SpongeBob SquarePants (character)
|SpongeBob SquarePants character|
|First appearance||"Help Wanted" (1999)|
|Created by||Stephen Hillenburg|
|Voiced by||Tom Kenny|
SpongeBob SquarePants is a fictional character in the animated television series SpongeBob SquarePants. He is voiced by Tom Kenny and first appeared on television in the series' pilot episode "Help Wanted" on May 1, 1999. SpongeBob was created and designed by cartoonist Stephen Hillenburg shortly after the cancellation of Rocko's Modern Life in 1996. Hillenburg intended to create a series about an over-optimistic sponge that annoys other characters. Hillenburg compared the concept to Laurel and Hardy and Pee-wee Herman. As he drew the character, he decided that a "squeaky-clean square" (like a kitchen sponge) fits the concept. His name is derived from "Bob the Sponge", the host of Hillenburg's comic strip The Intertidal Zone that he originally drew in 1989 while studying at the California Institute of the Arts. SpongeBob is a naïve and goofy sea sponge who works as a fry cook in the fictional underwater town of Bikini Bottom.
SpongeBob has achieved popularity with both children and adults, though he has been involved in public controversy. The character appeared in a We Are Family Foundation video promoting tolerance, which was criticized by James Dobson of Focus on the Family because of the foundation's link to homosexuality.
Role in SpongeBob SquarePants
SpongeBob is depicted as being an optimistic, cheerful, enthusiastic yellow sea sponge residing in the undersea city of Bikini Bottom alongside an array of anthropomorphic aquatic creatures. He works as a fry cook at the fast food restaurant, the Krusty Krab under the employment of Eugene Krabs, a greedy, miserly crab who shows SpongeBob favor (mainly because SpongeBob is willing to work enthusiastically and efficiently for very little pay), alongside his ill-tempered, hateful, snobbish neighbor Squidward Tentacles. His favorite hobbies include his occupation, jelly-fishing, karate (albeit at an elementary level, with Sandy Cheeks as his sensei), relentless fandom of superheroes Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy, and blowing bubbles. He is often seen clowning around with his closest friend Patrick, who lives on the same street as SpongeBob two doors down (with Squidward's home separating the two). However, SpongeBob's varying intelligence, unlimited optimistic cheer, and irritating behavior often leads him to perceive the outcome of numerous endeavors and the personalities of those around him as happier and sunnier than they often actually are; for instance, he believes that Squidward enjoys his company in spite of the fact that he clearly loathes him. A recurring gag in several episodes is SpongeBob's extremely poor "boating" (driving) ability and his repeated failures to pass his road test at "Mrs. Puff's Boating School." He lives in an iconic pineapple with his pet snail Gary.
Stephen Hillenburg had made several "horrible impersonations" before he finally conceived his character. He intended to create a series about an over-optimistic sponge that annoys other characters. Hillenburg compared the concept to Laurel and Hardy and Pee-wee Herman. As he drew the character, he decided that a "squeaky-clean square" (like a kitchen sponge) fits the concept. His name is derived from "Bob the Sponge", the host of Hillenburg's comic strip The Intertidal Zone that he originally drew in 1989 while studying at the California Institute of the Arts.
The first concept sketch portrayed the character as wearing a red hat with a green base and a white business shirt with a tie. SpongeBob's look gradually progressed to brown pants that was used in the final design. SpongeBob was designed to be a kid-like character who was goofy and optimistic in a style similar to that made famous by Jerry Lewis.
Originally the character was to be named SpongeBoy but this name was already in use. This was discovered after voice acting for the original seven-minute pilot was recorded in 1997. The Nickelodeon legal department discovered that the name was already in use for a mop product. Upon finding this out, Hillenburg decided that the character's given name still had to contain "Sponge" so viewers would not mistake the character for a "Cheese Man." Hillenburg decided to use the name "SpongeBob." He chose "SquarePants" as a family name as it referred to the character's square shape and it had a "nice ring to it".
