty burgers, hoping to gain the upper hand and put the Krusty Krab out of business. Karen supplies him with evil schemes to take the formula, but their efforts are never successful and their restaurant rarely gets any customers. When SpongeBob is not working at the Krusty Krab, he is often taking boat-driving lessons from Mrs. Puff, a paranoid but very patient pufferfish. SpongeBob is Mrs. Puff's most diligent student and knows every answer to the oral exams he takes, but he panics and crashes whenever he tries to drive a real boat. When Mrs. Puff endures one of SpongeBob's crashes or is otherwise frightened, she puffs up into a ball.
Special episodes of the show are hosted by a live action pirate named Patchy and his pet parrot Potty, whose segments are presented in a dual narrative with the animated stories. Patchy is portrayed as the president of a fictional SpongeBob fan club, and his greatest aspiration is to meet SpongeBob himself. Potty likes to make fun of Patchy's enthusiasm and causes trouble for him while he tries to host the show. An unseen figure called the French Narrator often introduces episodes and narrates the intertitles as if the series was a nature documentary about the ocean. His role and distinctive manner of speaking are references to the oceanographer Jacques Cousteau.
Recurring guest characters appear throughout the series, such as the retired superheroes Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy, who are idolized by SpongeBob and Patrick; a pirate specter known as the Flying Dutchman; the muscular lifeguard of Goo Lagoon, Larry the Lobster; and the merman god of the sea, King Neptune.
Series creator Stephen Hillenburg first became fascinated with the ocean as a child. He also began developing his artistic abilities at a young age. Although these two interests would not overlap with each other for a long time—the idea of drawing fish seemed boring to him—Hillenburg pursued both during college, receiving a major in marine biology and a minor in art. After graduating in 1984, he joined the Ocean Institute, an organization in Dana Point, California, dedicated to educating the public about marine science and maritime history.
While Hillenburg was there, his love of the ocean began to influence his artistry. He created a precursor to SpongeBob SquarePants: a comic book titled The Intertidal Zone, which was used by the institute to teach visiting students about the animal life of tide pools. The comic starred various anthropomorphic sea lifeforms, many of which would evolve into SpongeBob SquarePants characters. Hillenburg tried to get the comic professionally published, but none of the companies that he sent it to were interested.
While working as a staff artist at the Ocean Institute, Hillenburg entertained plans of eventually returning to college for a master's degree in art. Before this could materialize, he attended an animation festival, which inspired him to make a slight change in course. Instead of continuing his education with a traditional art program, Hillenburg chose to study experimental animation at the California Institute of the Arts. His thesis film, Wormholes, is about the theory of relativity. It was screened at festivals, and at one of these, Hillenburg met Joe Murray, creator of the popular Nickelodeon animated series, Rocko's Modern Life. Murray was impressed by the style of the film and offered Hillenburg a job. Hillenburg joined the series as a director and later, during the fourth season, he took on the roles of producer and creative director.
Martin Olson, one of the writers for Rocko's Modern Life, read The Intertidal Zone and encouraged Hillenburg to create a television series with a similar concept. At that point, Hillenburg had not even considered creating his own series. However, he realized that if he ever did, this would be the best approach. He began to further develop some of the characters from The Intertidal Zone, including the comic's "announcer", Bob the Sponge. He wanted his series to stand out from most popular cartoons of the time, which he felt were exemplified by buddy comedies such as The Ren & Stimpy Show. As a result, Hillenburg decided to focus on a single main character: the "weirdest" sea creature that he could think of. This led him to the sponge. The Intertidal Zone's Bob the Sponge resembles an actual sea sponge, and at first, Hillenburg continued to utilize this design. In determining the new character's behavior, Hillenburg drew inspiration from innocent, childlike figures that he enjoyed, such as Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, Jerry Lewis, and Pee-wee Herman. He then considered modeling the character after a kitchen sponge and realized that this idea would perfectly match the character's square personality. Patrick, Mr. Krabs, Pearl, and Squidward were the first other characters Hillenburg created for the show.
To voice the central character of the series, Hillenburg turned to Tom Kenny, whose career in animation had started alongside Hillenburg's on Rocko's Modern Life. Elements of Kenny's own personality were employed in further developing the character. Initially, Hillenburg wanted to use the name SpongeBoy—the character would have had no last name, and the series would have been called SpongeBoy Ahoy! However, the Nickelodeon legal department discovered—after voice acting had been completed for the original seven-minute pilot episode—that the name "SpongeBoy" was already in use for a mop product. A character of the same name was also already trademarked by Flaming Carrot Comics creator Bob Burden. In choosing a replacement name, Hillenburg felt that he still had to use the word "Sponge", so that viewers would not mistake the character for a "Cheese Man". He settled on the name "SpongeBob". "SquarePants" was then chosen as a family name after Kenny saw a picture of the character and remarked, "Boy, look at this sponge in square pants, thinking he can get a job in a fast food place." Hillenburg loved the phrase upon hearing Kenny say it and felt that it would reinforce the character's nerdiness.
Assembling the crew
Derek Drymon, who served as creative director for the first three seasons, has said that Hillenburg wanted to surround himself with a "team of young and hungry people". Many of the major contributors to SpongeBob SquarePants had previously worked with Hillenburg on Rocko's Modern Life: this included Drymon, art director Nick Jennings, supervising director Alan Smart, writer / voice actor Doug Lawrence (often credited as Mr. Lawrence), and Tim Hill, who helped develop the series bible.
Although Drymon would go onto have a significant influence on SpongeBob SquarePants, he was not initially offered a role on the series. As a late recruit to Rocko's Modern Life, he had not established much of a relationship with Hillenburg before SpongeBob's conception. Hillenburg first sought out Drymon's storyboard partner, Mark O'Hare - but O'Hare had just created the soon-to-be syndicated comic strip, Citizen Dog, and while he would later join SpongeBob as a writer, lacked the time to get involved with both projects at the outset. Drymon has said, "I remember Hillenburg's bringing it up to Mark in our office and asking him if he'd be interested in working on it...I was all ready to say yes to the offer, but Steve didn't ask; he just left the room. I was pretty desperate...so I ran into the hall after him and basically begged him for the job. He didn't jump at the chance." Once Hillenburg had given it some thought and decided to bring Drymon on as creative director, the two began meeting at Hillenburg's house multiple times a week to develop the series. Drymon has identified this period as having begun in 1996, shortly after the end of Rocko's Modern Life.
Jennings was also instrumental in SpongeBob's genesis. Kenny has called him "one of SpongeBob's early graphics mentors". On weekends, Kenny joined Hillenburg, Jennings, and Drymon for creative sessions, in which they captured ideas on a tape recorder. Kenny performed audio tests as SpongeBob during these sessions, while Hillenburg enacted voices for the other characters.
