Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Kids’ Choice Awards 2024 Stage to Celebrate SpongeBob SquarePants, Feature First-Ever Rainbow-Colored Slime

The 2024 edition of Nickelodeon's annual show will be hosted by SpongeBob and Patrick Star, whose animated series is marking its 25th anniversary this year.

'Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards 2024' stage design
Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards 2024 stage design | COURTESY OF NICKELODEON

Kids’ Choice Awards viewers will be transported into the world of Bikini Bottom during this year’s show.

Nickelodeon has designed the stage based on the undersea home of SpongeBob SquarePants and Patrick Star, who are hosting the 2024 KCAs on Saturday, July 13 from Los Angeles — just a few days ahead of the date of SpongeBob SquarePants’ 25th anniversary (it premiered on July 17, 1999). 

To celebrate that milestone, the Kids’ Choice Awards is taking the show’s signature slime element to the next level, with a first: rainbow-colored slime. While Nickelodeon has featured gold slime in the past (at the 2016 Kids’ Choice Sports Awards), this year’s KCAs will feature its first-ever multicolored slime, which will spurt out of a giant birthday cake in honor of SpongeBob. Meanwhile, the entire stage has been designed to look like Bikini Bottom and will incorporate features such as giant palm trees and oversized slushie cups. (The concept is the brainchild of production designer Julio Himede.)

Nickelodeon says this is the first time that animated characters have hosted a full-length awards show. (SpongeBob is voiced by Tom Kenny, and Patrick is voiced by Bill Fagerbakke.) When announcing the duo as hosts in May, Nickelodeon said the awards show “will take place in an animated setting through enhanced graphics and advanced augmented reality.” Ahead of Saturday’s ceremony, Ashley Kaplan, Executive Vice President (EVP), Nickelodeon & Awesomeness Unscripted & Digital Franchise Studio, talked to The Hollywood Reporter how that will translate to what the audience will see and what else viewers can expect.

'Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards 2024' stage design
Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards 2024 stage design | COURTESY OF NICKELODEON

Can you walk me through the process of designing and creating a stage for this show? Where do the ideas start?

It always starts with the theme. From the theme, then we go to mood boards, and then from the mood boards, we then factor in the venue restrictions and seating requirements — and then, of course, all the plumbing for the slime.

I would imagine that the Kids’ Choice Awards is the only awards show that has to accommodate plumbing for slime.

Yes (laughs), I think we are the only awards show that has to deal with that.

Can you talk more about this year’s theme?

This year, we are in Bikini Bottom. From a set perspective, we will have a practical stage that’s about 108-feet wide, and it’ll have an LED backdrop that’s equally as wide, and this will take us to our underwater experience. We will marry that, of course, with a bunch of practical props, like slimy palm trees and giant slushie cups. But we will also rely really heavily on the use of AR [augmented reality], which will allow us to have our animated characters, SpongeBob and Patrick, there to interact with our winners and our presenters and the audience in the room.

Another unique feature of this show is having animated characters hosting. It sounds like everything has been built around those characters.

I would say that the biggest challenge this year was factoring that in because we needed to figure out how we best marry the world of AR, which allows us to bring our animated characters to the KCAs. But we also had to also factor in the live elements because the space has to look great for the audience in the room. It also has to be big enough for the musical performances; we’ll have up to 30 dancers, for example. 

But the idea of being in Bikini Bottom is also of paramount importance. So we wanted to make sure that the space was as intimate as the well-known animated world that SpongeBob and Patrick inhabit. So for us, this was sort of a juggling act.

I should also mention that there are several different AR layers. If you watched our Super Bowl [coverage], you saw the seaweed or jellyfish and bubbles. So we had to factor in how those elements come to life in the broadcast. That’s also another consideration.

I wanted to ask specifically about the slime. In the past, the show has featured slime in many ways, like rivers of slime, slime sides and fountains of slime. Is there anything new this year that you can talk about with respect to that?

Yes, there’s actually some pretty big news. As you know, first, the slime is always unexpected. I think that’s when it’s at its best, and it will come from many areas on this stage, as always, as well as from our props, like the palm trees and the giant slushie cups. But for the first time ever, we are going to have rainbow slime, and it’s going to be an epic birthday celebration for SpongeBob. Multicolored slime will explode from a giant birthday cake. 

I imagine that getting the slime set up is a big process.

Lots of testing, for sure.

I know you probably want to leave some elements up to surprise. But is there anything else that you can share with our readers?

It’s a novelty to have animated characters hosting the KCAs, and I think that was factored in heavily to the design. The AR element was considered heavily because we have to map out the space to match where they’re going to be and where the actors are actually going be in the mocap [motion-capture] suits, which would be out of [the audience’s] vision.

But in the show, we’ll see SpongeBob and Patrick in two different areas of the set, one downstage center for their hosting/fun announcement duties, and then they’ll also have their own booth-like cave area where they’ll give running comedic commentary throughout the show.

What was your biggest challenge in designing around these characters?

It really is trying to balance trying to create a really beautiful, fun environment for the people in the room and creating a space that’s big enough for performances, but then also mapping out the space as best we can for the AR, which creates the Bikini Bottom element of it. That was really a balancing act and making sure that SpongeBob and Patrick were positioned correctly for all of the different duties that they’re going to be asked to do through the show.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about the stage?

This is a never-been-done-before KCAs. It gives a nod to the success of the hybrid animated/live-action world that we brought to the Super Bowl. So we’re just excited to be able to do that for the KCAs because I think that dovetails really nicely with SpongeBob’s 25th birthday.

I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you about the slime. I know the recipe has been a closely guarded secret. I assume you’re not able to share anything about it?

No, I think they’d have to kill me.

The 2024 Kids’ Choice Awards will be handed out in a live telecast airing at 8 p.m. ET/PT on July 13 on Nickelodeon, TeenNick, Nicktoons and Nick Jr. Among this year’s nominees are Taylor Swift, who leads with six, Olivia Rodrigo, Miley Cyrus, Beyoncé and Travis Kelce.

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