Who is Spongebob?
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.
Many of the ideas for the series originated in an unpublished educational comic book titled The Intertidal Zone, which Hillenburg created in 1989.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 Oceanbeneath 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.