He lives in a pinneapple under the sea all while being absorbent, yellow and porous, and is now making his way to toy shelves in honor of his 20th anniversary on Nickelodeon. Spongebob Squarepants has emerged as a global pop culture phenomenon since first premiering on the network in July 1999 and has been the most-watched animated program for more than 17 consecutive years that has been seen in more than 208 countries and translated in more than 55 languages.
All thanks to Alpha Group US, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Alpha—one of the leading animation and toy companies in China, fans of all ages can now bring home some awesome collectibles and toys from Spongebob CulturePants vinyl figures to Slimeez with Nickelodeon Slime to Exsqueeze Me Plush toys and much more.
“It’s been a brand that has been around for so long since it’s now in its 20th year,” said Kim Morris, who is the senior director of global marketing at Alpha Group. “It’s a powerhouse and pop culture brand, and it has an incredible following. Also it’s all about story and that story has been told for so long. The show is on every single day on Nickelodeon. It’s also multigenerational, which is pretty cool. So we were interested in the brand for that reason.”
Plus, the timing was just right for Alpha Group to take on the Spongebob brand due to the 20th anniversary and the feature movie that is coming out in May of next year.
“From the perspective of tapping into the brand, it was just a monumental time to push it from all angles and we could compliment it with new and exciting ways through our toy designs,” said Amrtiz Lay, who is the senior marketing manager for Alpha Group.
One of the exciting new products to hit shelves is the 8-inch Masterpiece Memes figures that bring to live fan-favorite show and movie moments that have become some of the most popular viral memes. Some of the figures that fans can buy are Mocking Spongebob, Imaginaaation Spongebob, Spongeegar and Surprised Patrick among others.
“The fans themselves have Spongebob in their lives every day through these memes,” explained Lay. “So it made it really easy for us to just pick and choose from the top used meme. There’s a built in audience and there’s a hunger for them. We’re super excited about the reception that they received.”
When Alpha Group got the license to make the toys, one of the things the toy company wanted to do was to get out of Bikini Bottom, the home of where Spongebob and all his nautical friends reside, and do something that hasn’t been done before.
“We have a multi-tier strategy in our product development,” said Morris. “We have one that’s very focused on kids and one that is very focused on the collectors and the fans, and in the social digital age it allows us to go after those fans.”
Also for the first time ever, Spongebob and the iconic green Nickelodeon slime come together in Alpha Group’s new Spongebob Slimeez figures.
“Through our Slimeez products, it’s the first time that Spongebob is partnered with official Nickelodeon slime,” said Lay. “It’s a great way to take it on the go. It comes in a blind bag so they don’t really know what they’re getting and there’s a play pattern that is all the hype right now. It’s a great assortment of all the key characters of the ‘Krusty’ crew.”
Lay also mentioned how the toy company’s plush character toys have been a popular item to buy including the Exsqueeze Me interactive plush that burps and farts that feature both Spongebob and Patrick. The company is also excited about the Giggle Blaster that is launching this fall.
“The Giggle Blaster has party string and you just insert any party string in there and when you pull the trigger it shoots the party string about 15 feet,” said Morris. “When you trigger it, it makes all these different sounds and phrases from Spongebob. So even when you run out of the string, you still have a lot of play value. It’s been really well received.”
This fall, Alpha Group is also putting out a large scale Spongebob plush that will have a 20th anniversary logo sewn onto his back. The commemorative plush will also tell jokes when you pull Spongebob’s tie.
“For both of those products [the Giggle Blaster and the Spongebob commemorative plush], we recorded with Tom Kenny, so they’re all fresh recordings and deliveries especially the Giggle Blaster,” said Lay.
Some of Lay’s favorite Spongebob products include the Masterpiece Memes and CulturePants figures.
“CulturePants are $9.99 vinyls that are on a smaller scale,” said Lay. “They’re super detailed and some of them are completely brand new and that’s cool because when you talk about why Alpha was excited to become the master toy license is because we had these liberties and this trust with Nickelodeon to explore these new designs. So if you look at our old-timey CulturePants [figures], these are never seen before and that’s really fun to see the development process. They super affordable to collect.”
Spongeheads also make Lay’s list of all-time favorite Spongebob products.
“They’re these inflatable heads of the characters,” said Lay. “They’re just funny, I don’t know what it is. They’re zany. I don’t know how to classify them, but kids will enjoy them and college kids can enjoy them. It’s great for Halloween too.”
“Another thing that I would add is that I think when we did the line, our designer on the brand who is a huge fan of Spongebob and knows every episode so intimately,” said Morris. “What’s important to know is that we have [something] for everyone in the line, so if you’re a kid and you just want basic Spongebob that’s fine, but if you’re somebody who really knows the show, you can buy these CulturePants [figures], you’ll get a particular episodic moment of that figure you love. There’s just a really nice broad array of options for someone who wants a basic character or one who really wants something more nostalgic. We’re really excited about it.”
Fans of SpongeBob can purchase these brand new toys at Target, Amazon, Walmart.com, and Hot Topic.