SpongeBob SquarePants (character)

SpongeBob SquarePants (character)
SpongeBob SquarePants
SpongeBob SquarePants character
First appearance "Help Wanted" (May 1, 1999)
Voiced by Tom Kenny
Hiroyuki Tsuru (Japanese; Seasons 1–3)
Taiki Matsuno (Japanese; Seasons 4–current)
Jens Jacob Tychsen (Danish)
Santiago Ziesmer
Kaihiamal Martinez (Spanish; Season 1)
Luis Carreño (Spanish; Season 2–current)
Ido Mosseri (Hebrew)
Claudio Moneta (Italian)
Species Sea sponge
Gender Male
Occupation Fry cook
Relatives Parents: Harold and Mrs. SquarePants
Grandparents: Grandpa[1] and Grandma SquarePants
Uncles: Sherm and Captain Blue
Cousins: Todd, Stanley and Blackjack
Ancestors: Spongegar
SpongeBuck SquarePants

SpongeBob SquarePants is a main 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 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.[2] 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 a sea sponge, but he resembles a kitchen sponge. He has large blue eyes, many holes appearing all around his body and a mouth with prominent front buck teeth. He typically wears a white shirt with a red tie and brown square trousers, hence his family name "SquarePants".[3]

SpongeBob is a fry cook at the Krusty Krab restaurant, at which he has won employee of the month many times.[4] He attends Mrs. Puff's Boating School, analogous to a driving school, but cannot pass the boating test until "Gone". SpongeBob lives with his pet snail Gary in a large "pineapple-house" on 124 Conch Street in fictional Bikini Bottom,[3] which is located beneath the real tropical isle of Bikini Atoll.[5] His neighbors are Squidward, who is an octopus and SpongeBob's co-worker at the Krusty Krab,[6] and Patrick, a starfish who is SpongeBob's best friend.[7]

SpongeBob is an optimistic and energetic character, but also very naive. His hobbies include jelly-fishing (similar to bird watching and butterfly catching) and blowing bubbles with Patrick.[3] He is unaware of how Squidward is annoyed by him.[6]

SpongeBob's catchphrase is "I'm ready!"


Stephen Hillenburg had made several "horrible impersonations" before he finally conceived his character.[8] 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.[3]

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.[3] 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.[9]

Tom Kenny provides the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants.

Originally the character was to be named SpongeBoy but this name was already in use.[3] 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.[10] 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".[11]

Although SpongeBob's driver's license says his birthdate is July 14, 1986,[12] 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.[3] The decision to have SpongeBob attend a boat driving school was made due to a request from Nickelodeon that the character attend a school.[13]

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.[14] Hillenburg utilised Kenny's and other people's personalities to help create the personality of SpongeBob.[10]

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.[10] 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.[15]

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.[10]


Critical reception

Throughout the run of SpongeBob SquarePants, the SpongeBob character has become popular with both children and adults. 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.[16]

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,[17] 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."[18][19] 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;"[20][21] 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.[22] Tom Kenny and other production members were shocked and surprised that such an issue had arisen.[10]

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.[23] 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".[24]

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."[25] Martin Goodman of Animation World Magazine described Dennis's comments regarding SpongeBob and Patrick as "interesting."[26]

Cultural influence

Throughout the run of SpongeBob SquarePants, the SpongeBob character has become very popular with both children and adults. The character's popularity has spread from Nickelodeon's original demographic of two to eleven year olds, to teenagers and adults,[27] including college campuses and celebrities such as Sigourney Weaver and Bruce Willis.[28] Salon.com indicates that the unadulterated innocence of SpongeBob is what makes the character so appealing.[29] 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.[30]

In May 2011, a new species of mushroom, Spongiforma squarepantsii, was described. The mushroom was named after the famous cartoon character.[31]


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.[9] 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.[32] The character also spawned a soap-filled sponge product manufactured by SpongeTech.[33]