Although SpongeBob's driver's license says his birthdate is July 14, 1986, which would make the character 13 years old at the time of the series' "official" premiere on July 17, 1999, Hillenburg joked that he is fifty in "sponge years". He explained that SpongeBob actually has no specific age, but that he is old enough to be on his own and still be going to boating school. The decision to have SpongeBob attend a boat driving school was made due to a request from Nickelodeon that the character attend a school.
SpongeBob is voiced by veteran voice actor Tom Kenny. Kenny previously worked with Hillenburg on Rocko's Modern Life, and when Hillenburg created SpongeBob SquarePants, he approached Kenny to voice the character. Hillenburg utilised Kenny's and other people's personalities to help create the personality of SpongeBob.
The voice of SpongeBob was originally used by Kenny for a very minor female alligator character named Al in Rocko's Modern Life. Kenny forgot the voice initially as he created it only for that single use. Hillenburg, however, remembered it when he was coming up with SpongeBob and used a video clip of the episode to remind Kenny of the voice. Kenny says that SpongeBob's high pitched laugh was specifically aimed at being unique, stating that they wanted an annoying laugh in the tradition of Popeye and Woody Woodpecker.
When SpongeBob SquarePants is broadcast in non-English languages, the voice actors dubbing SpongeBob's voice use Tom Kenny's rendition of the character as a starting point but also add unique elements. For example, in the French version of the series, SpongeBob speaks with a slight Daffy Duck-style lisp.
Throughout the run of SpongeBob SquarePants, the SpongeBob character has become popular with both children and adults. In June 2010, Entertainment Weekly named him one of the 100 Greatest Characters of the Last 20 Years. TV Guide listed SpongeBob SquarePants at number 9 for its 50 Greatest Cartoon Characters of All Time. However, not all critical reception for the character has been positive. AskMen's Top 10: Irritating '90s Cartoon Characters ranked SpongeBob at number four saying that his well-meaning attitude is extremely annoying.
Criticism and controversy
In 2005, a promotional video which showed SpongeBob along with other characters from children's shows singing together to promote diversity and tolerance, was criticized by a Christian evangelical group in the United States because they saw the character SpongeBob being used as an advocate for homosexuality though the video contained "no reference to sex, sexual lifestyle or sexual identity." James Dobson of Focus on the Family accused the makers of the video of promoting homosexuality due to a gay rights group sponsoring the video.
The incident led to questions as to whether or not SpongeBob is a homosexual character. In 2002, when SpongeBob's popularity with gay men grew, Hillenburg denied that SpongeBob was gay. He clarified that he considers the character to be "almost asexual;" he has been shown in various episodes to regenerate his limbs and reproduce by "budding", much like real sponges do. After Dobson's comments, Hillenburg repeated this assertion that sexual preference was never considered during the creation of the show. Tom Kenny and other production members were shocked and surprised 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 or any of the characters in the video but with the organization that sponsored the video, the We Are Family Foundation. Dobson noted that the We Are Family Foundation had posted pro-homosexual material on its 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".
Jeffrey P. Dennis, author of the journal article "The Same Thing We Do Every Night: Signifying Same-Sex Desire in Television Cartoons," 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." Dennis noted the two are "not consistently coded as romantic partners," since they live in separate residences, and have distinct groups of friends, but claimed that in the series, "the possibility of same-sex desire is never excluded." Martin Goodman of Animation World Magazine described Dennis's comments regarding SpongeBob and Patrick as "interesting."
In April 2009, in a tie-in partnership with Burger King and Nickelodeon, Burger King released an advertisement featuring SpongeBob and Sir Mix-a-Lot singing "Baby Got Back". Angry parents and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood protested the ad for being a sexist and inappropriately sexual, especially considering that SpongeBob's fan base includes pre-schoolers. Susan Linn, the director of the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood said "It's bad enough when companies use a beloved media character like SpongeBob to promote junk food to children, but it's utterly reprehensible when that character simultaneously promotes objectified, sexualized images of women." In an official statement released by Burger King, they claimed that "this campaign is aimed at parents."
In 2013, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit watchdog and consumer advocacy group, launched a campaign against Nickelodeon for allowing characters from its popular television shows, such as Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob SquarePants, to appear on snack food packaging targeted toward children. The CSPI purchased a full-page ad in The Hollywood Reporter in the form of a wanted poster featuring mug shots of SpongeBob SquarePants. The ad criticized Nickelodeon for "impersonating a responsible media company while aggressively marketing obesity to kids."
