Saturday, July 20, 2019

'SpongeBob' Cast Remembers Late Series Creator at 20th Birthday Panel at SDCC 2019 | NickSDCC

We're ready! We're ready!

Nickelodeon celebrated 20 years of SpongeBob SquarePants at San Diego Comic-Con 2019 with a "Big Birthday Blowout!" panel for the happy-go-lucky fry cook who lives in a pineapple under the sea. In attendance were co-executive producers, Vincent Waller and Marc Ceccarelli, as well as the principal voice cast: Tom Kenny (SpongeBob), Bill Fagerbakke (Patrick), Rodger Bumpass (Squidward), Carolyn Lawrence (Sandy), Mr. Lawrence (Plankton) and Clancy Brown (Mr. Krabs).

“It was about time for the characters to meet themselves ... We had to keep them wet," said Waller of “SpongeBob’s Big Birthday Blowout”, the animated/live-action star-studded special that aired on television July 12. In it, SpongeBob and Patrick travel onto the surface in an aquarium-like coach bus and meet their real-world counterparts at the Trusty Slab restaurant.

"The live-action stuff was a little more bizarre," Kenny said, explaining how you're so much more aware of your body movements as opposed to when you're just recording in a booth somewhere. Bumpass—who jokingly voiced his support for a live-action SpongeBob series to much applause from the audience—seconded those sentiments by singing the Twilight Zone theme song.

Combining animation with live-action elements was more in line with the two feature films based on the show. Longtime fans probably remember a time when the characters were represented by really low-budget puppets on sticks whenever they came up on dry land.

"It was so ghetto," offered Kenny, also describing the current trend of SpongeBob memes as "pop culture recycling."

Credit: Josh Weiss

The panel was even more poignant given the death of series creator, Stephen Hillenburg, in November of last year. The marine-biologist-turned-animator was 57-years-old when he succumbed to the effects of ALS, a neurodegenerative disease.

“SpongeBob, to me, represents Steve in a really profound way … It’s built on his spirit," said Fagerbakke, who didn't believe the pilot episode (for which he was paid $600) would go anywhere. Years later, however, he admitted his love for the Tiny Tim scene, where SpongeBob feeds the anchovies Krabby Patties.

"It embodies, to me, everything perfect about SpongeBob, that sequence," he added.

“It just reminds me of a time when SpongeBob only existed in Steve Hillenburg’s desk drawer," Kenny continued. "I just remember when he had me come over [and talked about pitching it to Nickelodeon and showed me the initial artwork] ... It turned into this thing that conquered the world. Talk about the power of ideas ... “About four seasons in, I was resigned to the fact that Tom Kenny was just SpongeBob’s host body.”

Ernest Borgnine and Tim Conway were also fondly remembered by the cast. The McHale's Navy alums voiced Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy for many years and died within a few years of one another. Conway just passed away in May.

And, of course, Mr. Lawrence couldn't let the panel finish without the iconic exclamation from Fred the Fish, "MY LEG!!!"

Things really wrapped up with a "Sweet Victory" sing-along with dancing costumed characters in an attempt to make up for the fact that the iconic "Band Geeks" track was not sung at the 2019 Super Bowl.

The debut of “SpongeBob’s Big Birthday Blowout” on Friday, July 12 kicked off "Best Year Ever", Nickelodeon's year-long global celebration commemorating 20 years of SpongeBob SquarePants, one of the most iconic TV series and characters ever created, which includes the launch of the official SpongeBob SquarePants YouTube channel, brand-new merchandise and a app, and will lead up to the Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies theatrical, The SpongeBob Movie: It's a Wonderful Sponge, coming 2020.

From Variety:

‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ Team Honors Stephen Hillenburg at Comic-Con

Credit: Dave Allocca/Starpix/REX/Shutter

The cast of “SpongeBob SquarePants” paid tribute to the late Stephen Hillenburg during their panel at San Diego Comic-Con on Thursday.

“SpongeBob to me represents Steve in a really profound way,” said Bill Fagerbakke, who voices Patrick Star. “The nature of that character is what the whole show is built on and so it’s kind of built on his spirit in that way.”

Tom Kenny, who voices the titular talking sponge, added, “SpongeBob has conquered the world. He’s probably in almost every language on earth in every country on earth. He’s on every conceivable product you could put him on…It reminds me of a time where SpongeBob only existed in Steve Hillenburg’s desk drawer.”

“It was something he drew on a piece of paper from his own head that conquered the world,” Kenny added. “Talk about the power of ideas and art and silliness.”

Hillenburg, the creator of “SpongeBob,” passed away in November after battling ALS. After college, Hillenburg became a marine biology teacher at the Orange County Marine Institute (now the Ocean Institute). That, combined with his love of art, led him to write and illustrate stories as teaching tools with characters that would later become the denizens of SpongeBob’s home, Bikini Bottom.

