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SpongeBob SquarePants (often referred to simply as SpongeBob) is an American animated television series, created by marine biologist andanimator Stephen Hillenburg. Much of the series centers on the exploits and adventures of the title character and his various friends in the underwater city of Bikini Bottom. The series' popularity has prompted the release of a media franchise, contributing to its position as Nickelodeon's highest rated show, the most distributed property of MTV Networks, and among Nicktoons' most watched shows.[1] It is listed 15th in IGN's top 100 animated series list.When Rocko's Modern Life ended in 1996,[2] Hillenburg began working on SpongeBob SquarePants.[3][4] He teamed up with several Nickelodeon veterans and Rocko crew members, including creative director Derek Drymon (Action League Now!, Hey Arnold!, and Rocko's Modern Life) writers and directors Sherm Cohen, and Dan Povenmire[5], writer Tim Hill, actor and writer Martin Olson, animation director Alan Smart (all from Rocko's Modern Life), and story editor Merriwether Williams (The Angry Beavers), who worked on the series for its first few seasons and switched toSpongeBob SquarePants in July 1999. To voice the character of SpongeBob, Hillenburg approached Tom Kenny, who had worked with him onRocko's Modern Life.[6] Originally, SpongeBob was to be named SpongeBoy, but this name was already in use.[7] 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.[8] 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".[9]The pilot episode of SpongeBob SquarePants first aired in the United States on Nickelodeon on May 1, 1999, following the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards. The first episodes were called "Help Wanted", "Reef Blower", and "Tea at the Treedome". The "official" series premiere followed on July 17, 1999, with the second episode, "Bubblestand/Ripped Pants." The show reached enormous popularity by 2000 during the second season, and has remained popular since. A feature film of the series was released in theaters on November 19, 2004. The series celebrated its tenth anniversary on July 17, 2009. SpongeBob was renewed for a ninth season on January 3, 2011.[10] So far the series has aired 334 individual episodes. It is currently Nickelodeon's longest-running cartoon for 13 years of airing on TV from 1999 until now and currently on its 8th season.SpongeBob surpassed Rugrats (in terms of number of episodes) when SpongeBob aired its 173rd episode on April 11, 2012 (while Rugrats had 172 episodes). Last April 12, 2012, SpongeBob aired its 174th episode and currently has 174 episodes aired, and a total of 204, marking it as the firstNicktoon to have 200 or more episodes.Much of the series' events take place in Bikini Bottom, an underwater city located in the Pacific Ocean beneath the real life tropical isle of Bikini Atoll.[11]Stephen Hillenburg has stated that much of Bikini Bottom was based on the real life city of Seattle.[12] Much of this is supported within the context of the episodes themselves; however, despite implications of the city's location as well as analogies to real life, Hillenburg has stated that he wishes to leave the city isolated from the real world, explaining the Baywatch parody scene from The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie as simply a reference to his favorite show of all time.[12][13] The citizens of Bikini Bottom live in mostly aquatic-themed buildings, and use "boatmobiles", an amalgamation of cars and boats, as a mode of transportation.

