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Viacom International Media Networks

14 Things You May Not Have Known About SpongeBob SquarePants

Viacom International Media Networks
Viacom International Media Networks

Ten years ago today, SpongeBob SquarePants and his Bikini Bottom cohorts became movie stars. The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie made $140 million worldwide and is the fifth-highest grossing animated TV adaptation ever. How did an anthropomorphic sponge who lives in a pineapple become a children's icon? Some of these tidbits may explain its success and longevity.

1. THE IDEA FOR THE SERIES WAS FROM AN ACTUAL MARINE BIOLOGIST.

Stephen Hillenburg has a degree in natural resource planning with a marine resources emphasis, and he used to teach Marine Biology at the Orange County Marine Institute. Hillenburg also liked to draw, and created a comic book called Intertidial Zone for the Institute, which starred an early version of SpongeBob. When he worked as creative director for the Nickelodeon animated series Rocko's Modern Life, fellow animators saw the potential appeal of SpongeBob.

2. SPONGEBOB'S ORIGINAL NAME WAS SPONGEBOY.

And the show's title was initially SpongeBoy Ahoy!. SpongeBoy was a copyrighted name for a mop, however, but Hillenburg made sure to keep the "sponge" in the name of his protagonist as he was worried that children might mistake him for a block of cheese.

3. SPONGEBOB'S PERSONALITY WAS INFLUENCED BY JERRY LEWIS, PEE-WEE HERMAN, AND STAN LAUREL.

SpongeBob creative director Derek Drymon remembered Hillenburg wanting to create a character with a "young, boyish" attitude, with Lewis, Herman, and Laurel specifically in mind. Tom Kenny, the voice of SpongeBob, said that Hillenburg initially described the talking sponge as a "half child half adult, kind of like a munchkin," before also mentioning the same three comedy legends. The creator also told Kenny to try to do a similar voice that the Mr. Show alum once did for a background character in a long-forgotten scene in Rocko's Modern Life. Kenny described the nameless character he did not even recall as a "squeaky, helium-voiced elf guy. Just a total throwaway voice."

4. PATRICK WAS INITIALLY CONCEIVED AS AN ANGRY BAR OWNER.

A starfish character first entered the picture while Hillenburg and Drymon were storyboarding the pilot. But before there was the lovable dummy Patrick Star, the starfish in the first story had a "huge chip on his shoulder because he was pink." He owned a roadside bar and was a "bully." Bill Fagerbakke, known mostly as Dauber from Coach and/or Marshall's dad on How I Met Your Mother, voices Patrick by slowing his speech and pretending that his mouth is in his chest.

5. SQUIDWARD IS TECHNICALLY NOT A SQUID.

Squidward Q. Tentacles has been referred to as both a squid and an octopus throughout the series run, but he only has six tentacles. The animators decided to not give the pessimistic cephalopod the proper number because any more than six legs would "weigh him down too much visually."

6. THE "MY LEG!" FISH HAS A NAME. IT IS FRED.

Fred's name was revealed in the episode "Patty Hype." He is known in various episodes, spanning seasons and years, for crying "My leg!" while under duress.

7. THERE IS A VERY POPULAR POT PARODY OF THE SHOW.

Animation studio Camp Chaos produced a two-season series on VH1 and MTV2 called ILL-ustrated in 2003 and 2004. One of the animated shorts created for the show, SpongeBong HempPants, was a not-too-subtle re-imagining of SpongeBob SquarePants if the characters were shaped like marijuana or the paraphernalia necessary to enjoy the drug. The shorts were never run on television "due to concerns about sister network Nickelodeon." The episodes however did end up on YouTube, where they have been viewed over 6.3 million times.

The real show's stoner-friendly reputation remains intact today, helped by the parody and the oft-repeated fact that the episode title of season four's 20th episode is titled "Best Day Ever."

8. WILL FERRELL, TINA FEY, ROBIN WILLIAMS, AND OTHER BIG CELEBRITIES HAVE APPEARED ON THE SHOW (AGAINST THE CREATOR'S INITIAL WISHES).

Hillenburg was against celebrities providing guest voices for his creation, out of fear of a comparison to The Simpsons. Two exceptions to the rule during the first three seasons of the show were Tim Conway and Ernest Borgnine, who played SpongeBob's favorite superheroes, Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy. After Hillenburg resigned as showrunner, Bikini Bottom welcomed the likes of Ferrell, Fey, Williams, Amy Poehler, Johnny Depp, Victoria Beckham, LeBron James, Pink, Patton Oswalt, and other established stars to get adults to watch.

9. JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE WAS NOT WELCOME TO SING ABOUT SPONGEBOB.

For the movie's soundtrack, Avril Lavigne sang a Canadian punk-pop version of the theme song, while Jeff Tweedy wrote the original Wilco song "Just a Kid." The Flaming Lips came up with the song "SpongeBob and Patrick Confront the Psychic Wall of Energy," which frontman Wayne Coyne initially envisioned as a duet with Justin Timberlake, but Stephen Hillenburg was against the idea. "I don't want any of those sort of commercial weirdos on there," Hillenburg allegedly told Coyne." I don't like those commercial people. I like you guys, and Wilco, and Ween."

Ween provided their song "Ocean Man" for the soundtrack, initially from their 1997 album The Mollusk. Musical cameos by Brian Wilson, Tommy Ramone, and Elvis Presley guitarist James Burton highlight the 2006 compilation album SpongeBob SquarePants: The Best Day Ever, and the vocal talents of The Monkees' Davy Jones and David Bowie have appeared on the TV series.

10. A NEWLY DISCOVERED FUNGI WAS NAMED AFTER SPONGEBOB.

Researchers at San Francisco State University christened a new species of mushroom Spongiforma squarepantsii in 2011, on account of its resemblance to the sea sponge. When the researchers also noted that the spore-producing area of the fungus found in the forests of Borneo resembled a seafloor "carpeted in tube sponges," it sealed the deal. It has a "fruity or musty" odor.

11. THE WRITERS WERE INFLUENCED BY RAY BRADBURY.

Needing fresh stories for season two, newly hired story editor Merriwether Williams was tasked with helping the writing staff come up with ideas. She gave them copies of Ray Bradbury's essay collection Zen and the Art of Writing. A particular writing exercise that generated many plots for the SpongeBob staff was called "The Noun Game." Williams had everyone write three to six nouns on small pieces of paper and place them in a hat. They'd draw one, then spend a minute writing an unfiltered story based on that noun.

12. A CONSERVATIVE GROUP LABELED THE SHOW 'HOMOSEXUAL PROPAGANDA.'

A 2005 video meant to promote tolerance and diversity to young students featuring SpongeBob and Patrick was notoriously considered by Focus on the Family and other conservative groups as an instrument of gay propaganda. That incident, and interpretations by viewers that SpongeBob is gay, has led to denials from the show's staff that SpongeBob has any sexual orientation at all. In a 2002 Wall Street Journal interview, Hillenburg said that even though he considers all of his characters "asexual," he believes the attitude of SpongeBob SquarePants "is about tolerance."

13. DAVID HASSELHOFF KEPT THE 12-FOOT REPLICA OF HIMSELF THAT WAS MADE FOR THE MOVIE.

Eating $100,000 of the film's budget, the 750 pound version of The Hoff was given to its inspiration by the crew. Hasselhoff appears as himself at the end of the movie in live-action, a scene that was written before the former Baywatch star had even agreed to play the part. The giant mannequin was sold at auction earlier this year.

14. IT IS THE LONGEST RUNNING NICKELODEON SERIES EVER.

Surpassing Rugrats' previous record of 172 episodes, SpongeBob SquarePants will broadcast its 200th episode during the current season (the show's ninth). The show hasn't aired an original episode since March though—it is on hiatus in order to complete production on their second movie, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, set for release next February. The 3-D sequel was initially supposed to come out one week later on February 13th, but Paramount Pictures moved the release date forward to avoid competition with Fifty Shades of Grey.

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10 Filling Facts About A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

Though it may not be as widely known as It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown or A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving has been a beloved holiday tradition for many families for more than 40 years now. Even if you've seen it 100 times, there’s still probably a lot you don’t know about this Turkey Day special.

1. IT’S THE FIRST PEANUTS SPECIAL TO FEATURE AN ADULT VOICE.

We all know the trombone “wah wah wah” sound that Charlie Brown’s teacher makes when speaking in a Peanuts special. But A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, which was released in 1973, made history as the first Peanuts special to feature a real, live, human adult voice. But it’s not a speaking voice—it’s heard in the song “Little Birdie.”

