SpongeBob is the first "low budget" Nickelodeon cartoon, according to the network, to become extremely popular. Low-budget cartoons had not garnered as much esteem as higher-rated shows, such as Rugrats, although when SpongeBob aired in 1999, it had obtained a substantial amount of viewers in the ratings to be considered popular. SpongeBob follows some other Nickelodeon shows that have attracted "older" followers: The Ren & Stimpy Show, Rocko's Modern Life, the Kablam! skits, Action League Now!, and The Angry Beavers. Other shows have followed in this trend as well: The Fairly OddParents and Invader Zim took a similar role when they aired in 2001, and the former is now second only to SpongeBob in popularity.
The cartoon is designed to appeal to children as well as older viewers. This has a lot to do with the way underwater life and situations are represented, absurdly, as though they are almost equivalent to normal terrestrial lifestyles. Instead of cars, the residents of Bikini Bottom drive boats (with wheels). Once, while on a camping trip, Patrick questions how they could have a camp fire on the lagoon bottom—the fire is immediately extinguished with a sizzle. A flurry of bubbles accompany many actions, just to remind the viewer everything is underwater. The main character SpongeBob lives in a pineapple, while his neighbor Squidward lives in an Easter Island head and Patrick lives under a rock. The suggestion is that both have fallen from a tropical island to become underwater habitats. Spongebob's house-pet is a snail named Gary, who meows like a cat (though characters have shown signs of being able to understand him). In relation to this, underwater worms bark (and act) exactly like dogs, and are kept on chains. Jellyfish are the equivalent of bees (buzzing and stinging), but are collected or appreciated like butterflies and are used for their delicious jelly. In addition to this, instead of peanut butter, SpongeBob SquarePants uses what is called in Bikini Bottom, "Sea-Nut Butter". Aside from the many undersea puns, some common products from the surface world have somehow found their way into Bikini Bottom, such as Canned Bread, Roast Beef, and even Pizza. How this happened is never explained throughout the show, but since Bikini Bottom is a mythical city, just about anything seems to work.
SpongeBob is one cartoon in a long line of shows to put in more "adult" references, and has become so popular with the adult crowd that it has been shown on MTV and Spike TV. A certain quote by Patrick ("It's gonna rock!") has been used as a promo for rock stations. Ren and Stimpy, among others, had followed a similar path. The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, released on November 19, 2004, features a cameo appearance by actor David Hasselhoff, reprising his role from the Baywatch TV series.
SpongeBob's history can be traced back to 1993 when Rocko's Modern Life first aired. One of the producers was Stephen Hillenburg, a cartoon worker/marine biologist who loved both his careers. When Rocko's Modern Life was cancelled in 1997, Hillenburg began working on SpongeBob (although some sketches trace back to 1996). He teamed up with creative director Derek Drymon, who had worked on shows such as Doug, Action League Now!, and Hey Arnold!. Drymon had worked with Hillenburg on Rocko's Modern Life as well, as did many SpongeBob crew members, including writer Tim Hill and voice actors Tom Kenny and Doug Lawrence. Another crew member with previous Nickelodeon cartoon experience was former Angry Beavers story editor Merriwether Williams, who worked on that show for its first few seasons and switched to SpongeBob in July 1999.
During production of the show, Hillenburg provided a concept of short comics with the same style of the show, but the characters looked different. SpongeBob used to be named SpongeBoy, and used to wear a red hat with a green base and a white business shirt with a tie. The name "SpongeBoy" did not make it into the show since the name was already officially trademarked by Bob Burden, creator of Flaming Carrot. Hillenburg later chose the alternative name "SpongeBob." The original name was once referenced in the show by Mr. Krabs' line, "SpongeBoy, me Bob!." The Krusty Krab was originally spelled with the letter C rather than K, but Stephen Hillenburg thought K's were funnier.
Merchandising and Marketing
Merchandise based on the show ranges from Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, Kellogg's cereal, and video games to boxer shorts, pajamas, and t-shirts. The show also spawned a large and popular merchandise line at Hot Topic, Claire's, RadioShack, Target, Wal-Mart, and Toys "R" Us stores. There have been kids meal tie-ins at Wendy's for SpongeBob's House Party Special in 2002 and at Burger King restaurants in 2001, 2003, and for the movie in 2004; in 2004, thieves stole nine-foot-high by nine-foot-wide SpongeBob inflatables from the Burger King restaurant franchises, demanding Krabby Patties as ransom. The ransom note was signed by someone in Minneapolis, Minnesota claiming to be Sheldon J. Plankton, a character from the show. SpongeBob was also featured on VH1's I Love the 90s: Part Deux: 1999 as part of a commentary by Michael Ian Black. More recently, a tie-in beverage for 7-Eleven convenience stores has been created, a pineapple-flavored Slurpee. Events in the past with the SpongeBob SquarePants theme include an exhibit at Underwater Adventures Aquarium in the Mall of America called SeaCrits of Bikini Bottom during the summer of 2003. In October 2004, a NASCAR Busch Series race was named The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie 300, presented by Lowe's and broadcast on TNT featuring Jimmie Johnson's #48 Lowe's stock car and Kyle Busch's #5 stock car painted for the race with the SpongeBob Movie paint schemes. There were even contests tied in with the movie where you could win cool stuff or a trip to the Cayman Islands.