Throughout the run of SpongeBob SquarePants, the SpongeBob character has become very popular with children, teens, and adults. The character's popularity has spread from Nickelodeon's original demographic of two- to eleven-year-olds, to teenagers and adults, including college campuses and celebrities such as Sigourney Weaver and Bruce Willis. Salon.com indicates that the unadulterated innocence of SpongeBob is what makes the character so appealing. SpongeBob has also become popular with gay men, despite Stephen Hillenburg saying that none of the characters are homosexual. The character draws fans due to his flamboyant lifestyle and tolerant attitude.
The popularity of SpongeBob 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 as a method of building the SpongeBob SquarePants brand. Skeptics initially doubted that SpongeBob could be popular in Japan as the character's design is very different to already popular designs for Hello Kitty and Pikachu. The character also spawned a soap-filled sponge product manufactured by SpongeTech.
On May 17, 2013, Build-A-Bear Workshop introduced the new SpongeBob SqaurePants collection in stores and online in North America. "For the first time ever, Build-A-Bear Workshop Guests can finally take home the underwater fun of SpongeBob SquarePants and his friends," said Maxine Clark, Build-A-Bear Workshop founder and chief executive. "We are excited to be working with Nickelodeon to bring this iconic series and its lovable characters to life at Build-A-Bear Workshop." 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.
- Writers: Ennio Torresan, Jr., Erik Wiese, Mr. Lawrence (August 14, 1999). "Home Sweet Pineapple". SpongeBob SquarePants. Season 1. Episode 5b.
- Paul Tibbitt, Ennio Torresan, Jr., David Fain (March 15, 2000). "Rock Bottom". SpongeBob SquarePants. Season 1. Episode 17b.
- Writers: Walt Dohrn, Paul Tibbitt, Merriwether Williams (March 6, 2001). "Grandma's Kissess". SpongeBob SquarePants. Season 2. Episode 26a.
- Writers: Luke Brookshier, Nate Cash, Eric Shaw (November 23, 2007). "Stanley S. SquarePants". SpongeBob SquarePants. Season 5. Episode 100b.
- Writers: Casey Alexander, Zeus Cervas, Richard Pursel (August 2, 2007). "BlackJack". SpongeBob SquarePants. Season 5. Episode 93c.
- Heinrich, Steve (2005). The Never-Ending Stay. Lincolnwood, IL: Publications International, Ltd. ISBN 1-4127-3354-5.
- Writers: Casey Alexander, Zeus Cervas, Steven Banks, Dani Michaeli (November 11, 2010). "The Great Patty Caper". SpongeBob SquarePants. Season 7. Episode 143.
- Writers: Aaron Springer, Erik Wiese, Mr. Lawrence (December 31, 1999). "SB-129". SpongeBob SquarePants. Season 1. Episode 14a.
- Writers: Paul Tibbitt, Kent Osborne (March 5, 2004). "Ugh". SpongeBob SquarePants. Season 3. Episode 54.
- Writers: Luke Brookshier, Tom King, Steven Banks, Richard Pursel (April 11, 2008). "Pest of the West". SpongeBob SquarePants. Season 5. Episode 96.
- "US right attacks SpongeBob video". BBC News. 2005-01-20. Retrieved 2010-05-23.
- Writers: Stephen Hillenburg, Derek Drymon, Tim Hill (May 1, 1999). "Help Wanted". SpongeBob SquarePants. Season 1. Episode 1.
- Writers: Luke Brookshier, Tom King, Dani Michaeli (July 23, 2007). "Spy Buddies". SpongeBob SquarePants. Season 4. Episode 84a.
- Writers: Aaron Springer, Erik Wiese, Merriwether Williams (December 31, 1999). "Karate Choppers". SpongeBob SquarePants. Season 1. Episode 14b.
- Writers: Walt Dohrn, Paul Tibbitt, Merriwether Williams (September 7, 2001). "The Secret Box". SpongeBob SquarePants. Season 2. Episode 35a.
