SpongeBob SquarePants (2024)

SpongeBob SquarePants is an American animated television series created by marine science educator and animator Stephen Hillenburg that first aired on Nickelodeon as a sneak peek after the 1999 Kids' Choice Awards on May 1, 1999, and officially premiered on July 17, 1999. It chronicles the adventures of the title character and his aquatic friends in the underwater city of Bikini Bottom. The series received worldwide critical acclaim, and had gained popularity by its second season. As of 2019, the series is the fifth-longest-running American animated series. Its popularity made it a multimedia franchise, the highest rated Nickelodeon series, and the most profitable intellectual property for Paramount Consumer Products. By 2019, it had generated over $13 billion in merchandising revenue.[4]

Many of the series' ideas originated in The Intertidal Zone, an unpublished educational comic book Hillenburg created in 1989 to teach his students about undersea life.[5] Hillenburg joined Nickelodeon in 1992 as an artist on Rocko's Modern Life.[6] After Rocko was cancelled in 1996, he began developing SpongeBob SquarePants into a television series that same year, and in 1997, a seven-minute pilot was pitched to Nickelodeon. The network's executives wanted SpongeBob to be a child in school, but Hillenburg preferred SpongeBob to be an adult character.[7] He was prepared to abandon the series, but compromised by creating a boating school so SpongeBob could attend school as an adult.[8]

The series has run for a total of fourteen seasons, and has inspired three feature films: The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (2004), Sponge Out of Water (2015), and Sponge on the Run (2020). Two spin-off series, Kamp Koral: SpongeBob's Under Years and The Patrick Star Show, premiered in 2021. As of February 2022, four additional films are planned: three character spinoff films for Paramount+ and Netflix, and a theatrical SpongeBob film. The fourteenth season of the main series was announced in March 2022,[9] and premiered in November 2023. In September 2023, the show was renewed for a fifteenth season.[10]

SpongeBob SquarePants has won a variety of awards including six Annie Awards, eight Golden Reel Awards, four Emmy Awards, two BAFTA Children's Awards, and a record-breaking twenty Kids' Choice Awards. A Broadway musical based on it opened in 2017 to critical acclaim.[11] The series is also noted as a cultural touchstone of Generation Z.[12][13]

Contents

  • 1 Premise
    • 1.1 Characters
    • 1.2 Setting
  • 2 Production
    • 2.1 Development
      • 2.1.1 Early inspirations
      • 2.1.2 Conception
      • 2.1.3 Assembling the crew
      • 2.1.4 Pitching
    • 2.2 Executive producers and showrunners
    • 2.3 Writing
    • 2.4 Voice actors
    • 2.5 Animation
    • 2.6 Music

Premise[]

Characters[]

Main article: List of SpongeBob SquarePants characterslink=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:SpongeBob_SquarePants_main_characters.png|alt=Illustration of the series' ten main characters.|left|thumb|The series' main characters. Top row, from left to right: Pearl, Plankton, and Karen. Bottom row: Sandy, Mr. Krabs, SpongeBob, Squidward, Gary, Patrick, and Mrs. Puff.The series revolves around the title character and an ensemble cast of his aquatic friends. SpongeBob SquarePants is an energetic and optimistic yellow sea sponge who lives in a submerged pineapple. 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. One of his life's greatest goals is to obtain a boat-driving license from Mrs. Puff's Boating School, but he never succeeds. 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. He has a pet sea snail with a pink shell and a blue body named Gary, who meows like a cat.

Living two houses away from SpongeBob is his best friend Patrick Star, a dimwitted yet friendly pink starfish who resides under a rock. Despite his mental setbacks, Patrick sees himself as intelligent.[14] Squidward, SpongeBob's next-door neighbor and co-worker at the Krusty Krab, is an arrogant, 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. He dislikes living between SpongeBob and Patrick because of their childish nature. The owner of the Krusty Krab is a miserly, greedy red crab named Mr. Krabs who talks like a sailor and runs his restaurant as if it were a pirate ship. He is a single parent with a teenage daughter, a grey sperm whale named Pearl, to whom he wants to bequeath his riches. Pearl does not want to continue the family business and would rather spend her time listening to music or working at the local shopping mall.[15] Another of SpongeBob's friends is Sandy Cheeks, a thrill-seeking and athletic squirrel from Texas, who wears an air-filled diving suit to breathe underwater.[16] She lives in a tree enclosed in a clear glass dome locked by an airtight, hand-turned seal and is an expert in karate.