Hill contributed scripts for several first-season episodes (including the pilot) and was offered the role of story editor, but turned it down - he would go on to pursue a career as a family film director. In his stead, Pete Burns was brought in for the job. Burns hailed from Chicago and had never met any of the principal players on SpongeBob before joining the team.
In 1997, while pitching the cartoon to Nickelodeon executives, Hillenburg donned a Hawaiian shirt, brought along an "underwater terrarium with models of the characters", and played Hawaiian music to set the theme. The setup was described by Nickelodeon executive Eric Coleman as "pretty amazing". When they were given money and two weeks to write the pilot episode "Help Wanted", Derek Drymon, Stephen Hillenburg, and Nick Jennings returned with what was described by Nickelodeon official Albie Hecht as, "a performance [he] wished [he] had on tape". Although executive producer Derek Drymon described the pitch as stressful, he said it went "very well". Kevin Kay and Hecht had to step outside because they were "exhausted from laughing", which worried the cartoonists.
In an interview, Cyma Zarghami, the current president of Nickelodeon, said, "their [Nickelodeon executives'] immediate reaction was to see it again, both because they liked it and it was unlike anything they'd ever seen before". Zarghami was one of four executives in the room when SpongeBob SquarePants was screened for the first time.
Executive producers and showrunners
Series creator Stephen Hillenburg has served as the executive producer over the course of the series' entire history and functioned as the showrunner from the series' debut in 1999 until 2004. The series went on hiatus in 2002, after Hillenburg halted production to work on a feature film of the series, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie. Once the film was finalized and the third season finished, Hillenburg resigned as the series' showrunner. Although he no longer had a direct role in the production of the series, he still maintained an advisory role and reviewed each episode.
When the film was completed, Hillenburg intended it to be the series finale, "so [the show] wouldn't jump the shark." However, Nickelodeon wanted more episodes, so Hillenburg appointed Paul Tibbitt, who previously served on the show as a writer, director, and storyboard artist, to take over his role as showrunner and produce further seasons. Hillenburg considered Tibbitt one of his favorite members of the show's crew, and "totally trusted him".
On December 13, 2014, it was announced that Hillenburg would return to the series in an unspecified position. On November 26, 2018, at the age of 57, Hillenburg died from complications due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which he had been diagnosed with in March 2017. Nickelodeon confirmed via Twitter that the series will continue after his death, with incoming Nickelodeon President Brian Robbins vowing in February 2019 that the network will keep the show in production for as long as the network exists.
According to writer and storyboard artist Luke Brookshier, "SpongeBob is written differently than many television shows". Unlike most of its contemporaries, SpongeBob SquarePants does not use written scripts. Instead, storylines are developed by a team of five outline and premise writers. A two-page outline is then assigned to a team of storyboard directors, who produce a complete rough draft of the storyboard. One of the methods used to assemble storyboards has been to use Post-it notes. Most of the dialogue and jokes are added during this stage. Brookshier has likened this process to how cartoons were made "in the early days of animation."
The decision to eschew scripts for storyboards is one that Hillenburg made early on in the series' development. Rocko's Modern Life had also used storyboarding derived from short outlines, and having worked on that series, Hillenburg felt strongly about adopting the process for SpongeBob SquarePants—even though Nickelodeon was beginning to show a greater preference for script-driven cartoons. Another writer for the series, Merriwether Williams, described in an interview that she and Mr. Lawrence would write a draft for an episode in an afternoon and be done at 4 o'clock.
The writing staff often used their individual life experiences for inspirations to come up with the storylines of the series' episodes. For example, the episode "Sailor Mouth", in which SpongeBob and Patrick learn profanity, was inspired by creative director Derek Drymon's experience of getting in trouble as a child for using the f-word in front of his mother. Drymon said, "The scene where Patrick is running to Mr. Krabs to tattle, with SpongeBob chasing him, is pretty much how it happened in real life". The end of the episode, in which Mr. Krabs uses even more profanity than SpongeBob and Patrick, was inspired "by the fact that my [Drymon's] mother has a sailor mouth herself". The idea for the episode "The Secret Box" also came from one of Drymon's childhood experiences. Hillenburg explained, "Drymon had a secret box [as a kid] and started telling us about it. We wanted to make fun of him and use it."
Almost every episode is divided into two 11-minute segments. Hillenburg explained that "[I] never really wanted to deliberately try to write a half-hour show". He added, "I wrote the shows to where they felt right". Each 11-minute segment takes about five months to produce.
SpongeBob SquarePants features the voices of Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke, Rodger Bumpass, Clancy Brown, Mr. Lawrence, Jill Talley, Carolyn Lawrence, Mary Jo Catlett, and Lori Alan. Most one-off and background characters are voiced by Dee Bradley Baker, Sirena Irwin, Bob Joles, Mark Fite and Thomas F. Wilson.
Kenny voices SpongeBob SquarePants and a variety of other characters, including SpongeBob's pet snail Gary and the French narrator. He also physically portrays Patchy the Pirate in live-action segments of most special episodes. Kenny previously worked with Stephen Hillenburg on Rocko's Modern Life and, when Hillenburg created SpongeBob SquarePants, he approached Kenny to voice the main character. Kenny originally used the voice of SpongeBob for a minor character on Rocko. He forgot how to perform the voice initially and did not intend to use it afterward. Hillenburg, however, used a video clip of the episode to remind Kenny of the voice. When Hillenburg heard Kenny perform the voice, he immediately knew he wanted it for his character. He said to Nickelodeon executives, "That's it—I don't want to hear anybody else do the voice. We've got SpongeBob." The network insisted on auditioning more actors, but Hillenburg turned them down; in the words of Tom Kenny, "one of the advantages of having a strong creator is that the creator can say, 'No, I like that—I don't care about celebrities.'" While Kenny was developing SpongeBob's voice, the show's casting crew wanted him to have a unique, high-pitched laugh in the tradition of Popeye and Woody Woodpecker.
Fagerbakke voices Patrick Star and other miscellaneous characters. At the same time when Hillenburg, Derek Drymon, and Tim Hill were writing the pilot "Help Wanted", Hillenburg was also conducting auditions to find voices for the characters. Fagerbakke auditioned for the role of Patrick after Kenny had been cast. Fagerbakke recalled that during his audition for the role of Patrick, "Hillenburg actually played for me a portion of Tom [Kenny]'s performance [as SpongeBob], and they were looking for a counterpoint." In an interview, Fagerbakke compared himself to the character and said, "It's extremely gratifying". Fagerbakke modeled his performance whenever Patrick is angry after that of American actress Shelley Winters.