- Writers: Aaron Springer, C.H. Greenblatt, Merriwether Williams (December 28, 2000). "Dying for Pie". SpongeBob SquarePants. Season 2. Episode 24a.
- Writers: Casey Alexander, Chris Mitchell, Tim Hill (April 1, 2006). "Mrs. Puff, You're Fired". SpongeBob SquarePants. Season 4. Episode 69b.
- Cavna, Michael. "The Interview: 'SpongeBob' Creator Stephen Hillenburg". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-07-14.
- Banks, Steven (2004-09-24). SpongeBob Exposed! The Insider's Guide to SpongeBob SquarePants. Schigiel, Gregg (Illustrator). Simon Spotlight/Nickelodeon. ISBN 978-0-689-86870-2.
- Strauss, Gary (2002-05-17). "Life's good for SpongeBob". USA Today. Retrieved 2008-11-08.
- Farhat, Basima (Interviewer) (2006-12-05). Tom Kenny: Voice of SpongeBob SquarePants - Interview (mp3) (Radio production). The People Speak Radio. Retrieved 2008-11-08.
- Neuwirth, Allan (2003-04-01). Makin' Toons: Inside the Most Popular Animated TV Shows and Movies. Allworth Press. p. 51. ISBN 1-58115-269-8. Retrieved 2008-11-08.
- Writers: Aaron Springer, C.H. Greenblatt, Mr. Lawrence (March 7, 2001). "No Free Rides". SpongeBob SquarePants. Season 2. Episode 10.
- "Stephen Hillenburg created the undersea world of SpongeBob". Orange County Register. 2002-02-12. Retrieved 2012-08-16.
- Orlando, Dana (2003-03-17). "SpongeBob: the excitable, absorbent star of Bikini Bottom". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 2008-11-08.
- "SpongeBob's Alter Ego". CBS News. 2002-12-30. Retrieved 2008-11-08.
- Adam B. Vary (June 1, 2010). "The 100 Greatest Characters of the Last 20 Years: Here's our full list!". Entertainment Weekly. Time Inc. Retrieved July 7, 2012.
- "TV Guide's 50 greatest cartoon characters of all time". TV Guide. 30 July 2002.
- Murphy, Ryan. "Top 10: Irritating '90s Cartoon Characters". AskMen. Retrieved 2008-11-08.
- Eng, Joyce (8 August 2009). "What's on Obama's Must-See TV List?". TV Guide. Retrieved 28 April 2013.
- "From Bikini Bottom to pop icon; SpongeBob turns 10". Reuters. 14 July 2009. Retrieved 28 April 2013.
- "Barack Obama Is A SpongeBob Fan". Media Bistro. 26 November 2007. Retrieved 28 April 2013.
- BBC Staff (2005-01-20). "US right attacks SpongeBob video". BBC News. Retrieved 2007-06-11.
- "Will Spongebob make you gay?". MSNBC. Retrieved 2005-01-21.
- Associated Press (2005-01-22). "Spongebob, Muppets and the Sister Sledge writer suffer criticism". USA Today. Retrieved 2007-06-11.
- BBC Staff (2002-10-09). "Camp cartoon star 'is not gay'". BBC News. Retrieved 2007-06-11.
- Silverman, Stephen M. (2005-01-28). "SpongeBob Asexual, Not Gay: Creator". People. Retrieved 2009-08-26.
- Writers: Jay Lender, William Reiss, David Fain (March 8, 2001). "Pressure". SpongeBob SquarePants. Season 2. Episode 32a.
- "SpongeBob isn't gay or straight, creator says". Reuters. 2005-01-29. Retrieved 2008-11-09.
- Chang, Pauline J. (2005-01-28). "Dobson clarifies Pro-Gay SpongeBob Video Controversy". The Christian Post. Retrieved 2007-06-11.
- Till, Francis (2005-02-04). "Ministry celebrates SpongeBob: Gay, happy, yellow, orange, whatever, he's welcome". National Business Review. Retrieved 2007-06-11.