Each episode of SpongeBob SquarePants is self-contained, with references to previous episodes being rare. Episodes have ended with the entire town being destroyed, the entire cast being irreparably harmed (Some of which being surprisingly dark for a children's show), characters (particularly Squidward) being sentenced to extended prison or community service sentences, or other catastrophic events, only for everything to return to normal the next episodewithout any mention of what happened before Bikini Bottom aka. Downtown (formerly known as Dead Eye Gulch and before that Bikini Gulch) is the main setting in SpongeBob SquarePants. The city proper has a population of about 2,000,000, but the entire metro area (including Jellyfish Fields) has a population of over 4,000,000 (this, however, varies widely by episode). The city consists of various businesses, including restaurants, stores, and manufacturers. The city has a stable economy, a balanced education system, questionable health care (as seen in "The Lost Mattress") and labor laws, a structured government, and a firm law enforcement system. There are even stadiums, amusement parks, and other recreational facilities. Bikini Bottom first was mentioned in the episode: "Plankton!" but first appeared in the episode: "Help Wanted." Bikini Bottom is also home to all of the characters. Bikini Bottom is located at the bottom of the sea, below its signature island, Bikini Atoll, according to Stephen Hillenburg. There are many instances of evidence of this in the show: After being scared off by "ghosts", Sandy Cheeks evacuated to Texas. She was seen flying east from the Pacific Ocean. In the Employee of the Month computer game, a fish mentions that Bikini Bottom is located in the Pacific Ocean. In The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, when SpongeBob was singing the "Goofy Goober Rock", the camera rose out of the water into outer space. When it did, it came out of the Pacific Ocean. In the TV commercial "Plankton's Holiday Hits", Bikini Bottom is revealed to be part of the United States, and its residents Americans. Bikini Bottom is placed beneath its namesake island, Bikini Atoll, in the Pacific Ocean. Bikini Bottom's location at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean is mentioned or referred to in several different episodes, and in the movie, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie. In the episode Hide and Then What Happens?, it is revealed that Bikini Bottom is located in an island with Jellyfish Fields and Goo Lagoon, surrounded by the goo seen in Goo Lagoon. In SpongeBob's Last Stand, Bikini Bottom is on the Outskirts of Nowhere. In multiple episodes, an explosion, which is actually the Baker bomb that was detonated in Bikini Atoll, occurs Rocko's Modern Life ended in 1996.[22] Shortly following this, Hillenburg began working on SpongeBob SquarePants, teaming up with several Nickelodeon veterans and Rocko crew members.[3][4]To voice the character of SpongeBob, Hillenburg approached Tom Kenny, who had worked with him on Rocko's Modern Life.[6] Originally, SpongeBob was to be named SpongeBoy, but this name was already in use.[23] 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.[8] 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 "had a nice ring to it".[24]

While pitching the cartoon to Nickelodeon executives, Hillenburg donned a Hawaiian shirt, brought along an "underwater terrarium with models of the characters", and Hawaiian music to set the theme. The setup was described by Nick executive Eric Coleman as "pretty amazing".[25] When given money and two weeks to write the pilot episode ("Help Wanted"),[16] Derek Drymon, Stephen Hillenberg, and Nick Jennings returned with, described by Nickelodeon official Albie Hecht, "a performance he wished he had on tape".[26] Although described as stressful by executive producer Derek Drymon,[16] the pitch went "very well"; Kevin Kay and Hecht had to step outside because they were "exhausted from laughing", making the cartoonists worried.[26]

SpongeBob's first season was only a modest success during its initial run after the series' debut in 1999, but the show still garnered enough popularity that Nickelodeon quietly renewed it for a second season. Beginning with this season, production of the series switched from traditional cel animation to digital ink and paint. During the second season's run, the show quickly achieved enormous and world wide popularity, leading to an immediate third season pick-up. The show's continued success eventually led to the creation of a feature film called The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, which was intended to be the end of the series. However, shortly after the film's release, Nickelodeon renewed the series for a fourth season. Also following the film's release, Stephen Hillenburg resigned as show runner, causing a shift in the series' production crew, as well as several of the series' writers. Following the end of the Hillenburg era, the animation style changed to 3D computer animation (although it would still use digital ink and paint).

The series' fourth season began in May 2005, and was ordered a fifth season in December 2005, bringing the show’s total episode count to 100.[27] In December 2006, SpongeBob was approved for a sixth season. The fifth season began in February 2007.[28] On July 23, 2007, Nickelodeon began airing a special event, called the "SpongeBob New–New–New–New–New–Week" in which from Monday to Friday, a new episode would air.[29] This continued until the end of the second week. Later on November 12, 2007, a TV movie aired titled Atlantis SquarePantis, guest starringDavid Bowie as the voice of Lord Royal Highness. In March 2008, it was announced that SpongeBob would have an additional thirty-nine episodes, which includes the remaining episodes of the sixth season, and a seventh season.[30][31][32] Creator Stephen Hillenburg initially conceived SpongeBob SquarePants in 1984, while he was teaching and studying marine biology at what is now theOrange County Ocean Institute.[14] During this period, Hillenburg became fascinated with animation, and wrote a comic book entitled The Intertidal Zonestarring various anthropomorphic forms of sea life, many of which would evolve into SpongeBob SquarePants characters,[15] including "Bob the Sponge", who was the co-host of the comic and resembled an actual sea sponge, as opposed to SpongeBob who resembles a kitchen sponge.[3] In 1987, Hillenburg left the institute to pursue his dream of becoming an animator,[15][3] and began to envision the possible concept of a project involving anthropomorphic sea life, drawing several rough sketches.[3] In 1992, Hillenburg began to attend the California Institute of the Arts to study animation, having been accepted into the institute by Jules Engel, who was impressed with Hillenburg's previous work.[15][16][17]