Located across the street from the Krusty Krab is an unsuccessful rival restaurant called the Chum Bucket.[17] It is run by a small, green, one-eyed copepod[18] named Plankton and his computer wife, Karen.[19] 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.[20] Karen supplies him with evil schemes to obtain the formula, but their efforts always fail and their restaurant rarely has any customers.[21] When SpongeBob is not working at the Krusty Krab, he is often taking boating lessons from Mrs. Puff, a paranoid but 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 when he tries to drive a real boat.[22] When Mrs. Puff endures one of SpongeBob's crashes or is otherwise frightened, she puffs up into a ball.[23]

An unseen figure called the French Narrator often introduces episodes and narrates the intertitles as if the series were a nature documentary about the ocean. His role and distinctive manner of speaking are references to the oceanographer Jacques Cousteau.[24]

Recurring guest characters appear throughout the series including: 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. There is also a large variety of characters who are known as the incidentals who serve as the main background characters for the show and are featured in almost every episode. They are each referred as "Incidental" followed by their given model number. Their names, jobs, personalities, relationships, voices, ages, and sometimes gender are inconsistent and tend to differ from each episode. There are 222 of these characters.[citation needed]

Special (generally half-hour or hour-long) 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.[25] 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.

Setting[]

"Bikini Bottom" redirects here. For other uses, see Bikini Bottom (disambiguation).link=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bikini_Atoll.png|alt=A blue colored image of an atoll.|left|thumb|Bikini Atoll, a coral reef in the Pacific Ocean. Tom Kenny confirmed the fictitious city of Bikini Bottom is named after Bikini Atoll.The series takes place primarily in the benthic underwater city of Bikini Bottom located in the Pacific Ocean beneath the real-life coral reef known as Bikini Atoll.[26][27][28][c] Its citizens are mostly 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; 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.[30]

When the SpongeBob crew began production of the series' pilot episode, they were tasked with designing stock locations, to be used repeatedly, where most scenes would take place like the Krusty Krab and SpongeBob's pineapple house.[31] The idea was "to keep everything nautical", so the crew used plenty of rope, wooden planks, ships' wheels, netting, anchors, boilerplates, and rivets to create the show's setting. Transitions between scenes are marked by bubbles filling the screen, accompanied by the sound of rushing water.[31]

The series features "sky flowers" as a main setting material.[31] 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."[31] Pittenger said the sky flowers were meant to "evoke the look of a flower-print Hawaiian shirt".[31]

Production[]

Development[]

Early inspirations[]

link=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ocean_Institute,_aerial_shot,_cropped.png|alt=Aerial photograph of the Ocean Institute at Dana Point, California|thumb|Before creating SpongeBob SquarePants, Stephen Hillenburg taught marine biology to visitors of the Ocean Institute (located in Dana Point, California).[32]Series creator Stephen Hillenburg first became fascinated with the ocean as a child and began developing his artistic abilities at a young age. Although these interests would not overlap for some time—the idea of drawing fish seemed boring to him—Hillenburg pursued both during college, majoring in marine biology and minoring 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.[32][33]

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 used by the institute to teach visiting students about the animal life of tide pools.[33] The comic starred various anthropomorphic sea lifeforms, many of which would evolve into SpongeBob SquarePants characters.[34] Hillenburg tried to get the comic professionally published, but none of the companies he sent it to were interested.[33]

A large inspiration to Hillenburg was Ween's 1997 album The Mollusk, which had a nautical and underwater theme. Hillenburg contacted the band shortly after the album's release, explaining the baseline ideas for SpongeBob SquarePants, and also requested a song from the band, which they sent on Christmas Eve. This song was "Loop de Loop", which was used in the episode "Your Shoe's Untied".[35][36][37]