- Dennis, Jeffrey P. "The Same Thing We Do Every Night: Signifying Same-Sex Desire in Television Cartoons." Journal of Popular Film & Television. Fall 2003. Volume 31, Issue 3. 132-140. 9p, 3bw. Within the PDF document the source info is on p. 137 (6/10)
- Goodman, Martin. "Deconstruction Zone — Part 2." Animation World Network. Wednesday March 10, 2004. 4. Retrieved on October 28, 2009.
- Ekberg, Aida (15 April 2009). "Spongebob + Sir Mix-A-Lot + Burger King = Offensive Commercial?". Yahoo!. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
- "CCFC to Nickelodeon: Did You Approve the SpongeBob SquareButt Burger King Commercial?". Common Dreams. 9 April 2009. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
- Kelleher, Katy (8 April 2009). "SpongeBob Meets Sir Mix-A-Lot In New Burger King Ads". Jezebel. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
- Douglas, Joanna (8 April 2009). "Is the Sir Mix-a-Lot Burger King commercial too much for kids?". Yahoo!. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
- Newman, Craig. "Burger King pushes flat butts and SpongeBob to kids, hires buttheads to do it". Suntimes. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
- "Nearly 70% of Food Ads on Nickelodeon are for Junk". Center for Science in the Public Interest. 21 March 2013. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
- "CSPI AD TARGETS NICKELODEON OVER KIDS’ MARKETING". Food Product Design. 14 March 2013. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
- "CSPI Full-page Ad". Center for Science in the Public Interest. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
- Williams, Matt (23 March 2013). "Spongebob scapegoat: nonprofit group targets Nickelodeon in new campaign". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
- Park, Michael Y. (2002-10-09). "SpongeBob HotPants?". Fox News Channel. Retrieved 2008-11-09.
- Imperiale Wellons, Nancy (2001-05-01). "SpongeBob cartoon proves its hip to be SquarePants.". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2008-11-09.
- Zacharek, Stephanie (2004-09-19). "The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie". Salon.com. Retrieved 2008-11-08.
- Susman, Gary (2002-10-09). "Under the Surface". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2008-11-08.
- Snook, Raven (6 July 2009). "Yellow fever: SpongeBob figure to debut at Madame Tussauds". Timeout. Retrieved 23 May 2013.
- Singer, Bret (15 July 2009). "SpongeBob Debuts at Madame Tussauds". Parent Dish. Retrieved 23 May 2013.
- Huff, Richard. "'SpongeBob SquarePants' one of Nickelodeon's longest-running shows after nearly a decade". New York Daily News. Retrieved 23 May 2013.
- "MADAME TUSSAUDS IS BONKERS FOR SPONGEBOB". Mom Trends. 11 July 2009. Retrieved 23 May 2013.
- Desjardin DE, Peay KB, Bruns TD. (May 10, 2011). "Spongiforma squarepantsii, a new species of gasteroid bolete from Borneo". Mycologia (in press ) 103 (5): 1119–23. doi:10.3852/10-433. PMID 21558499.
- Kageyama, Yuri (2007-01-24). "SpongeBob Goes Trendy to Win Japan Fans". The San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 2009-04-05. Retrieved 2008-11-08.
- Cohen, Melanie (2010-07-13). "SpongeTech Strikes Out in Bankruptcy". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2010-07-13.
- "High Fashion Hits Bikini Bottom". Viacom. 14 January 2009. Retrieved 23 May 2013.
- Dedman, Christie (4 April 2013). "Build A Bear SpongeBob Square Pants coming May 17". AL.com. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
- "Build-A-Bear Workshop Makes a Splash with New SpongeBob SquarePants Collection". BusinessWire. 15 May 2013. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
- "Build-A-Bear welcomes the SpongeBob gang". Retailing Today. 15 May 2013. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
- Edel, Ray (15 May 2013). "Make a splash with new SpongeBob SquarePants Collection at Build-A-Bear". NorthJersey.com. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
- Mierzejewski, Ali (15 May 2013). "Build-A-Bear Workshop Meets Bikini Bottom with New SpongeBob SquarePants Collection". Toy Book. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
- SpongeBob SquarePants at the Internet Movie Database
- SpongeBob SquarePants on Facebook
- SpongeBob SquarePants on Twitter