Rise to popularity (1999–2000)
SpongeBob blowing the sand off Squidward with his reef-blower.In 1999, SpongeBob aired its first episode, "Help Wanted/Reef Blower/Tea at the Treedome", after the 1999 Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards. At this time, Rugrats was at the height of its popularity and had already outlived dozens of other lower-budget cartoons. SpongeBob, with its generally lower-class animation and humor style more rooted in clever word-play and culture-references unlike the potty humor that made Rugrats so popular, was expected to be just another one of those shows. Although it struggled in its early days, its ratings flew up. After about a year, it surpassed Rugrats as Nick's most highly rated show. SpongeBob's signature voice (provided by Kenny) and humorous style was enjoyable to both younger and older audiences. Many people attribute the "Fall Of Rugrats/Klasky-Csupo/Rise Of Low-Budget Cartoons" to SpongeBob.
Peak years (2000–2003)
Barnacle Boy facing off with Squidward.The show began its second season in 2000 with more high-quality animation and even more popular episodes. By then it was clear to the world that SpongeBob had opened the door to many other cartoons to use more "adult" senses of humor and come from smaller companies. In 2001, The Fairly OddParents aired from the then-small Frederator company. It focused on a sense of humor similar to SpongeBob’s, only more realistic, slightly crazier (and more suggestive to "adult" topics), and with more pop culture references; this show managed to become a hit as well and currently ranks behind SpongeBob as Nick's second most popular show. That same year, Invader Zim aired, created by comic book writer Jhonen Vasquez; it had a dark but silly sense of humor (similar to Vasquez's other comic books) that managed to attract a very loyal cult following consisting more of teens and adults than young children (Though also containing a moderate amount of preteens). SpongeBob, however, was the leader of all these shows and had by this time started its now famous merchandise line.
2002 also saw a bright side, as the first part of that year saw SpongeBob at its peak. The beginning of the third season produced many classic episodes and focused on the same style and animation concepts. The year also saw another more low-budget show with popularity (The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius), but things changed late in the year. There was high speculation that the show would be canceled very soon. Fans were devastated and online petitions were widely distributed. Rumors of a movie closing the show in 2004 were all over talk, but fans just wanted more show. The highly extended third season lasted through 2003, with fans on their knees, and 2004, the year that would decide everything. What was thought to be the last episode, "SpongeBob Meets The Strangler/Pranks A Lot" would air in October of 2004 and the movie was to be released in November of that year.
Hiatus/Movie Era (2003–2005)
(see furthur below for controversies)
The show continued to gain high approval ratings despite a lack of new episodes, and many feared they would never air. Thankfully, the president of Nickelodeon announced that the show would continue without Hillenburg featuring Derek Drymon as executive producer and Paul Tibbit taking over Drymons role as supervising producer. As its movie only achieved over $85,000,000 in revenue in the United States, it has been assumed that the show's popularity has declined. The Rugrats Movie, on the other hand, earned over $100,000,000 in the United States (it was around this time that the animated series which it is based on, Rugrats, was at the height of its popularity. Ironically, that movie would also be considered Rugrats' jump the shark moment by many fans.).
Season 4 (2005- )
Fear of a Krabby Patty.TV advertisements for SpongeBob's fourth season first aired publicly during the 2005 Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards. The new episodes began airing on May 6, 2005. So far, four new episodes and nine segments of new episodes have aired, with more upcoming including an episode about Gary running away and a sixth Mermaidman & Barnacle Boy.
The first new episode of Season 4, "Fear Of A Krabby Patty/Shell Of A Man", was a huge hit with many fans who had long been bored with the show and many more faithful ones who have been waiting for new episodes for years.
After airing three new episodes on Fridays from May 6 to 20, Nickelodeon did not premiere any new SpongeBob episodes until September 2005.
For the first time in SpongeBob's run, Nickelodeon began airing 11-minute segments of new episodes separately, spread over two days. This practice began with the airing of the episode "Selling Out" on September 23; its companion episode, "Funny Pants," premeired the following week on September 30 (Nickelodeon did air "Selling Out" and "Funny Pants" together as a rerun on October 9, 2005).