Conception[]

While working as a staff artist at the Ocean Institute, Hillenburg entertained plans to return eventually 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.[33] His thesis film, Wormholes, is about the theory of relativity.[38] 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.[38][39] Hillenburg joined the series as a director, and later, during the fourth season, he took on the roles of producer and creative director.[34][38][39][40]

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.[33][38][41] He began to develop some of the characters from The Intertidal Zone, including the comic's "announcer", Bob the Sponge.[33] He wanted his series to stand out from most popular cartoons of the time, which he felt were exemplified by buddy comedies like The Ren & Stimpy Show. As a result, Hillenburg decided to focus on a single main character: the "weirdest" sea creature he could think of. This led him to the sponge.[33] The Intertidal Zone's Bob the Sponge resembles an actual sea sponge, and at first, Hillenburg continued to use this design.[33][38][39][42] 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.[33][39][43][44][45] He then considered modeling the character after a kitchen sponge and realized this idea would match the character's square personality perfectly.[33][38][39] Patrick, Mr. Krabs, Pearl, and Squidward were the next characters Hillenburg created for the show.[46]

To voice the series' central character, 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 to develop the character further.[47] Initially, Hillenburg wanted to use the name SpongeBoy—the character had no last name—and the series was to have been named SpongeBoy Ahoy![42][47] 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 copyrighted.[48][47] In choosing a replacement name, Hillenburg felt 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 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."[43] When he heard Kenny say it, Hillenburg loved the phrase and felt it would reinforce the character's nerdiness.[43][49]

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."[44] Many of the major contributors to SpongeBob SquarePants had worked before with Hillenburg on Rocko's Modern Life, including: 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.[44][45]

Although Drymon would go on to have a significant influence on SpongeBob SquarePants, he was not offered a role on the series initially. 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 he had just created the soon-to-be syndicated comic strip, Citizen Dog.[44] While he would later join SpongeBob as a writer,[50] he lacked the time to get involved with both projects from the outset.[44] 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."[44] Once Hillenburg had given it some thought and decided to bring Drymon on as creative director, the two began meeting at Hillenburg's house several 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.[44]

Jennings was also instrumental in SpongeBob's genesis.[51] Kenny has called him "one of SpongeBob's early graphics mentors".[45] On weekends, Kenny joined Hillenburg, Jennings, and Drymon for creative sessions where they recorded ideas on a tape recorder.[45] Kenny performed audio tests as SpongeBob during these sessions, while Hillenburg voice acted the other characters.[42][45]

Hill contributed scripts for several first-season episodes (including the pilot)[52][53][54][55] 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.[56][57] 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.[44]

Pitching[]

The execs from Nickelodeon flew out to Burbank, and we pitched it to them from the storyboards. We had squeezy toys, wore Hawaiian shirts, and used a boom box to play the Tiny Tim song ['Livin' in the Sunlight, Lovin' in the Moonlight'] that comes on in the third act. We really went all out in that pitch because we knew the pilot lived or died by if the execs laughed. When it was over, they walked out of the room to discuss it. We figured they would fly back to New York and we'd hear in a few weeks. We were surprised when they came back in what seemed like minutes and said they wanted to make it.

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".[38] They were given money and two weeks to write the pilot episode "Help Wanted".[38] Drymon, Hillenburg, and Jennings returned with what was described by Nickelodeon official Albie Hecht as, "a performance [he] wished [he] had on tape".[38] Although executive producer Derek Drymon described the pitch as stressful, he said it went "very well".[38] Kevin Kay and Hecht had to step outside because they were "exhausted from laughing", which worried the cartoonists.[38]

In an interview, Cyma Zarghami, then-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".[58] Zarghami was one of four executives in the room when SpongeBob SquarePants was screened for the first time.[58]

