Hillenburg initially conceived the show in 1984 and began to work on it shortly after the cancellation of Rocko's Modern Life in 1996. He teamed up with several Nickelodeon and Rocko crew members, including creative director Derek Drymon, writers and directors Sherm Cohen, and Dan Povenmire, writer Tim Hill, actor and writer Martin Olson, animation director Alan Smart, and story editor Merriwether Williams. To voice the character of SpongeBob, Hillenburg approached Tom Kenny, who had worked with him onRocko's Modern Life. SpongeBob was originally to be named SpongeBoy, but the name was already in use for a mop product. Upon finding it out, 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".
Upon premiere in 1999, the series received worldwide critical acclaim, though has been involved in public controversies. SpongeBob SquarePants has been nominated for 11 Emmy Awards and 20 Annie Awards, and has won six from the Annie. It is listed 15th in IGN's top 100 animated series list, and is among the "All-TIME 100 TV Shows" as chosen by Time television critic James Poniewozik.