Squidward Tentacles is voiced by Rodger Bumpass, who describes Squidward as "a very nasally, monotone kind of guy." He said that the character "became a very interesting character to do" because of "his sarcasm, and then his frustration, and then his apoplexy, and so he became a wide spectrum of emotions". Arthur Brown, author of Everything I Need to Know, I Learned from Cartoons!, has compared Squidward's voice to that of Jack Benny's, a similarity Bumpass says is mostly unintentional. Voice acting veteran Clancy Brown voices Mr. Krabs, SpongeBob's boss at the Krusty Krab. Hillenburg modeled Mr. Krabs after his former manager at a seafood restaurant, whose strong Maine accent reminded Hillenburg of a pirate. For the character, Brown decided to use a "piratey" voice with "a little Scottish brogue" after hearing Hillenburg's description of his boss. According to Brown, his Mr. Krabs voice was mostly improvised during his audition and it was not challenging for him to find the correct voice.
Mr. Lawrence had met Hillenburg previously on Rocko's Modern Life. When working on the pilot episode of SpongeBob, Hillenburg invited him to audition for all of the characters. Since other voices had been found for the main cast already, Lawrence started out by voicing a variety of minor characters. This included Plankton, who was initially only set to appear in one episode. Mr. Lawrence recalls that Nickelodeon executives told Hillenburg, "'we could stunt-cast this. You know, we could have Bruce Willis do this voice.' And Steve was just like, 'it's Doug [Lawrence], don't you hear it? This is the character! This is the guy!'" Jill Talley, Tom Kenny's wife, voices Karen Plankton. Being a Chicago native, she uses a Midwestern accent for the character. Electronic sound effects are underlaid by the series' audio engineers to create a robotic sound whenever she speaks. Talley and Mr. Lawrence often improvise Plankton and Karen's dialogue. Lawrence called improvisation his "favorite part of the voice over" in 2009. He elaborated in a 2012 interview, saying, "I always enjoy the back-and-forth. [Talley and I] start to actually overlap so much talking to each other that [the voice directors] have to tell us, 'hey, stop doing that, separate what you're saying!'"
Carolyn Lawrence voices Sandy Cheeks. When Lawrence was on a sidewalk in Los Feliz, Los Angeles with a friend who knew SpongeBob SquarePants casting director Donna Grillo, her friend said to Grillo that Lawrence had "an interesting voice". Grillo invited Lawrence to audition and she got the role. Mrs. Puff's voice is provided by American actress Mary Jo Catlett, who is known for her live-action roles on television programs from the 1970s such as Diff'rent Strokes and M*A*S*H. As of 2017, voicing Mrs. Puff has become her only remaining regular television role; Catlett described herself as "basically retired" in 2013, since she feels that voicing Mrs. Puff requires less preparation than her performances in person. Lori Alan voices Pearl Krabs. During her audition for the role, Alan was shown an early drawing of the characters and took note of how Pearl was much larger than the rest of the cast. She decided to reflect the character's size in her voice by making it deep and full in tone. She aimed to make Pearl's voice invoke the sound of whales’ low vocalizations while also sounding "spoiled and lovable." In an interview with AfterBuzz TV, Alan said that she knew Pearl "had to sound somewhat like a child," but needed "an abnormally large voice."
In addition to the regular cast, episodes feature guest voices from many ranges of professions, including actors, athletes, authors, musicians, and artists. Recurring guest voices include: Ernest Borgnine, who voiced Mermaid Man from 1999 until his death in 2012; Tim Conway as the voice of Barnacle Boy from 1999 to until his death in 2019; Brian Doyle-Murray as the Flying Dutchman; and Marion Ross as Grandma SquarePants. Notable guests who have provided vocal cameo appearances includes David Bowie as Lord Royal Highness in the television film Atlantis SquarePantis, John Goodman as the voice of Santa in the episode "It's a SpongeBob Christmas!", Johnny Depp as the voice of the surf guru, Jack Kahuna Laguna, in the episode "SpongeBob SquarePants vs. The Big One", and Victoria Beckham as the voice of Queen Amphitrite in the episode "The Clash of Triton".
Voice recording sessions always include a full cast of actors, which Kenny describes as "getting more unusual". Kenny said, "That's another thing that's given SpongeBob its special feel. Everybody's in the same room, doing it old radio-show style. It's how the stuff we like was recorded". Series writer Jay Lender said, "The recording sessions were always fun ..." For the first three seasons, Hillenburg and Drymon sat in on the record studio, and they directed the actors. Andrea Romano became the voice director in the fourth season, and Tom Kenny took over the role during the ninth. Wednesday is recording day, the same schedule followed by the crew since 1999. Casting supervisor Jennie Monica Hammond said, "I loved Wednesdays".
Approximately 50 people work together in animating and producing an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants. Throughout its run, production of the series has been handled domestically at Nickelodeon Animation Studio in Burbank, California, while the finished animation has been created overseas at Rough Draft Studios in South Korea. Storyboarding for each episode is done by the crew in California. The storyboards are then used as templates by the crew in Korea, who animate by hand, color cels on computers, and paint backgrounds. Episodes are finished in California, where they are edited and have music added. Every season, character designs are updated or modified to solve technical issues in the animation.
During the first season, the series used cel animation. A shift was made the following year to digital ink and paint animation. In 2009, executive producer Paul Tibbitt said "The first season of SpongeBob was done the old-fashioned way on cells, and every cell had to be part-painted, left to dry, paint some other colors. It's still a time-consuming aspect of the process now, but the digital way of doing things means it doesn't take long to correct".
In 2008, the crew shifted to using Wacom Cintiqs for the drawings instead of pencils. The fifth season episode "Pest of the West" was the first episode in the series to which the crew applied this method. Series background designer Kenny Pittenger said, "The only real difference between the way we draw now and the way we drew then is that we abandoned pencil and paper during the fifth season". The crew began the shift while they were working on the episode. Pittenger said, "It was while we were working on 'Pest of the West', one of the half-hour specials, that we made the switch ... did you notice?" The shift to Wacom Cintiqs let the designers and animators draw on computer screens and make immediate changes or undo mistakes. Pittenger said, "Many neo-Luddites—er ... I mean, many of my cohorts—don't like working on them, but I find them useful. There's no substitute for the immediacy of drawing on a piece of paper, of course, but digital nautical nonsense is still pretty fun".
Since 2004, the SpongeBob crew has periodically collaborated with the LA-based animation studio Screen Novelties to create stop-motion sequences for special episodes. The studio produced a brief claymation scene for the climax of the first theatrical film and was re-enlisted in 2009 to create an exclusive opening for the series' tenth anniversary special. The abominable snow mollusk, an octopus-like creature made of clay who acts as the antagonist of the double-length episode "Frozen Face-Off," was also animated by the company. Animation World Network reported that "within the SpongeBob creative team, there was always talk of doing a more involved project together" with Screen Novelties. As a result, the group was asked to create an episode animated entirely in stop motion in 2011. This project became "It's a SpongeBob Christmas!”, which reimagined the show's characters as if they were part of a Rankin/Bass holiday film. Tom Kenny, who is not normally involved in the writing process, contributed to the episode's plot; he said in 2012 that he and Nickelodeon "wanted to do something just like those old school, stop-motion Rankin-Bass holiday specials...which I watched over and over again when I was a kid growing up in Syracuse." Unconventional materials such as baking soda, glitter, wood chips and breakfast cereal were used in mass quantities to create the special's sets. Members of the Screen Novelties crew received one win and two nominations at the 30th Annie Awards, a nomination at the 2013 Golden Reel Awards, and a nomination at the 2013 Annecy International Animated Film Festival for animating the episode. The team built a dolphin puppet named Bubbles, voiced by Matt Berry, for The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water. Sequences involving Bubbles included a blend of stop motion and traditional animation. A second special animated in stop motion, themed around Halloween and using the same Rankin/Bass-inspired character models, was produced for season 11.
