A Deep Dive Into Bikini Bottom

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SpongeBob SquarePants reaches 20-year nautical milestone

SpongeBob and the gang celebrate 20 years on television (Image by Nickelodeon)

If you don’t know who SpongeBob Squarepants is, you’re probably living in a pineapple under the sea or even under a rock. For the past 20 years, SpongeBob SquarePants has charmed and swam his way into the homes and hearts of millions, and he’s still going strong.

SpongeBob SquarePants is the brainchild of marine science educator and animator Stephen Hillenburg and premiered on Nickelodeon on July 17, 1999. The animated comedy television series takes place in the fictional town of Bikini Bottom and chronicles the adventures and endeavors of energetic frycook SpongeBob SquarePants (Tom Kenny, who also voices SpongeBob’s pet snail Gary), SpongeBob’s painfully dim-witted best friend Patrick Star (Bill Fagerbakke), the always disgruntled and depressed Squidward Tentacles (Rodger Bumpass), extreme cheapskate and owner of the Krusty Krab—Bikini Bottom’s most popular restaurant—Mr. Krabs (Clancy Brown), the ever so tiny and maniacal Plankton (Mr. Lawrence), thrill-seeking and athletic squirrel Sandy Cheeks (Carolyn Lawrence), and other nautical creatures.

As the fifth-longest running American animated series, SpongeBob SquarePants’ popularity has made it a media franchise. It is the highest rated series to air on Nickelodeon and is Viacom Media Networks’ most distributed property. The show has even spawned a toy line that is spearheaded by Alpha Toy Group, a Broadway musical, and has had two theatrical releases with a third one on the way that is set to be released in May, 2020.

Interestingly enough, many of the series’ ideas originated in the unpublished educational comic book The Intertidal Zone, which Hillenburg created just 10 years prior in 1989. Seven years later in 1996, Hillenburg began developing SpongeBob SquarePants into a television series following the cancellation of Rocko’s Modern Life, which ran on Nickelodeon from 1993-96, where Hillenburg was a creative director. While developing SpongeBob, Hillenburg turned to Kenny, who had worked with him on Rocko’s Modern Life, to voice the title character. SpongeBob was originally going to be named SpongeBoy as the series was set to be called SpongeBoy Ahoy! Both of these were changed as the name was already trademarked.

Most fans of SpongeBob SquarePants would remember classic episodes such as “Sailor Mouth,” where SpongeBob and Patrick learn profanity after reading dirty words on a dumpster outside the Krusty Krab and ultimately get in trouble when they curse up a storm. Who could forget the episode “Chocolates with Nuts,” which showed SpongeBob and Patrick becoming entrepreneurs when they become chocolate bar salesmen and are chased around town by a crazed chocolate fiend. Or how about the episode “Frankendoodle” when SpongeBob created the ultimate prankster and troublemaker DoodleBob after he and Patrick find a pencil and begin to draw with it.

This past February, Nickelodeon said it would recognize the 20th anniversary of SpongeBob SquarePants with a series of celebrations known as the “Best Year Ever.” In honor of the anniversary, Pantone created color shades known as “SpongeBob SquarePants Yellow” and “Patrick Star Pink” to be used by Nickelodeon’s licensing partners.

Romero Britto, Jon Burgerman, and the Filipino art collective Secret Fresh were commissioned by Nickelodeon to create art pieces devoted to SpongeBob SquarePants, some of which were adapted into commercial products. SpongeBob even made a splash into the fashion world when fashion designer Cynthia Rowley presented a SpongeBob SquarePants-themed wetsuit during New York Fashion Week. Marlou Breuls presented the SpongeBob SquarePants-themed “Icon Collection” during Amsterdam Fashion Week as well. Nike, in collaboration with Kyrie Irving, released a SpongeBob SquarePants series of shoes, accessories and apparel. Additionally, for the first time ever SpongeBob SquarePants became the theme of a cosmetics line, which was released as a limited time offering by HipDot Studios. The “Best Year Ever” also introduced an official SpongeBob SquarePants YouTube channel and a new mobile game based on the series.

The “Best Year Ever” formally began with the premiere of the one-hour, live-action/animated TV special SpongeBob’s Big Birthday Blowout. It continued that month at San Diego Comic Con, with two panels, a booth, and various activities devoted to the series. The “Best Year Ever” was recognized on Amazon Prime Day with an exclusive early release of SpongeBob SquarePants: The Best 200 Episodes Ever!, a 30-disc DVD compilation of two box sets, SpongeBob SquarePants: The First 100 Episodes and SpongeBob SquarePants: The Next 100 Episodes.

Make sure to catch SpongeBob SquarePants on Nickelodeon.

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