“SpongeBob Squarepants” has gone on to become one of the most successful and well-recognized animated series of all time, reigning as the number-one kids’ animated series on TV for nearly two decades. The show was recently renewed for a thirteenth season at Nickelodeon following the success of the anniversary special “SpongeBob’s Big Birthday Blowout.”

Nickelodeon announced back in June that the series would get its first spinoff, currently titled “Kamp Koral.” The series will see SpongeBob and his friends as 10 year olds at summer camp. The series has received an initial 13 episode order.


From EW:

Surprise! Cast reveals that late SpongeBob SquarePants creator cameos in every episode

The cast of SpongeBob SquarePants reveals that Stephen Hillenburg appears in the animated hit's title sequence.

Even in death, SpongeBob SquarePants creator Stephen Hillenburg is still a part of every episode of his hit animated series.

It was revealed during the show’s 2019 San Diego Comic-Con panel Thursday that Hillenburg — who died in November after battling ALS — is actually the man behind the lips and teeth viewers see in that pirate painting at the beginning of the show’s title sequence.

“I don’t know if its common knowledge or not, but when you see the opening and there’s that painting of the pirate and there’s lips moving, that’s Stephen,” said Rodger Bumpass, who voices Squidward.

“I think the painting, somebody found in a thrift store somewhere, on sale,” added Tom Kenny, who voices SpongeBob on the Nickelodeon staple.

The cast also revealed that the opening shot, before the camera moves below the water and into the animated world, was filmed at Samarai Jack creator Genndy Tartakovsky’s pool. “What a crossover, huh?” said Bumpass.

As the cast — who recently appeared in the partially live-action special SpongeBob’s Big Birthday Blowout — approaches the first anniversary of Hillenburg’s death, they remain in awe of their show’s mastermind and all that he accomplished when SpongeBob premiered 20 years ago.

“SpongeBob has conquered the world,” said Kenny. “He’s in every county on earth, he’s on every conceivable product he can be on, but… it just reminds me of a time when SpongeBob only existed in Stephen Hellenberg’s desk drawer… I remember when he had me come over to his place and said, ‘I’m thinking about pitching this to Nickelodeon,’ and he took out that, it was just like, wow. It blew my mind. I’d never wanted to be in a show so bad.”

SpongeBob Squarepants was recently renewed for a 13th season.


From People:

SpongeBob Cast Reveals Late Creator Stephen Hillenburg Secretly Appears in Every Episode

Stephen Hillenburg, who died in November, has a cameo in the Nickelodeon show's title sequence

“Are you ready kids?”

Every child who grew up watching SpongeBob Squarepants will recognize those words as the opening to the iconic Nickelodeon cartoon’s theme song — as well as the pirate painting with moving lips that sings them.

It turns out that those lips belong to none other than series creator Stephen Hillenburg, who died last November from ALS at age 57.

Squidward voice actor Rodger Bumpass revealed the secret at the show’s San Diego Comic-Con panel on Thursday, Entertainment Weekly reports.

“I don’t know if its common knowledge or not, but when you see the opening and there’s that painting of the pirate and there’s lips moving, that’s Stephen,” Bumpass said.

“I think the painting, somebody found in a thrift store somewhere, on sale,” said the voice of SpongeBob, Tom Kenny.

The cast also praised Hillenburg’s legacy, and Kenny said he never “wanted to be in a show so bad” as SpongeBob.

“SpongeBob has conquered the world,” Kenny said.

“He’s in every county on earth, he’s on every conceivable product he can be on, but… it just reminds me of a time when SpongeBob only existed in Stephen Hillenberg’s desk drawer,” he continued. “I remember when he had me come over to his place and said, ‘I’m thinking about pitching this to Nickelodeon,’ and he took out that, it was just like, wow. It blew my mind. I’d never wanted to be in a show so bad.”

Hillenburg announced that he had been diagnosed with ALS in March of 2017, and his official cause of death was cardiopulmonary failure due to the disease.

“He was a beloved friend and long-time creative partner to everyone at Nickelodeon, and our hearts go out to his entire family,” the network said in a statement at the time of his death.

“Steve imbued SpongeBob SquarePants with a unique sense of humor and innocence that has brought joy to generations of kids and families everywhere,” the statement continued. “His utterly original characters and the world of Bikini Bottom will long stand as a reminder of the value of optimism, friendship and the limitless power of imagination.”

Hillenburg’s ashes were scattered at sea last December.


From CNET:

The SpongeBob SquarePants cast loves all your memes

But at Comic-Con 2019, the writers say they still live by one rule: don't try to force something to go viral.

If you've spent much time on social media, you've probably seen a SpongeBob SquarePants meme. There's "Mocking SpongeBob," where our protagonist takes the shape of a chicken and the CaPtIoN iS wRiTtEn LiKe ThIs. There's "Surprised Patrick," where SpongeBob's starfish best friend is in jaw-dropping shock and superimposed onto various backgrounds. And more than a half dozen others.