—Music editor Nicolas Carr
The theme song was composed by Mark Harrison and Blaise Smith, while the lyrics to the song were written by series creator Stephen Hillenburg and the series' original creative director Derek Drymon. The melody was inspired by the sea shanty "Blow the Man Down". An old oil painting of a pirate is used in the opening sequence. It has been dubbed "Painty the Pirate", and according to Tom Kenny, Hillenburg found it in a thrift shop "years ago". Patrick Pinney gives voice to Painty the Pirate, singing the theme song as the character. Hillenburg's lips were imposed onto the painting and move along with the lyrics. Kenny joked that this is "about as close of a glimpse as most SpongeBob fans are ever going to get of Steve Hillenburg", because of Hillenburg's private nature.
A cover of the song by Avril Lavigne can be found on the SpongeBob SquarePants Movie soundtrack. Another cover by the Violent Femmes aired on Nickelodeon as a promotion for the series moving to prime time.
Steve Belfer, one of Hillenburg's friends from CalArts, wrote and performed the music that is played over the end credits. This theme includes ukulele music, per Hillenburg's request. Drymon said, "It's so long ago, it's hard to be sure, but I remember Hillenburg having the Belfer music early on, maybe before the pilot".
The series' music editor and main composer is Nicolas Carr. After working with Hillenburg on Rocko's Modern Life, Carr struggled to find a new job in his field. He had been considering a career change when Hillenburg offered him the job. The first season's score primarily featured selections from the Associated Production Music Library, which Carr has said includes "lots of great old corny Hawaiian music and big, full, dramatic orchestral scores." Rocko's Modern Life also used music from this library. It was Hillenburg's decision to adopt the approach. The selections for SpongeBob SquarePants have been described by Carr as being "more over-the-top" than those for Rocko's Modern Life.
Hillenburg also felt that it was important for the series to develop its own music library, consisting of scores that could be reused and re-edited throughout the years. He wanted these scores to be composed by unknowns, and a group of twelve was assembled. They formed "The Sponge Divers Orchestra", which includes Carr and Belfer. This group went on to provide the majority of the music for later seasons, although Carr still draws from the Associated Production Music Library, as well as another library that he founded himself—Animation Music Inc.
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||41||20||May 1, 1999||April 8, 2000|
|2||39||20||October 26, 2000||July 26, 2003|
|3||37||20||October 5, 2001||October 11, 2004|
|The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie||November 19, 2004|
|4||38||20||May 6, 2005||July 24, 2007|
|5||41||20||February 19, 2007||July 19, 2009|
|6||47||26||March 3, 2008||July 5, 2010|
|7||50||26||July 19, 2009||June 11, 2011|
|8||47||26||March 26, 2011||December 6, 2012|
|9||49||26||July 21, 2012||February 20, 2017|
|Sponge Out of Water||February 6, 2015|
|10||22||11||October 15, 2016||December 2, 2017|
|11||50||26||June 24, 2017||November 25, 2018|
|12||54||26||November 11, 2018||TBA|
|It's a Wonderful Sponge||May 22, 2020|
Nickelodeon began celebrating the 10th anniversary of the series on January 18, 2009 with a live cast reading of the episode "SpongeBob vs. The Big One". The reading—a first for the series—was held at that year's Sundance Film Festival. The episode, which would not premiere on TV until April 17, featured Johnny Depp as a guest star. Other celebratory actions taken by the network included the launching of a new website for the series (spongebob.com) and the introduction of new merchandising. A "SpongeBob and water conservation-themed element" was also added to Nickelodeon's pro-social campaign The Big Green Help. In an interview, Tom Kenny said, "What I'm most proud of is that kids still really like [SpongeBob SquarePants] and care about it ... They eagerly await new episodes. People who were young children when it started 10 years ago are still watching it and digging it and think it's funny. That's the loving cup for me".
Three nights before the official anniversary date, an hour-long documentary of the series, Square Roots: The Story of SpongeBob SquarePants, premiered on VH1. Critically acclaimed duo Patrick Creadon and Christine O'Malley created the film as a followup to I.O.U.S.A.—a documentary on America's financial situation. Creadon remarked, "After spending two years examining the financial health of the United States, Christine and I were ready to tackle something a little more upbeat. Telling the SpongeBob story feels like the perfect fit." On Friday, July 17, Nickelodeon marked the official anniversary of the series, with a 50-hour television marathon titled "The Ultimate SpongeBob SpongeBash Weekend". The marathon began with a new episode, "To SquarePants or Not to SquarePants". Saturday saw a countdown of the top ten episodes as picked by fans, as well as an airing of The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie. The marathon finished on Sunday, which saw a countdown of episodes as picked by celebrities, as well as the premiere of ten new episodes.
Nickelodeon continued celebrating the anniversary through the rest of the year. An eight-episode DVD set featuring "To SquarePants or Not to SquarePants" shortly followed the marathon, with a July 21 release. Next a 2,200 minute, 14-disc DVD set titled The First 100 Episodes was released on September 22. Finally, on November 6, an hour-long television film, titled Truth or Square, debuted on Nickelodeon. The film is narrated by Ricky Gervais and features live action cameo appearances by Rosario Dawson, Craig Ferguson, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, LeBron James, P!nk, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, and Robin Williams. It was released as part of a five-episode DVD set on November 10, 2009.
Ratings and run-length achievements
Within its first month on air, SpongeBob SquarePants overtook Pokémon as the highest rated Saturday-morning children's series on television. It held an average national Nielsen rating of 4.9 among children aged two through eleven, denoting 1.9 million viewers. Two years later, the series had firmly established itself as Nickelodeon's second highest rated children's program, after Rugrats. That year, 2001, SpongeBob SquarePants was credited with helping Nickelodeon take the "Saturday-morning ratings crown" for the fourth straight season. The series had gained a significant adult audience by that point – nearly 40 percent of its 2.2 million viewers were aged 18 to 34. In response to this weekend-found success, Nickelodeon gave SpongeBob SquarePants time slots at 6 PM and 8 PM, Monday through Thursday, to increase exposure of the series. By the end of that year SpongeBob SquarePants boasted the highest ratings for any children's series, on all of television. Weekly viewership of the series had reached around fifteen million, at least five million of whom were adults.