Also for the first time, SpongeBob SquarePants will be featured in a Nickelodeon TV movie set to air November 11, entitled Where's Gary?.
SpongeBob SquarePants - A square sponge who lives in
a pineapple under the sea. He works at the Krusty Krab
with his boring neighbor Squidward. He believes that no
one has ulterior motives, and believes almost anything
that anybody tells him.
Squidward Tentacles - A bad-tempered and hostile octopus that lives in an Easter Island moai between the domiciles of SpongeBob and Patrick. Although loved by the other characters, Squidward appears pessimistic and antisocial. This is because of his curmudgeonly nature.
Patrick Star - A cheerful, naive and unintelligent starfish; SpongeBob's best friend. He lives under a rock to the left of Squidward's house. Everybody but Spongebob realizes that Patrick is, to put it bluntly, stupid.
Sandy Cheeks - Another friend of SpongeBob's, Sandy is an athletic squirrel from Texas. She wears an old spacesuit and lives in the "Treedome" so that she can survive Bikini Bottom's ocean environment. She is a scientist, in episodes like "Funny Pants and "Sandy's Rocket". She gets mad at SpongeBob and Patrick when they kidnap her and other residents of Bikini Bottom in "Sandy's Rocket", Spongebob and Patrick believing the other residents were aliens.
Eugene H. Krabs - The money-addicted, miserly owner of the Krusty Krab. Commonly known as Mr. Krabs, he is SpongeBob and Squidward's boss. He lives in an anchor with his daughter Pearl, who is literally as big as a whale.
Gary - SpongeBob's pet snail, who acts very much like a cat, meowing, sleeping, and avoiding baths. Very intelligent, as revealed in the episode "Sleepy Time." Gary actually wears shoes, and taught SpongeBob how to tie his shoes. Gary also has a record player in his shell.
Sheldon J. Plankton - The owner of the restaurant The Chum Bucket and Mr. Krabs' main rival. Usually referred to by his surname, Plankton, he has one eye with a red iris. Plankton is supposed to be modeled after a kind of plankton called a copepod. He is determined to steal the secret Krabby Patty formula from The Krusty Krab and run Mr. Krabs out of business. The Chum Bucket looks like a big bucket, with a hand grasping the handle. The words "The Chum Bucket" are written in red on the front of it.
Voice actors and their characters
Uncle Sherm SquarePants, Grandpa SquarePants,
Fred (Home Sweet Pineapple), Tom (some episodes)
Dee Bradley Baker: Squilliam Fancyson, Various six-armed green Octopusses, Customers, Vendors
Rodger Bumpass: Squidward Tentacles, Mama Tentacles
Clancy Brown: Eugene Krabs
Doug Lawrence (a.k.a. Mr. Lawrence): Sheldon J.
Mary Jo Catlett: Mrs. Poppy Puff
Sirena Irwin: Mrs. Squarepants, Mama Krabs
Ernest Borgnine: Mermaid Man
Tim Conway: Barnacle Boy
Stephen Hillenburg: Potty
Brian Doyle-Murray: The Flying Dutchman
Charles Nelson Reilly: The Dirty Bubble
Marion Ross: Grandma SquarePants
Jill Talley: Karen (Plankton's computer wife)
John Rhys-Davies: Man Ray
John O'Hurley: King Neptune (Neptune's Spatula)
Sergio Ristie: King Neptune (SpongeBob's House Party (Party Pooper Pants))
Kevin Michael Richardson: King Neptune (voice in SpongeBob's House Party (Party Pooper Pants))
Carlos Alazraqui: Additional Voices (Seasons 1-3)
Thomas F. Wilson: Additional Voices
Clea Lewis: Additional Voices
Guest Voices and Stars in the Movie
Jeffrey Tambor: King Neptune
Scarlett Johansson: Princess Mindy
Alec Baldwin: Dennis the Hitman
David Hasselhoff: Himself
The theme song, based on sea shanties, most likely "Blow the Man Down", is the principal song used in the series. It is sung by Painty the Pirate, voiced by Pat Pinney, and can be found on the soundtrack, SpongeBob SquarePants: Original Theme Highlights. A cover of the song by Avril Lavigne can be found on The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (soundtrack). A choral version was recorded for the SpongeBob Christmas special where the last words, "SquarePants", were replaced by "Christmas special".
Painty: Are you ready, kids?
Kids: AYE-AYE, CAPTAIN!
Painty: I can't hear you!
Kids: AYE-AYE, CAPTAIN!
Painty: Oh...Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?
Kids: SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS!
Painty: Absorbent and yellow and porous as he!
Kids: SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS!
Painty: If nautical nonsense be something you wish,
Kids: SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS!
Painty: Then drop on the deck and flop like a fish!