Before commissioning the full series, Nickelodeon executives insisted that it would not be popular unless SpongeBob was a child who went to school, with his teacher as a main character.[7] Hillenburg recalled in 2012 that Nickelodeon told him, "Our winning formula is animation about kids in school... We want you to put SpongeBob in school."[33] Hillenburg was ready to "walk out" on Nickelodeon and abandon the series, since he wanted SpongeBob to be an adult character.[33] He eventually compromised by adding a new character to the main cast, Mrs. Puff, who is a boat-driving teacher. Hillenburg was happy with the compromise and said, "A positive thing for me that came out of it was [how it brought] in a new character, Mrs. Puff, who I love."[33]

Executive producers and showrunners[]

link=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Stephen_Hillenburg_by_Carlos_Cazurro.jpg|alt=Photograph of Stephen Hillenburg standing holding a book with the title SpongeBob SquarePants looking to his right|right|thumb|Stephen Hillenburg, creator of SpongeBob SquarePants

Until his death in 2018, Hillenburg had served as the executive producer over the course of the series' entire history and functioned as its showrunner from its debut in 1999 until 2004. The series went on hiatus in 2002, after Hillenburg halted production on the show itself to work on the feature film The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.[48] 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 series' production, he maintained an advisory role and reviewed each episode.[58][59]

It reached a point where I felt I'd contributed a lot and said what I wanted to say. At that point, the show needed new blood, and so I selected Paul [Tibbitt] to produce. I totally trusted him. I always enjoyed the way he captured the SpongeBob character's sense of humor. And as a writer, you have to move on—I'm developing new projects.

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.[61] Hillenburg appointed Paul Tibbitt, who had previously served on the show as a writer, director, and storyboard artist, to take over his role as showrunner to produce additional seasons.[62] Hillenburg considered Tibbitt one of his favorite members of the show's crew,[63] and "totally trusted him".[60]

On December 13, 2014, it was announced that Hillenburg would return to the series in an unspecified position.[64] On November 26, 2018, at the age of 57, Hillenburg died from complications from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which he had been diagnosed with in March 2017.[65][66] Nickelodeon confirmed via Twitter the series would continue after his death.[67] In February 2019, incoming president Brian Robbins vowed Nickelodeon would keep the show in production for as long as the network exists.[68]

As of the ninth season, former writers and storyboard directors Vincent Waller and Marc Ceccarelli act as showrunners.

Writing[]

According to writer and storyboard artist Luke Brookshier, "SpongeBob is written differently to many television shows."[69] Unlike most of its contemporaries, SpongeBob SquarePants does not use written scripts.[69][70] 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 was to use Post-it notes. Most of the dialogue and jokes are added during this stage.[48][69] Brookshier has likened this process to how cartoons were made "in the early days of animation".[69]

The decision to eschew scripts for storyboards is one that Hillenburg made early in the series' development.[48] 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.[44][71] Another series' writer, Merriwether Williams, explained in an interview that she and Mr. Lawrence would write a draft for an episode in an afternoon and be done at 4:00 pm.[72]

The writing staff often used their personal experiences as inspiration for the storylines of the series' episodes.[44][60] For example, the episode "Sailor Mouth", where SpongeBob and Patrick learn profanity,[60] was inspired by creative director Derek Drymon's experience as a child of getting into trouble for using the f-word in front of his mother.[44] 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".[44] The end of the episode when 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".[44] The idea for the episode "The Secret Box" also came from one of Drymon's childhood experiences.[60][72] 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."[60]

Almost every episode is divided into two 11-minute segments. Hillenburg explained: "[I] never really wanted to deliberately try to write a half-hour show".[60] He added, "I wrote the shows to where they felt right".[60]

Voice actors[]

Further information: List of SpongeBob SquarePants cast members and List of SpongeBob SquarePants guest stars

SpongeBob SquarePants features the voices of Tom Kenny, Bill fa*gerbakke, 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.

Steve described SpongeBob to me as childlike and naïve. He's not quite an adult, he's not quite a kid. Think a Stan Laurel, Jerry Lewis kind of child-man. Kind of like a Munchkin but not quite, kind of like a kid, but not in a Charlie Brown child's voice on the TV shows.