In October 2002, another Nickelodeon series, The Fairly OddParents, ranked as the No. 2 program for children between 2 and 11 years old. Its ratings at that time were almost equal to SpongeBob SquarePants' then-average of 2.2 million viewers per episode. The Fairly OddParents even briefly surpassed SpongeBob SquarePants, causing the latter series to drop into second place — at this time, The Fairly OddParents had a 6.2 rating and nearly 2.5 million child viewers, while SpongeBob SquarePants had a 6.0 rating and 2.4 million kids 2–11. Nickelodeon "recognized" The Fairly OddParents for its climbing ratings and installed it into a new 8 P.M. time slot, previously occupied by SpongeBob SquarePants. In an interview, Cyma Zarghami, then-general manager and executive vice president of Nickelodeon, said, "Are we banking on the fact that Fairly OddParents will be the next SpongeBob? ... We are hoping. But SpongeBob is so unique, it's hard to say if it will ever be repeated".
In 2012, however, it was reported that the series' ratings were declining. The average number of viewers aged 2 to 11 watching SpongeBob at any given time dropped 29% in the first quarter from a year earlier, according to Nielsen. Wall Street Journal business writer John Jannarone suggested that the age of the series and oversaturation of the series might be contributing to the decline of the series' ratings, and might also be directly responsible for the decline in Nickelodeon's overall ratings. Media analyst Todd Juenger directly attributes the decline in Nickelodeon's ratings to the availability of streaming video content on services like Netflix, a provider of on-demand Internet streaming media.
Philippe Dauman, the president and CEO of Viacom, contradicted the notion, saying he did not think "the limited amount of Nick library content on Netflix ... has had a significant impact". A Nickelodeon spokesman said SpongeBob is performing consistently well and remains the number one rated animated series in all of children's television. He added, "There is nothing that we have seen that points to SpongeBob as a problem". Dauman blamed the drop on "some ratings systemic issues" at Nielsen, citing extensive set-top-box data that "does in no way reflect" the Nielsen data.
Juenger noted that SpongeBob could affect the ratings of other Nickelodeon programming because children often change channels to find their favorite programs, then stay tuned into that network. Nickelodeon recently reduced its exposure in television. In the first quarter of 2012, the network cut back on the number of episodes it aired by 16% compared with a year earlier.
On April 22, 2013, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings announced their intentions not to renew their existing deal with Viacom. Since then, Viacom's deal with Netflix expired, and shows such as SpongeBob and Dora the Explorer were removed. However, SpongeBob is still available to stream on Netflix in Canada. On June 4, 2013, Viacom announced a multi-year licensing agreement which would move its programs, such as SpongeBob and Dora the Explorer, to Amazon.com, Netflix's top competitor. Amazon agreed to pay more than $200 million to Viacom for the license, its largest subscription streaming transaction ever.
SpongeBob SquarePants is one of the longest-running series on Nickelodeon. It became the Nickelodeon series with the most episodes, during its eighth season, surpassing the 172 episodes of Rugrats with 178. In its ninth season, a total of 26 episodes pushed the series over the 200th episode mark, reaching 204 produced episodes. In a statement, Brown Johnson, animation president for Nickelodeon, said, "SpongeBob's success in reaching over 200 episodes is a testament to creator Stephen Hillenburg's vision, comedic sensibility and his dynamic, lovable characters. The series now joins the club of contemporary classic Nicktoons that have hit this benchmark, so we're incredibly proud".
SpongeBob SquarePants has received critical acclaim from critics, and it has been noted for its appeal towards different age groups. James Poniewozik of Time magazine described the title character as "the anti-Bart Simpson, temperamentally and physically: his head is as squared-off and neat as Bart's is unruly, and he has a personality to match—conscientious, optimistic and blind to the faults in the world and those around him". According to Laura Fries of Variety magazine, the series is "a thoughtful and inventive cartoon about a hopelessly optimistic and resilient sea sponge ... Devoid of the double entendres rife in today's animated TV shows, this is purely kid's stuff ... However, that's not to say that SpongeBob is simplistic or even juvenile. It's charming and whimsical, but clever enough to appeal to teens and college-aged kids, as well". The New York Times critic Joyce Millman said SpongeBob "is clever without being impenetrable to young viewers and goofy without boring grown-ups to tears. It's the most charming toon on television, and one of the weirdest. And it's also good, clean fun, which makes sense because it is, after all, about a sponge". Millman wrote, "His relentless good cheer would be irritating if he weren't so darned lovable and his world so excellently strange ... Like Pee-wee's Playhouse, SpongeBob joyfully dances on the fine line between childhood and adulthood, guilelessness and camp, the warped and the sweet".
Robert Thompson, a professor of communications and director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University, told The New York Times, "There is something kind of unique about [SpongeBob]. It seems to be a refreshing breath from the pre-irony era. There's no sense of the elbow-in-rib, tongue-in-cheek aesthetic that so permeates the rest of American culture—including kids' shows like the Rugrats. I think what's subversive about it is it's so incredibly naive—deliberately. Because there's nothing in it that's trying to be hip or cool or anything else, hipness can be grafted onto it". In another interview with Los Angeles Times, he commentated on the show's adult audience: "[On one hand] It's a kind of time machine that transports parents back to when they watched TV in their footie [pajamas]. On the other hand, it's very hip in the way it's presented. It is very edgy to adults who know how to read and listen between the frames." Television critics Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz ranked SpongeBob SquarePants as the 22nd greatest American TV series of all time in their 2016 book TV (The Book). In a 2007 interview, Barack Obama named SpongeBob his favorite TV character and admitted that SpongeBob SquarePants is "the show I watch with my daughters". British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has also said he watches the series with his children.
Awards and accolades
SpongeBob SquarePants has received many awards and nominations; among these are four Emmy Awards ("Outstanding Special Class Animated Program" in 2010, "Outstanding Sound Editing – Animation" in 2014, "Outstanding Children's Animated Series" in 2018, and "Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program" in 2018 for Kenny); six Annie Awards; and two BAFTA Children's Awards. Television critics Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz included the series in their 2016 book TV as the 22nd greatest American television series of all time, stating that "SpongeBob SquarePants is an absurdist masterpiece that Salvador Dalí and Groucho Marx would have watched together in their smoking jackets". In 2006, IGN ranked SpongeBob SquarePants 15th on its list, "Top 25 Animated Series of All Time", and in 2013, it ranked the series 12th on its list, "The Top 25 Animated Series for Adults". Additionally, the website's UK division ran a "Top 100 Animated Series" list, and like its US counterpart, ranked SpongeBob SquarePants 15th.