While attending animation school, Hillenburg received a job on the children's TV series Mother Goose & Grimm, and worked on the series from 1991 to 1993. When attending the California Institute of the Arts, he made his thesis film entitled Wormholes,[3] which was funded by the Princess Grace Foundation and was later displayed at various animation festivals.[3] In 1993, Hillenburg graduated from the institute, earning a Master of Fine Arts in experimental animation.[15] In 1995, Joe Murray, creator of Rocko's Modern Life, met Hillenburg at an animation festival, and offered him a job as a directorof the series.[3][18][19][20] Hillenburg then joined the Nickelodeon animated series as a writer, producer, and storyboard artist during the series' third season, continuing his position for much of the fourth season.[3][20][21] The third season episode "Fish-N-Chumps" (November 12, 1995) was directed by Hillenburg, and involved Rocko, Heffer, and Filburtgoing on a fishing trip, oblivious to the fact that a pair anthropomorphic fish are attempting to catch them from underwater.[18][4] While working on Rocko's Modern Life, Hillenburg became friends with Tom Kenny, who was later approached by Hillenburg to become the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants,[6] and future SpongeBob SquarePants collaborators Mr. Lawrence, Paul Tibbitt and others. On July 14, 2009, a primetime SpongeBob tenth anniversary documentary titled Square Roots: The Story of SpongeBob SquarePants, aired on VH1, discussing the history of the show, and its impact on popular culture.[33] Starting on July 17, 2009 at 8:00 PM EDT, Nickelodeon aired a 50½-hour marathon titled "The Ultimate SpongeBob Sponge Bash." The marathon included the premiere of 11 new episodes, countdowns of celebrities' and viewer-chosen top 10 episodes, and more.[34] On November 6, 2009, a second TV movie debuted on Nickelodeon, titled Truth or Square, in which SpongeBob, Patrick, Squidward, and Mr. Krabs are accidentally locked inside the Krusty Krab freezer on the night of the restaurant's eleventy-seventh anniversary celebration. While trapped inside, the friends look back on their shared memories with "shocking" reveals.[35] Several celebrities made live-action cameo appearances on Truth or Square, including Rosario Dawson, LeBron James, Tina Fey, Will Ferrell, Craig Ferguson, Robin Williams and Pink, while Ricky Gervais provided opening and closing naration for the special.[36] Also Victoria Beckham lent her voice as Queen Amphitrite, a Brit-accented goddess of the sea in an episode titled "The Clash of Triton," a half-hour special that aired on July 5, 2010.[37][38]

SpongeBob SquarePants surpassed Rugrats as the longest running Nicktoon in number of episodes on April 12, 2012 and in length of time on air eight days later. Rugrats aired 172 episodes in its run; SpongeBob has gone over 178.[39] The series was further extended to a ninth season in January 2011, bringing its total to 204 episodes. It has become the first Nicktoon to reach 200 episodes.[40] It will also be the second Nicktoon (after Rugrats) to have made it to its ninth season.