Kenny voices SpongeBob and a number 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. When Hillenburg created SpongeBob SquarePants, he approached Kenny to voice the main character.[73] Kenny originally used the voice of SpongeBob for a minor character on Rocko.[47] 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.[47] When Hillenburg heard Kenny perform the voice, he knew immediately 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."[45] 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.'"[45] 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.[74]

fa*gerbakke voices Patrick Star[75] 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.[44] fa*gerbakke auditioned for the role of Patrick after Kenny had been cast.[76] fa*gerbakke recalled that during this audition, "Hillenburg actually played for me a portion of Tom [Kenny]'s performance [as SpongeBob], and they were looking for a counterpoint."[76] In an interview, fa*gerbakke compared himself to the character and said, "It's extremely gratifying".[77] Whenever Patrick is angry fa*gerbakke models his performance after American actress Shelley Winters.[78]

Squidward Tentacles is voiced by Rodger Bumpass, who describes him as "a very nasally, monotone kind of guy." He said 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".[79] Arthur Brown, author of Everything I Need to Know, I Learned from Cartoons!, has compared Squidward's voice to that of Jack Benny's,[80] a similarity Bumpass says is mostly unintentional.[79]

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.[81] Brown decided to use a "piratey" voice for the character with "a little Scottish brogue" after hearing Hillenburg's description of his boss.[82] 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.[82]

Mr. Lawrence had met Hillenburg before on Rocko's Modern Life. While working on the pilot episode of SpongeBob, Hillenburg invited him to audition for all the characters.[83] Since other voices had been found for the main cast already, Lawrence began by voicing a variety of minor characters. This included Plankton, who was initially only set to appear in one episode.[83][44] 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!'"[83] Jill Talley, Tom Kenny's wife, voices Karen Plankton.[84] Being a Chicago native, she uses a Midwestern accent for the character.[85] Electronic sound effects are underlaid by the series' audio engineers to create a robotic sound when she speaks.[86] Talley and Mr. Lawrence often improvise Plankton and Karen's dialogue. Lawrence called improvisation his "favorite part of the voice over" in 2009.[87] 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!'"[83]

Carolyn Lawrence voices Sandy Cheeks. She was 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 her to audition and she got the role.[88][89] American actress Mary Jo Catlett,[90] who is known for her live-action roles on television programs from the 1970s such as Diff'rent Strokes and M*A*S*H provides Mrs. Puff's voice.[85] As of 2017, voicing Mrs. Puff has become her only 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.[91] Lori Alan voices Pearl Krabs.[92] During her audition for the role, Alan was shown an early drawing of the characters and noted that 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 it invoke the sound of whales' low vocalizations while also sounding "spoiled and lovable."[93] In an interview with AfterBuzz TV, Alan said she knew Pearl "had to sound somewhat like a child," but needed "an abnormally large voice."[94]

In addition to the regular cast, episodes feature guest voices from many 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;[95] Tim Conway as the voice of Barnacle Boy from 1999 until his death in 2019;[96] Brian Doyle-Murray as the Flying Dutchman;[97] and Marion Ross as Grandma SquarePants.[98] Notable guests who have provided vocal cameo appearances include: David Bowie as Lord Royal Highness in the television film Atlantis SquarePantis;[99][100] 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";[101] and Victoria Beckham as the voice of Queen Amphitrite in the episode "The Clash of Triton".[102][103]

Voice recording sessions always include a full cast of actors, which Kenny describes as "getting more unusual".[45] 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".[45] Series writer Jay Lender said, "The recording sessions were always fun ..."[104] For the first three seasons, Hillenburg and Drymon sat in the recording studio and directed the actors.[105] Andrea Romano became the voice director in the fourth season,[105] and Tom Kenny took over the role during the ninth. Wednesday is recording day, the same schedule followed by the crew since 1999.[105] Casting supervisor Jennie Monica Hammond said, "I loved Wednesdays".[105]

Animation[]