The series is among the "All-TIME 100 TV Shows" as chosen by Time television critic James Poniewozik in 2007. He said, "It's the most funny, surreal, inventive example of the explosion in creative kids' (and adult) entertainment that Nick, Cartoon Network and their ilk made possible". Viewers of the UK television network Channel 4 voted SpongeBob SquarePants the 28th "Greatest Cartoon" in a 2004 poll. TV Guide listed the character of SpongeBob SquarePants at No. 9 for its "50 Greatest Cartoon Characters of All Time". In 2013, the publication ranked SpongeBob SquarePants the eighth "Greatest TV Cartoon of All Time". In June 2010, Entertainment Weekly named SpongeBob one of the "100 Greatest Characters of the Last 20 Years".
In July 2009, Madame Tussauds wax museum in New York launched a wax sculpture of SpongeBob in celebration of the series' 10th anniversary. This made SpongeBob the first animated character to ever receive a statue made entirely out of wax. In May 2011, a new species of mushroom, Spongiforma squarepantsii, was described, named after the series' title character.
The character has also become a trend in Egypt at Cairo's Tahrir Square. After the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, SpongeBob became a fashion phenomenon, appearing on various items of merchandise from hijabs to boxer shorts. The phenomenon led to the creation of the Tumblr project called "SpongeBob on the Nile". The project was founded by American students Andrew Leber and Elisabeth Jaquette and attempts to document every appearance of SpongeBob in Egypt. Sherief Elkeshta cited the phenomenon in an essay about the incoherent state of politics in Egypt in an independent monthly paper titled Midan Masr. He wrote, "Why isn't he [SpongeBob] at least holding a Molotov cocktail? Or raising a fist?" The phenomenon has even spread to Libya, where a Libyan rebel in SpongeBob dress was photographed celebrating the revolution. Although The Guardian and Vice have asserted that the trend has little to no political significance, "joke" presidential campaigns have been undertaken for SpongeBob in Egypt and Syria.
A clip was posted to YouTube in February 2013 that features soldiers in the Russian army and navy singing the SpongeBob SquarePants theme song as they march. According to the website that uploaded the video, this is one of the "most popular marching songs" in the Russian military. The video garnered nearly 50,000 views within its first week.
Following Hillenburg's death in November 2018, more than 1.2 million fans signed a petition for the National Football League to have the song "Sweet Victory" from the season 2 episode "Band Geeks" be performed at the Super Bowl LIII halftime show in Hillenburg’s honor. The Twitter account of Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the venue of the show, tweeted a GIF of SpongeBob dancing in “Band Geeks” in December and the performing band, Maroon 5 even included a brief clip of SpongeBob in a preview video, leading fans to believe that the song would be performed. While the song's opening was ultimately included, it served as a transition into artist Travis Scott's set, which left many fans disappointed. In response to fan disappointment of not getting a full Sweet Victory song during the halftime show at the Super Bowl LIII, the Dallas Stars of the National Hockey League showed a clip of the full Sweet Victory song during a game inside the American Airlines Center. In the clip the characters band uniforms are recolored green after the Stars, but they kept the spirit of the original by interspersing shots of the crowd and the background.
In 2005, an online video that showed clips from SpongeBob SquarePants and other children's shows set to the Sister Sledge song "We Are Family" to promote diversity and tolerance was attacked by an evangelical group in the United States, because they saw SpongeBob being used to "advocate homosexuality". James Dobson of Focus on the Family accused the video of promoting homosexuality, due to it being sponsored by a pro-tolerance group. The incident accentuated questions as to whether or not SpongeBob is gay. Although the character has enjoyed popularity with gay viewers, series creator Stephen Hillenburg had already denied the issue three years earlier, clarifying at the time that he considers the character to be "somewhat asexual". After Dobson's comments, Hillenburg reasserted his position, stating that sexual preference does not play a part in what they are "trying to do" with the series. Tom Kenny and other production members were distraught that such an issue had arisen.
Dobson later stated that his comments were taken out of context and that his original complaints were not with SpongeBob, the video, or any of the characters in the video, but rather with the organization that sponsored the video, the We Are Family Foundation. Dobson said that the We Are Family Foundation posted pro-gay material on their website, but later removed it. After the controversy, John H. Thomas, the United Church of Christ's general minister and president, said they would welcome SpongeBob into their ministry. He said "Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we".
Jeffery P. Dennis, author of the journal article "Queertoons", argued that SpongeBob and Sandy are not romantically in love, while adding that he believed that SpongeBob and Patrick "are paired with arguably erotic intensity". Martin Goodman of Animation World Magazine described Dennis' comments regarding SpongeBob and Patrick as "interesting".[b] Ukrainian website Family Under the Protection of the Holy Virgin, which has been described as a "fringe Catholic" group by The Wall Street Journal, levied criticism against SpongeBob SquarePants for its alleged "promotion of homosexuality". The group sought to have the series banned, along with several other popular children's properties. The National Expert Commission of Ukraine on the Protection of Public Morality took up the matter for review in August 2012.
In April 2009, Burger King released a SpongeBob-themed advertisement featuring a parody of Sir Mix-a-Lot's song "Baby Got Back". The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood protested the ad for being sexist and inappropriately sexual, especially considering that SpongeBob's fan base includes young children. In official statements released by Burger King and Nickelodeon, both companies claimed that the campaign was aimed at parents.
—Angeline S. Lillard, University of Virginia
A 2011 study conducted at the University of Virginia and published in the journal Pediatrics suggested that allowing preschool-aged audiences to watch the series caused short-term disruptions in mental function and attention span due to frequent shot changes. A Nickelodeon executive responded in an interview that the series was not intended for an audience of that age and that the study used "questionable methodology and could not possibly provide the basis for any valid findings that parents could trust". In 2014, the education minister of Kazakhstan, Zabira Orazalieva, deemed the show too violent for children, labelling the titular character a "self-absorbed hooligan" who "regularly inflicts violence on others in his community and seems to enjoy what he does".
Several episodes of the series have been subject to controversy as well. In a report titled Wolves in Sheep's Clothing, which documents the increase in potentially violent, profane, and sexual content in children's programming, the Parents Television Council, a watchdog media group, claimed the season 2 SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Sailor Mouth" was an implicit attempt to promote and satirize use of profanity among children, while "SpongeBob's Last Stand" and "Selling Out" have received criticism for promoting environmentalism and left-wing politics due to their negative portrayal of big business. "SpongeBob, You're Fired", a 2013 season 9 episode, gained heavy controversy and sparked a political debate over its portrayal of unemployment; after Fox News and the New York Post commented on the episode, Media Matters for America accused the two organizations of using the episode to "attack the social safety net". This statement was echoed by Al Sharpton, who claimed conservatives' "new hero" to be "a sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea".