2. IT WASN’T JUST ANY ADULT WHO LENT HIS VOICE TO THE SPECIAL.

Being the first adult to lend his or her voice to a Peanuts special was kind of a big deal, so it makes sense that the honor wasn’t bestowed on just any old singer or voice actor. The song was performed by composer Vince Guardaldi, whose memorable compositions have become synonymous with Charlie Brown and the rest of the gang.

“Guaraldi was one of the main reasons our shows got off to such a great start,” Lee Mendelson, the Emmy-winning producer who worked on many of the Peanuts specials—including A Charlie Brown Thanksgivingwrote for The Huffington Post in 2013. “His ‘Linus and Lucy,’ introduced in A Charlie Brown Christmas, set the bar for the first 16 shows for which he created all the music. For our Thanksgiving show, he told me he wanted to sing a new song he had written for Woodstock. I agreed with much trepidation as I had never heard him sing a note. His singing of ‘Little Birdie’ became a hit."

3. DESPITE THE VOICE, THERE ARE NO ADULTS FEATURED IN THE SPECIAL.

While Peanuts specials are largely populated by children, there’s usually at least an adult or two seen or heard somewhere. That’s not the case with A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. “Charlie Brown Thanksgiving may be the only Thanksgiving special (live or animated) that does not include adults,” Mendelson wrote for HuffPo. “Our first 25 specials honored the convention of the comic strip where no adults ever appeared. (Ironically, our Mayflower special does include adults for the first time.)”

4. LUCY IS MOSTLY M.I.A., TOO.

Though early on in the special, viewers get that staple scene of Lucy pulling a football away from Charlie Brown at the last minute, that’s all we see of Chuck’s nemesis in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. (Lucy's brother, Linus, however, is still a main character.)

5. CHARLIE BROWN AND LUCY STILL KEEP IN TOUCH.

Though they only had a single scene together, Todd Barbee, who voiced Charlie Brown, told Noblemania that he and Robin Kohn, who voiced Lucy in the Thanksgiving special, still keep in touch. “We actually went to high school together,” Barbee said. “We still live in Marin County, are Facebook friends, and occasionally see each other.”

6. CHARLIE BROWN HAD SOME TROUBLE WITH HIS SIGNATURE “AAARRRGG.”

One unique aspect of the Peanuts specials is that the bulk of the characters are voiced by real kids. In the case of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, 10-year-old newcomer Todd Barbee was tasked with giving a voice to Charlie Brown—and it wasn’t always easy.

“One time they wanted me to voice that ‘AAAAAAARRRRRGGGGG’ when Charlie Brown goes to kick the football and Lucy yanks it away,” Barbee recalled to Noblemania in 2014. “Try as I might, I just couldn’t generate [it as] long [as] they were looking for … so after something like 25 takes, we moved on. I was sweating the whole time. I think they eventually got an adult or a kid with an older voice to do that one take."

7. LINUS STILL GETS AN ENTHUSIASTIC RESPONSE.

While Barbee got a crash course in the downside of celebrity at a very early age—“seeing my name printed in TV Guide made everyone around me go bananas … everybody … just thought I was some big movie star or something,” he told Noblemania—Stephen Shea, who voiced Linus, still gets a pretty big reaction.

"I don't walk around saying 'I'm the voice of Linus,'" Shea told the Los Angeles Times in 2013. "But when people find out one way or another, they scream 'I love Linus. That is my favorite character!'"

8. THANKS TO LINUS, THE THANKSGIVING SPECIAL GOT A SPINOFF.

As is often the case in a Peanuts special, Linus gets to play the role of philosopher in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and remind his friends (and the viewers) about the history and true meaning of whatever holiday they’re celebrating. His speech about the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving eventually led to This is America, Charlie Brown: The Mayflower Voyagers, a kind of spinoff adapted from that Thanksgiving Day prayer, which sees the Peanuts gang becoming a part of history.

9. LEE MENDELSON HAD AN ISSUE WITH BIRD CANNIBALISM.

In writing for HuffPo for A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving’s 40th anniversary, Mendelson admitted that one particular scene in the special led to “a rare, minor dispute during the creation of the show. Mr. Schulz insisted that Woodstock join Snoopy in carving and eating a turkey. For some reason I was bothered that Woodstock would eat a turkey. I voiced my concern, which was immediately overruled.”