  1. ^ SpongeBob Season 1, Episode 17: Rock Bottom
  2. ^ "US right attacks SpongeBob video". BBC News. 2005-01-20. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4190699.stm. Retrieved 2010-05-23. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Banks, Steven (2004-09-24). SpongeBob Exposed! The Insider's Guide to SpongeBob SquarePants. Schigiel, Gregg (Illustrator). Simon Spotlight/Nickelodeon. ISBN 978-0689868702. 
  4. ^ "Employee of the Month". SpongeBob SquarePants. Nickelodeon. 1999-10-02. No. 25, season 1.
  5. ^ "SpongeBob SquarePants profile on Xbox.com". Xbox.com. Archived from the original on June 21, 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20080621120947/http://www.xbox.com/en-US/marketplace/media/7828e8cd-f206-4d7c-a4d3-5baf34143b80/. Retrieved 2008-11-08. 
  6. ^ a b "Meet the Characters: Squidward". Nickelodeon. 2008. http://www.nick.com/all_nick/tv_supersites/characters.jhtml?show_id=spo&character=Squidward. Retrieved 2008-11-08. 
  7. ^ "Meet the Characters: Patrick Star". Nickelodeon. 2008. http://www.nick.com/all_nick/tv_supersites/characters.jhtml?show_id=spo&character=Patrick. Retrieved 2008-11-12. 
  8. ^ Cavna, Michael. "The Interview: 'SpongeBob' Creator Stephen Hillenburg". The Washington Post. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/comic-riffs/2009/07/_tom_kenny_who_voices.html. Retrieved 2009-07-14. 
  9. ^ a b Strauss, Gary (2002-05-17). "Life's good for SpongeBob". USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/money/covers/2002-05-17-sponge-bob.htm. Retrieved 2008-11-08. 
  10. ^ a b c d e Farhat, Basima (Interviewer) (2006-12-05) (mp3). Tom Kenny: Voice of SpongeBob SquarePants - Interview (Radio production). The People Speak Radio. http://www.thepeoplespeakradio.net/archives/mp3/tps-2006-12-05-kenny.mp3. Retrieved 2008-11-08. 
  11. ^ Neuwirth, Allan (2003-04-01). Makin' Toons: Inside the Most Popular Animated TV Shows and Movies. Allworth Press. pp. 51. ISBN 1-58115-269-8. http://books.google.com/books?id=VqaAnj88gKYC&pg=PT15&sig=NJXvlhlMSm7gP6y2kZFuPIbbIWI#PPT16,M1. Retrieved 2008-11-08. 
  12. ^ "No Free Rides". SpongeBob SquarePants. 2001-03-06. No. 10, season 2.
  13. ^ "Stephen Hillenburg created the undersea world of SpongeBob". Orange County Register. 2002-02-12. http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-5957291_ITM. Retrieved 2008-11-09. 
  14. ^ Orlando, Dana (2003-03-17). "SpongeBob: the excitable, absorbent star of Bikini Bottom". St Petersburg Times. http://www.sptimes.com/2003/03/17/Xpress/SpongeBob__the_excita.shtml. Retrieved 2008-11-08. 
  15. ^ "SpongeBob's Alter Ego". CBS News. 2002-12-30. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/12/27/earlyshow/leisure/celebspot/main534521.shtml?source=search_story. Retrieved 2008-11-08. 
  16. ^ Murphy, Ryan. "Top 10: Irritating '90s Cartoon Characters". AskMen. http://www.askmen.com/top_10/entertainment_200/234b_top_10_list.html. Retrieved 2008-11-08. 
  17. ^ BBC Staff (2005-01-20). "US right attacks SpongeBob video". BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/4190699.stm. Retrieved 2007-06-11. 
  18. ^ "Will Spongebob make you gay?". MSNBC. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6852828/. Retrieved 2005-01-21. 
  19. ^ Associated Press (2005-01-22). "Spongebob, Muppets and the Sister Sledge writer suffer criticism". USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/life/television/2005-01-22-kids-video_x.htm. Retrieved 2007-06-11. 
  20. ^ BBC Staff (2002-10-09). "Camp cartoon star 'is not gay'". BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/tv_and_radio/2313221.stm. Retrieved 2007-06-11. 
  21. ^ Silverman, Stephen M. (2005-01-28). "SpongeBob Asexual, Not Gay: Creator". People. http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,1021976,00.html. Retrieved 2009-08-26. 
  22. ^ "SpongeBob isn't gay or straight, creator says". Reuters. 2005-01-29. http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=22&art_id=vn20050129114540161C803463. Retrieved 2008-11-09. 
  23. ^ Chang, Pauline J. (2005-01-28). "Dobson clarifies Pro-Gay SpongeBob Video Controversy". The Christian Post. http://www.christianpost.com/article/20050128/20875.htm. Retrieved 2007-06-11. 
  24. ^ Till, Francis (2005-02-04). "Ministry celebrates SpongeBob: Gay, happy, yellow, orange, whatever, he's welcome". National Business Review. http://www.nbr.co.nz/home/column_article.asp?id=11260&cid=1&cname=Media. Retrieved 2007-06-11. 
  25. ^ 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)
  26. ^ Goodman, Martin. "Deconstruction Zone — Part 2." Animation World Network. Wednesday March 10, 2004. 4. Retrieved on October 28, 2009.
  27. ^ Park, Michael Y. (2002-10-09). "SpongeBob HotPants?". Fox News Channel. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,65225,00.html. Retrieved 2008-11-09. 
  28. ^ Imperiale Wellons, Nancy (2001-05-01). "SpongeBob cartoon proves its hip to be SquarePants.". Orlando Sentinel. http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-8350623_ITM. Retrieved 2008-11-09. 
  29. ^ Zacharek, Stephanie (2004-09-19). "The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie". Salon.com. http://dir.salon.com/story/ent/movies/review/2004/11/19/spongebob/index.html. Retrieved 2008-11-08. 
  30. ^ Susman, Gary (2002-10-09). "Under the Surface". ew.com. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,363124,00.html. Retrieved 2008-11-08. 
  31. ^ Desjardin DE, Peay KB, Bruns TD. (May 10, 2011). "Spongiforma squarepantsii, a new species of gasteroid bolete from Borneo" (in press). Mycologia. doi:10.3852/10-433. PMID 21558499. 
  32. ^ Kageyama, Yuri (2007-01-24). "SpongeBob Goes Trendy to Win Japan Fans". The San Francisco Chronicle. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2007/01/24/entertainment/e091755S47.DTL. Retrieved 2008-11-08. 
  33. ^ Cohen, Melanie (2010-07-13). "SpongeTech Strikes Out in Bankruptcy". Wall Street Journal. http://blogs.wsj.com/bankruptcy/2010/07/13/spongetech-strikes-out-in-bankruptcy/?KEYWORDS=SpongeBob+SquarePants+%28character%29. Retrieved 2010-07-13. 

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