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Various publications, such as MSN, The A.V. Club, and Vulture have reported that SpongeBob's popularity declined following the release of the 2004 film and Hillenburg's departure as showrunner. In 2012, MSN cited a post on the Encyclopedia SpongeBobia Wikia, which said that many fans felt the series had "jumped the shark" following the release of The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie and that online fansites were becoming "deserted".
In 2018, Vulture noted that the most popular online memes of the series usually focused on episodes from the first three seasons. That same year, The A.V. Club wrote that as the series went on, "[it] leaned hard into kid-friendly physical humor and gross out moments that appealed to no one in particular". Episodes produced since the first film have been variously categorized by DVD Talk and DVD Verdict as "tedious", "boring" and "dreck", a "depressing plateau of mediocrity", and "laugh-skimpy".
On February 14, 2019, it was announced that a SpongeBob SquarePants spin-off is in development. On June 4, it was announced that the spinoff will be titled Kamp Koral and that the plot will focus on a 10-year-old SpongeBob, who goes to summer camp with all his friends.
|Season||DVD release date|
|Region 1||Region 2||Region 4|
|1||October 28, 2003||November 7, 2005||November 30, 2006|
|2||October 19, 2004||October 23, 2006||November 30, 2006|
|3||September 27, 2005||December 3, 2007||November 8, 2007|
|4||September 12, 2006||November 3, 2008||November 7, 2008|
|January 9, 2007|
|5||September 4, 2007||November 16, 2009||December 3, 2009|
|November 18, 2008|
|6||December 8, 2009||November 29, 2010||December 2, 2010|
|December 7, 2010|
|7||December 6, 2011||September 17, 2012||September 12, 2012|
|8||March 12, 2013||October 28, 2013||October 30, 2013|
|9||October 10, 2017||TBA||TBA|
In February 2011, creator Hillenburg first announced the release of the 32-page bimonthly comic book series, SpongeBob Comics, based on the show. The release marked the first time Hillenburg authored his own books. He said, "I'm hoping that fans will enjoy finally having a SpongeBob comic book from me". The comic book series is published by Hillenburg's production company, United Plankton Pictures, and distributed by Bongo Comics Group. Although the characters of the series had previously appeared in Nickelodeon Magazine and in Cine-Manga, the first issue of SpongeBob Comics marked the first time the characters have appeared in their own comic books in the United States. Hillenburg described the stories from the comic books as "original and always true to the humor, characters, and universe of the SpongeBob SquarePants series".
Chris Duffy, the former senior editor of Nickelodeon Magazine, serves as managing editor of SpongeBob Comics. Hillenburg and Duffy met with various cartoonists—including James Kochalka, Hilary Barta, Graham Annable, Gregg Schigiel, and Jacob Chabot—to contribute to each issues. Retired horror comics writer and artist Stephen R. Bissette returned to write a special Halloween issue in 2012, with Tony Millionaire and Al Jaffee. In an interview with Tom Spurgeon, Bissette said, "I've even broken my retirement to do one work-for-hire gig [for SpongeBob Comics] so I could share everything about that kind of current job".
In the United Kingdom, Titan Magazines published comics based on SpongeBob SquarePants every four weeks from February 3, 2005 through November 28, 2013. Titan Magazines also teamed up with Lego to release a limited edition SpongeBob-themed comic.
Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies produced The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, an animated film adaptation of the series that was released on November 19, 2004. The film was directed by creator Stephen Hillenburg, and was written by long-time series writers comprising Hillenburg, Derek Drymon, Tim Hill, Kent Osborne, Aaron Springer, and Paul Tibbitt. Hillenburg and Julia Pistor produced the film, while the film score was composed by Gregor Narholz. The film is about Plankton's evil plan to steal King Neptune's crown and send it to Shell City. SpongeBob and Patrick must retrieve it and save Mr. Krabs' life from Neptune's raft and their home, Bikini Bottom, from Plankton's plan. The film features guest appearances by Jeffrey Tambor as King Neptune, Scarlett Johansson as the King's daughter Mindy, Alec Baldwin as Dennis, and David Hasselhoff as himself. It received positive critical reception, and grossed over $140 million worldwide.
A sequel to the 2004 film was released in theaters on February 6, 2015. The series' main cast members all reprised their roles, and the underwater parts are traditionally animated in the manner of the series and the live-action parts uses CGI animation with the SpongeBob characters. The film has a budget similar to the previous film and did not cost more than $100 million to produce.
On April 30, 2015, Viacom announced a third film was in development. On August 3, 2015, via Twitter, Vincent Waller confirmed that the sequel is in pre-production and that Paul Tibbitt would direct. In April 2018, Tibbitt was replaced by Tim Hill as director, and the third film's official title was announced: It's a Wonderful Sponge. Paramount assigned the third film with a scheduled release date of July 17, 2020 (The film has moved up and will now release on May 22, 2020). In October 2018, it was announced that the movie will be an origin story of how Spongebob came to Bikini Bottom and how he got his squarepants. Around the same time, it was also announced that Hans Zimmer will compose the music.
Collections of original music featured in the series have been released on the albums SpongeBob SquarePants: Original Theme Highlights (2001), SpongeBob's Greatest Hits (2009), and The Yellow Album (2005). The first two charted on the US Billboard 200, reaching number 171 and 122, respectively. Several songs have been recorded with the purpose of a single or album release, and have not been featured on the show. For example, the song "My Tidy Whities" written by Tom Kenny and Andy Paley was released only for the album The Best Day Ever (2006). Kenny's inspiration for the song was "underwear humor". Kenny said, "Underwear humor is always a surefire laugh-getter with kids ... Just seeing a character that odd wearing really prosaic, normal, Kmart, three-to-a-pack underwear is a funny drawing ... We thought it was funny to make a really lush, beautiful love song to his underwear". The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie – Music from the Movie and More..., a soundtrack album featuring the score of The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, was released along with the feature-length film in November 2004. Various artists including the Flaming Lips, Wilco, Ween, Motörhead, the Shins, and Avril Lavigne contributed to the soundtrack that reached number 76 on the US Billboard 200.
Theme park rides
SpongeBob SquarePants 4-D film and ride opened in various locations, including Six Flags Over Texas, Flamingo Land Resort, and the Shedd Aquarium. The ride features water squirts, real bubbles, and other sensory enhancements. In 2012, Nickelodeon teamed up again with SimEx-Iwerks Entertainment and Super 78 to produce SpongeBob SquarePants 4-D: The Great Jelly Rescue. The attraction opened in early 2013 at the Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration. The attraction was also released at the Nickelodeon Suites Resort Orlando in Orlando, Florida. The seven-minute film follows SpongeBob, Patrick, and Sandy to their old hijinks while rescuing the jellyfish of Jellyfish Fields from Plankton's evil clutches.