10. MENDELSON EVENTUALLY GOT HIS WAY ... THOUGH NOT FOR LONG.

Though Mendelson lost his original argument against seeing Woodstock eating another bird, he was eventually able to right that wrong. “Years later, when CBS cut the show from its original 25 minutes to 22 minutes, I sneakily edited out the scene of Woodstock eating,” he wrote. “But when we moved to ABC in 2001, the network (happily) elected to restore all the holiday shows to the original 25 minutes, so I finally have given up.”

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12 Brazzle-Dazzle Facts About Pete's Dragon
Walt Disney Productions
Walt Disney Productions

Forty years ago, on November 3, 1977, Pete's Dragon was released in theaters across America. Though it was a box office disappointment at the time, it has since turned into a beloved classic for the generations of audiences who grew up with Pete and Elliott. In honor of its 40th anniversary, check out these brazzle-dazzle facts about the Disney classic.

1. ELLIOTT WAS VOICED BY VETERAN ACTOR CHARLIE CALLAS.

Charlie Callas was a comedian known for his rubbery face long before Jim Carrey was around.

2. IT WAS HELEN REDDY’S FIRST LEADING ROLE IN A FILM.

You’d assume that working with an invisible dragon would be pretty challenging for anyone, let alone someone new to the film industry, but Helen Reddy enjoyed the experience. “I only had one actual scene with the dragon," she explained, "and during rehearsals I worked with a latex model of his head so that I would be familiar with the dimensions during filming.”

3. REDDY’S BALLAD IN THE MOVIE WAS NOMINATED FOR AN OSCAR.

Reddy's "Candle on the Water" was nominated for Best Original Song. It lost to “You Light Up My Life.”

4. DON BLUTH SUPERVISED ELLIOTT'S ANIMATION.

The project notoriously called for a lot of overtime hours, and a couple of years after Pete's Dragon was released, animator Don Bluth left Disney. He went on to animate and direct The Secret of NIMH (1982), An American Tail (1986), The Land Before Time (1988), and All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989), among others.

5. CALIFORNIA DOUBLED FOR MAINE.

The movie may look like it takes place in Maine, but neither the cast nor crew went anywhere near the Pine Tree State. The landscape scenes were courtesy of Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch in Canyon Country, California, while the Passamaquoddy town square and wharf area was constructed on the Disney Burbank Studio lot, partly from an old Western set. Even the harbor was constructed on-set.

6. ACTOR SEAN MARSHALL HAD NO FORMAL ACTING BACKGROUND.

Despite this, he beat hundreds of kids who auditioned to play Pete. “I think Disney always went for kind of the natural,” he said.

7. MARSHALL BECAME AN ALL-AMERICAN POLE VAULTER IN COLLEGE. 


redmorgankidd via YouTube

He partially attributes his athletic success to his role in the film, saying that the training he went through for the part, especially ballet, made him more of an athlete.

8. THE LIGHTHOUSE BEACON COULD BE SEEN FOR MILES.

Nora and Lampie’s lighthouse was equipped with a real lighthouse lens and a wickstand that could create a beacon that was visible for 18 to 24 miles. Constructed on California's Morro Bay, Disney had to obtain permission from the U.S. Coast Guard to actually light the lamp. There were plans to eventually move the lighthouse to Disneyland, but it became too deteriorated.

9. MICKEY ROONEY AND RED BUTTONS DID SOME AD-LIBBING.

The scene where Mickey Rooney and Red Buttons drunkenly walk to the cave to see Elliott turned into a massive ad-lib session, with each comedian trying to outdo the other with pratfalls and slapstick. “The director said, ‘That was fantastic, but we can’t have a 20-minute scene where you two are just walking through the cave. We’ve got to re-shoot it,’” Marshall recalled.

10. IT WAS A DISAPPOINTMENT AT THE BOX OFFICE.

The film only made $18 million in the U.S., which was a real disappointment to Disney. The studio was hoping to experience the same level of success it had had with another movie that mixed live action and animation—Mary Poppins.

11. THE SODIUM VAPOR PROCESS WAS USED TO MIX ANIMATION AND LIVE ACTION SCENES.

Invented by Ub Iwerks, the co-creator of Mickey Mouse, the process involved using a camera with a prism installed that separated the sodium vapor lights from the rest of the color. This projected a yellow light onto the screen behind the actor, which could later be subtracted out, and any background could be added in its place.

12. THERE’S A GOOFY YELL TUCKED AWAY IN THE FILM.

It’s when Dr. Terminus (Jim Dale) accidentally sends himself flying via harpoon. Listen for it at 1:13 below.

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