Approximately 50 people work together to animate and produce an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants.[69] Throughout its run, the series' production has been handled domestically at Nickelodeon Animation Studio in Burbank, California. The finished animation has been created overseas at Rough Draft Studios in South Korea.[60][106] The California crew storyboard each episode. These are then used as templates by the crew in Korea,[60] who animate each scene by hand, color each cel on computers, and paint backgrounds. Episodes are finished in California, where they are edited and have music added.[69]

During the first season, the series used cel animation.[62] A shift was made the following year to digital ink and paint animation.[62] In 2009, executive producer Paul Tibbitt said: "The first season of SpongeBob was done the old-fashioned way on cells [sic], and every cell sic 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".[62]

In 2008, the crew began using Wacom Cintiqs for the drawings instead of pencils. The fifth season episode "Pest of the West", one of the half-hour specials, was the first episode where 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".[31] 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".[31]link=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:SpongeBob_SquarePants_characters_by_Screen_Novelties.jpg|alt=Illustration of the show's character models with SpongeBob on the left|right|thumb|Screen Novelties created character models based on the works of Rankin/Bass for the show's stop-motion episodes.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.[107] It was re-enlisted in 2009 to create an exclusive opening for the series' tenth anniversary special.[108][109] 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.[110] Animation World Network reported that "within the SpongeBob creative team, there was always talk of doing a more involved project together" with Screen Novelties.[110] 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!",[111] which reimagined the show's characters as if they were part of a Rankin/Bass holiday film.[112] Tom Kenny, who is normally uninvolved 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".[107]

Unconventional materials such as baking soda, glitter, wood chips and breakfast cereal were used in mass quantities to create the special's sets.[113] Members of the Screen Novelties crew received one win and two nominations at the 30th Annie Awards,[114] a nomination at the 2013 Golden Reel Awards,[115] and a nomination at the 2013 Annecy International Animated Film Festival for animating the episode.[116] The team built a dolphin puppet named Bubbles, voiced by Matt Berry, for The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water.[117] 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.[118][119]

Music[]

[The music has gone] from mostly sea shanties and Hawaiian music à la Roy Smeck meets Pee-wee Herman—still the main style for the show—in the early episodes, but it now includes film noir, West Side Story to [Henry] Mancini, Jerry Goldsmith and [Steven] Spielberg. There's Broadway-type scores and plain old goofy, loopy, weird stuff. I try to push the envelope on this show without getting in the way of the story, and I try to push it up and way over the top when I can get away with it, all the time keeping it as funny and ridiculous as possible.

Mark Harrison and Blaise Smith composed the SpongeBob SquarePants theme song.[121] Its lyrics were written by Stephen Hillenburg and the series' original creative director Derek Drymon. The melody was inspired by the sea shanty "Blow the Man Down".[39] An old oil painting of a pirate is used in the opening sequence. Dubbed "Painty the Pirate", according to Tom Kenny, Hillenburg found it in a thrift shop "years ago".[47] Patrick Pinney voices Painty the Pirate, singing the theme song as the character.[39] Hillenburg's lips were imposed onto the painting and move along with the lyrics.[47] Kenny joked this is "about as close of a glimpse as most SpongeBob fans are ever going to get of Steve Hillenburg", because of his private nature.[39]

A cover of the song by Avril Lavigne can be found on The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie soundtrack.[122][123] Another cover by the Violent Femmes aired on Nickelodeon as a promotion when the series moved to prime time.[124]

Steve Belfer, one of Hillenburg's friends from CalArts, wrote and performed the music heard over the end credits.[44] This theme includes ukulele music at Hillenburg's request.[44] 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".[44]

The series' music editor and main composer is Nicolas Carr.[120] After working with Hillenburg on Rocko's Modern Life, he struggled to find a new job in his field. He had considered a career change before 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."[120] Rocko's Modern Life also used music from this library. It was Hillenburg's decision to adopt this approach. Carr has described the selections for SpongeBob SquarePants as being "more over-the-top" than those for Rocko's Modern Life.[120]

Hillenburg felt 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. The group went on to provide most 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.[120]

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