SpongeBob SquarePants appears at the Mall of America's Nickelodeon theme park re-branded from the Mall of America's Park at MOA, formerly Camp Snoopy, to Nickelodeon Universe in the Minneapolis-St. Paul suburb of Bloomington, Minnesota. The new theme park features a SpongeBob-themed Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter custom roller coaster, the SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge, which has replaced the Mystery Mine Ride and Olde Time Photo store on the west end of the theme park, which opened March 15, 2008.
On May 23, 2015, an interactive 3D show titled "SpongeBob SubPants Adventure" opened in Texas at Moody Gardens. According to Moody Gardens President and CEO John Zendt, "Visitors will be able to interact with the Nickelodeon characters on a digital stage as they have never been able to do before."
Numerous video games based on the series have been produced. Some of the early games include Legend of the Lost Spatula (2001) and SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom (2003). The 2003 video game was added to the Greatest Hits by Sony. It also served as the engine basis for a video game based on The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie. Heavy Iron Studios, the game's developers, tweaked the graphics to give the game a sharper and more imaginative look than that of Battle for Bikini Bottom. They also increased the polygon count, added several racing levels, and incorporated many of the creatures seen in the film. In 2013, Nickelodeon published and distributed SpongeBob Moves In!, a freemium city-building game app developed by Kung Fu Factory for iOS and Android.
Nickelodeon launched the first global SpongeBob SquarePants-themed short film competition, SpongeBob SquareShorts: Original Fan Tributes, in 2013. The contest encourages fans and filmmakers around the world to create original short films inspired by SpongeBob for a chance to win a prize and a trip for four people to a screening event in Hollywood. The contest opened on May 6 and ran through June 28, 2013. On July 19, 2013, Nickelodeon announced the finalists for the competition, and, on August 13, 2013, the "under 18 years of age" category was won by David of the United States for his "The Krabby Commercial", while the "Finally Home" short by Nicole of South Africa won the "18 and over" category.
SpongeBob SquarePants was adapted as a musical for the live stage in 2016 by director Tina Landau. SpongeBob SquarePants, The Broadway Musical premiered in Chicago in 2016 and opened on Broadway at the Palace Theatre on December 4, 2017. The musical opened to critical acclaim, and tied for most-nominated production at the 2018 72nd Tony Awards with twelve Tony nominations.
The popularity of SpongeBob SquarePants inspired merchandise from T-shirts to posters. It was reported that the franchise generated an estimated $8 billion merchandising revenue for Nickelodeon. It is also the most distributed property of MTV Networks. SpongeBob is viewed in 170 countries speaking 24 languages, and has also become "a killer merchandising app". The title character and his friends have been used as a theme for special editions of well-known family board games, including Monopoly, Life, and Operation, as well as a SpongeBob SquarePants edition of Ants in the Pants, and Yahtzee.
In 2001, SpongeBob SquarePants signed a marketing deal with Target Corporation and Burger King, expanding its merchandising. The popularity of SpongeBob has translated well into sales figures. In 2002, SpongeBob SquarePants dolls sold at a rate of 75,000 per week, which was faster than Tickle Me Elmo dolls were selling at the time. SpongeBob has gained popularity in Japan, specifically with Japanese women. Nickelodeon's parent company Viacom purposefully targeted marketing at women in the country. Skeptics initially doubted that SpongeBob could be popular in Japan, as the character's design is very different from already popular designs for Hello Kitty and Pikachu. Ratings and merchandise sales showed SpongeBob SquarePants has caught on with parents and with college audiences. In a recent promotion, college-oriented website Music.com gave away 80,000 SpongeBob T-shirts, four times more than during a similar promotion for Comedy Central's South Park.
Kids' meal tie-ins have been released in snacks and fast food restaurants in many parts of the world, including Burger King in Europe and North America, as well as Wendy's in North America, and Hungry Jack's in Australia. A McDonald's Happy Meal tie-in with SpongeBob-themed Happy Meal boxes and toys was released in Europe and other international markets in the summer of 2007. In Australia, the advertisement for the McDonald's SpongeBob Happy Meal won the Pester Power Award because the ads are enticing young children to want its food because of the free toy. As a tie-in beverage for the DVD release of The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, 7-Eleven released the limited edition "Under-the-Sea Pineapple Slurpee" in March 2004. Pirate's Booty released limited edition SpongeBob SquarePants Pirate's Booty snacks in 2013.
In 2007, high-end SpongeBob-themed electronics have been introduced by Imation Electronics Products under the Npower brand, including MP3 players, digital cameras, a DVD player, and a flatscreen television. Pictures of SpongeBob SquarePants also began to appear on the labels of 8 oz. cans of Green Giant cut green beans and frozen packages of Green Giant green beans and butter sauce, which featured free stickers in 2007 as part of an initiative to encourage kids to eat their vegetables. The Simmons Jewelry Co. released a $75,000 diamond pendant as part of a SpongeBob collection. In New Zealand, the UK-based Beechdean Group unveiled the SpongeBob SquarePants Vanilla Ice Cream character product as part of a licence deal with Nickelodeon. NZ Drinks launched the SpongeBob SquarePants bottled water.
Build-A-Bear Workshop introduced the new SpongeBob SqaurePants collection in stores and online in North America on May 17, 2013. Shoppers can dress their SpongeBob and Patrick plush in a variety of clothing and accessories. Sandy Cheeks and Gary the Snail are also available as pre-stuffed minis. Build-A-Bear Workshop stores nationwide celebrated the arrival of SpongeBob with a series of special events from May 17 through May 19.
On July 13, 2013, Toyota, with Nickelodeon, unveiled a SpongeBob-inspired Toyota Highlander. The 2014 Toyota Highlander was launched on SpongeBob Day at the San Diego Padres v. Giants game. The SpongeBob Toyota Highlander visited seven U.S. locations during its release, including the Nickelodeon Suites Resort Orlando in Florida.
In April 2019, Nickelodeon released a series of toys adapted from various Spongebob internet memes. These included "Handsome Squidward", "Imaginaaation Spongebob", "Mocking SpongeBob", "SpongeGar", and "Surprised Patrick". Quickly after the release of the line, most of the toys sold out on Amazon.com.
- Episode 175, "It's a SpongeBob Christmas!", was first broadcast on CBS.
- Jeffery's comments were also published by the Journal of Popular Film & Television in an article called "The Same Thing We Do Every Night: Signifying Same-Sex Desire in Television Cartoons". This is the article that is referred to by Goodman.
- "SpongeBob SquarePants Meet the Creator: Stephen Hillenburg". Nick Animation (Interview).
SpongeBob is a comedy
- "SpongeBob SquarePants and the Indestructible Faith of Imagination". New York (Vulture).
Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? Why, one of the stars of the most brilliantly imagined and sustained display of surreal humor in pop culture, that’s who.
- "SpongeBob SquarePants creator Stephen Hillenburg gave the internet language". The Verge.
...early SpongeBob was silly enough that children adored the animated slapstick comedy that flashed across the screen
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