The eighth season started on March 26, 2011, when "Oral Report" and "A Friendly Game" aired. "Sentimental Sponge" aired the next weekend, on April 2, 2011. The next episode did not air until June 4, 2011, when a SpongeBob SquarePants new episode marathon started, that aired one new episode every Saturday, for the month of June. The theme music was composed by Derek Drymon, Mark Harrison, Stephen Hillenburg and Blaise Smith as part of Hank Smith Music, and is primarily based on the sea shanty, "Blow the Man Down". The song is sung by Painty the Pirate, voiced by Patrick Pinney, and can be found on the soundtrack SpongeBob SquarePants: Original Theme Highlights. A cover of the song by Avril Lavigne can be found on the SpongeBob SquarePants Movie soundtrack. Another cover by the Violent Femmes, which aired as a commercial on Nickelodeon to promote season two, can be viewed in the special features of the Nautical Nonsense/Sponge Buddies DVD. A choral version was recorded for the SpongeBob Christmas special where the last repetition of "SpongeBob SquarePants" was replaced by, "It's the SpongeBob Christmas special." The theme song is occasionally used as marching cadence. An instrumental version of the opening theme is used in Italy. The series' music editor and main composer is Nicolas Carr. Most of the background music used in the series comes from the Associated Production Music (APM) Library, some of which have also been used in shows such as The Simpsons, The Ren & Stimpy Show, The Mighty B!, Rocko's Modern Life, The X Factor, Camp Lazlo, My Gym Partner's a Monkey, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and The Adventures of Pete & Pete. For competition-based episodes, some of Sam Spence's NFL Films music is used (such as "A Golden Boy Again" used in episodes such as The Fry Cook Games and "Ramblin' Man from Gramblin" is used in Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy V. "The Lineman" is also used extensively in Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy episodes). Ironically, one of Spence's more famous songs for the NFL Films library of music is an orchestral version of "Drunken Sailor" called "Up She Rises", first suggested by Steven Sabol to his father Ed because he liked the song at summer camp.

Hawaiian steel guitar music is used for comedic and dramatic effect in the show. Various compositions featuring the Hawaiian steel convey happy, sad, or goofy emotions and situations. Many are traditional Hawaiian melodies such as "Aloha 'Oe" and are usually sampled from the above-mentioned APM music library, and are from time to time performed by classic steel guitar artists, including The Woodies, The Langhorns, and The MelTones. Creator Hillenburg states that much of the music in the series was inspired by 1950s Hawaiian steel guitar tunes.[13] Another aspect of the series' musical score is traditional sea shanties, which are used for the musical themes in the show. The most commonly used song in the series is "Drunken Sailor," though a ukulele version of the "Twelfth Street Rag" is often heard in the background as well. Unlike other Nickelodeon shows, SpongeBob features well-known independent musicians who contribute to its soundtrack.Alternative rock bands such as Wilco, The Shins, The Flaming Lips and Ween, as well as metal bands Pantera, Motörhead and Twisted Sister have made appearances on the show and movies soundtracks. Though SpongeBob SquarePants debuted in 1999, it did not become hugely popular until the following year, and it has remained popular since then.SpongeBob SquarePants was the first "low budget" Nickelodeon cartoon, according to the network, to become extremely popular. Low-budget cartoons had not garnered as much esteem as higher-rated, higher-budgeted shows, although when SpongeBob aired in 1999, it had gained a significant enough number of viewers in the ratings to be considered popular, eventually reaching worldwide popularity by 2000. SpongeBob follows other Nickelodeon shows that have attracted "older" followers: Other shows have followed in this trend as well: The Fairly OddParents won a similar fan base when it premiered in 2001, and is now second only to SpongeBob in popularity. Since 2004, IGN made SpongeBob SquarePants 15th in its top 100 animated series of all time list.

Heavy metal group Metallica even released a T-shirt featuring cartoon versions of themselves playing live with the characters SpongeBob and Patrick. British rock singer David Bowie was a special guest on the SpongeBob SquarePants episode Atlantis SquarePantis, which aired on November 12, 2007.[41] The episode drew total 8.8 million viewers, the biggest audience in the show's eight-year history.[41]

The show became so popular with adolescents and adults that it was broadcast on MTV and featured on Spike TV. A quote by Patrick, "It's gonna rock!" from the episode "Mid-Life Crustacean", has been used as a promotional tag-line for rock stations.[citation needed] Ren and Stimpy, among others, had followed a similar path. The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie features a cameo appearance by actor David Hasselhoff, in a parody of his role from the Baywatch TV series. In April 2009, as a tie-in to the special "SpongeBob vs. The Big One", Burger King distributed two different commercials geared toward children and adult audiences. In ads broadcast on major networks, the commercial shows rapper Sir Mix-a-Lot recording a music video for his new song, "SpongeBob Got Back".