Kids: SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS!
Painty & Kids: SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS, SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS, SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS,
Despite the show's popularity, SpongeBob has endured controversy. Although this is not new for Nickelodeon; many of its cartoons, including Ren & Stimpy, Rocko's Modern Life, The Angry Beavers, Invader Zim and The Fairly OddParents, have sparked controversy in one way or another. SpongeBob's popularity has made its controversy more noticeable and larger scale.
SpongeBob was seemingly uncontroversial during the first two seasons and the beginning of the third season. However SpongeBob and Patrick's close friendship in many episodes (particularly 2 Season 3 episodes, including one where Sponge and Star hold hands) led some viewers to the conclusion that sponges were the next gay icon. In the 2002 episode "Rock-A-Bye-Bivalve", SpongeBob and Patrick adopt a baby scallop, furthering the many controversial rumors because of its implications that the two made major life decisions together as a couple would. Spongebob is sometimes portrayed for brief moments in women's clothing, (in three episodes), often cited by people as evidence to support the controversy, however it should be noted that SpongeBob is one of many other famous cartoon and slapstick characters, including the mega-popular classic Bugs Bunny to have gone above the limits and endure controversy. Stephen Hillenburg, creator of the show itself, states SpongeBob to be as--ual, as he is a sponge. Some fans speculate otherwise because part of the adult humor of the show is that a Spongebob, sometimes will panic when it's shown not wearing underwear, as if he were a human, and run and hide back to his pineapple. In early episodes, it's revealed that Spongebob reproduces by budding and making children sponges come out of his holes, thereby supporting Hillenburg's statement. This is not so different than what real sponges do. Aside from the controversy of "Rock-A-Bye Bivalve", there are actually many heteros--ual relationships on the show (eg. Mr. Krabs/Mrs. Puff Spongebob's parents, Pearl/Octavious, Rex Plankton/Mama Krabs, Gary/Snelly Plankton/Karen, Patrick/Mindy, and in many early episodes there is a slight romantic relationship between Spongebob and Sandy), and arguably no gay relationships at all, and many agree it does not endorse abnormalcy in any way. Independent of assumptions, the cartoon's acceptance and optimism have made it popular within parts of the real-lives.
More recently, SpongeBob was featured in the pro-tolerance "We Are Family" commercial, along with many other cartoon characters. The video has sparked controversy because some conservative Christian groups believe that the We Are Family Foundation was using it to promote the normalization of homos--uality in American schools. A spokesman for the foundation suggests that anyone who thought the video promoted homos--uality "needs to visit their doctor and get their medication increased.". Many fans have also pointed to the fact that many more characters besides SpongeBob were featured in the commercial, and SpongeBob's appearance is only a few seconds long. It has been incorrectly reported that James Dobson, a leading figure among many conservative Christians, believes SpongeBob is homos--ual or promotes a homos--ual lifestyle.
See the minor characters in SpongeBob SquarePants.
Stephen Hillenburg: Creator/Executive Producer (Left Show In 2004)
Derek Drymon: Creative Director/Writer/Story Editor/Executive Producer Starting 2005
Sherm Cohen: Art Director/Writer/
Paul Tibbitt: Writer/Storyboard Director/Supervising Producer Starting 2005
Merriwether Williams: Story Editor/Writer
Doug Lawrence (a.k.a. Mr. Lawrence): Writer/Story Editor
Chuck Klein: Writer/Storyboard Artist & Director
Jay Lender: Writer/Storyboard Artist & Director
Sam Henderson: Writer/Storyboard Director
Kaz: Writer/Storyboard Artist
Aaron Springer: Writer/Storyboard Artist & Director
C.H. Greenblatt: Writer/Storyboard Artist & Director
Bradley Carow: Music
Sage Guyton: Music
Steven Belfer: Music
Jeremy Wakefield: Music
Nicholas Carr: Music
David Wigforss: Special Effects (CG visual effects animator)
Caleb Muerer: Art Director/Storyboard Artist
Andy Rheingold: Executive in Charge of Production
Steven Banks: Head Writer (2004—)
Tim Hill: Writer
Eric Wiese: Writer/Storyboard Artist
Mark O'Hare: Writer/Storyboard Artist & Director
Steven Fonti: Writer/Storyboard Director (1999)
Chris Mitchell: Writer/Storyboard Artist (1999)
Mike Bell: Writer/Storyboard Director (2005—)
Vincent Waller: Writer/Storyboard Artist & Director/Technical Director (2005—)
Alan Smart: Animation Director
Tom Yasumi: Animation Director
Andrew Overtoom: Animation Director
Sean Dempsey: Animation Director
This SpongeBob Biography Page is Copyright © 2004 - 2009 Chuck Ayoub