The cast of SpongeBob SquarePants is well aware of the memes -- and they love them.

The Nickelodeon cartoon about a yellow sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. The franchise has spawned a Tony Award-winning musical and an upcoming prequel, tentatively titled Kamp Koral. On Wednesday, the cartoon was renewed for its 13th season.

But one of its most unexpected achievements has been its contributions to meme culture. It was never on purpose, and neither the voice actors nor writers ever saw it coming, several of them said during an interview Thursday at San Diego Comic Con.

"It wasn't me," Bill Fagerbakke, who plays Patrick, said in his baritone Patrick voice. His favorite memes, naturally, are the ones starring Patrick.

Carolyn Lawrence, who voices the Texan squirrel Sandy Cheeks, said she thinks the show is so meme-able because it has a lot of physical humor compared with other cartoons. The characters are also given very rich facial expressions, which is a testament to the animators, she said.

But even though the cast and writers know their work could very well end up splashed across Twitter and Instagram feeds, they don't try to force it, said writer Doug "Mr." Lawrence. "We don't take it into account," he said, but adds that seeing the memes on social media is a good way to keep tabs on how people are relating to the characters.

Most importantly, if the script were written with the goal of going viral, it would seem phony, Carolyn Lawrence said. "Even if you wrote one specifically for a meme, people would probably take it out of context [and turn it into another type of meme]," she said. "You can't plan for it."

On Thursday, the cast also reflected on the show's two-decade run.

"It's something no one in the entertainment industry expects," Fagerbakke said. "Frankly, you're an idiot if you even hope for it."


From Looper:

Late SpongeBob SquarePants creator made a secret cameo on every episode

Stephen Hillenburg's memory will live on forever. 

The late SpongeBob SquarePants creator, who sadly passed away in November of 2018 following a battle with ALS, made a secret cameo appearance on each and every episode of his massively successful animated series — and he'll continue to make that same cameo until the series ends.

At the show's presentation at San Diego Comic-Con 2019, the SpongeBob SquarePants "SpongeBob's Big Birthday Blowout!" 20th anniversary panel, it was revealed that Hillenburg appears in the series' title sequence as the mouth and the lips of the pirate painting who sings the catchy tune that kicks off each new story (via Entertainment Weekly). 

Squidward Tentacles voice actor Rodger Bumpass shared, "I don't know if its common knowledge or not, but when you see the opening and there's that painting of the pirate and there's lips moving, that's Stephen."

Tom Kenny, who lends his pipes to the chipper yellow sponge SpongeBob SquarePants on the classic Nickelodeon show, added that he thinks someone found the painting in a random thrift store, bought it at a reduced price, and brought it to the studio. Though the painting apparently didn't appear to be anything special, the SpongeBob SquarePants crew clearly found meaning in it, and used it to immortalize the man who brought the underwater adventure to life. 

Elsewhere during the series' Comic-Con panel, the cast took time to remember Hillenburg and honor the bright, unmatched talent he was. 

"SpongeBob has conquered the world. He's in every county on earth, he's on every conceivable product he can be on, but… it just reminds me of a time when SpongeBob only existed in Stephen Hillenburg's desk drawer," said Kenny. "I remember when he had me come over to his place and said, 'I'm thinking about pitching this to Nickelodeon,' and he took out that, it was just like, wow. It blew my mind. I'd never wanted to be in a show so bad."

Bill Fagerbakke, the voice of SpongeBob's dim-witted starfish best friend Patrick Star, added (via Variety), "SpongeBob to me represents Steve in a really profound way. The nature of that character is what the whole show is built on and so it's kind of built on his spirit in that way."

Just as Hillenburg is a part of SpongeBob forever, the series will endure through pop culture for years to come and be remembered as one of the best animated series to ever come out of Nickelodeon. Currently in its 12th season with a 13th one already ordered, SpongeBob SquarePants is branching out into new territory to continue telling tales in Bikini Bottom. Where the core series centers on the eponymous Krusty Krab fry cook who can't drive a boat to save his life, its forthcoming spin-off series tentatively titled Kamp Koral winds the clock back to when SpongeBob was just 10 years old and having fun with his friends at summer camp — without a burger grill or a boating school in sight.

Kamp Koral doesn't yet have a release date, but SpongeBob SquarePants is still rolling out new episodes on Nickelodeon. 


The Pop Insider:


The Pop Insider’s Maddie Michalik chatted with Tom Kenny, the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants himself, about how he got started voicing the iconic character, SpongeBob’s legacy, and what fuels his fandom.

Pop Insider: How did you get your start in voice acting?
Tom Kenny: I always had an instinct that voice-over would be the place where I would be happiest and animation was where I wanted to be, and I just thought that was the best use of my weird, oddball skill set. I just wanted to have fun and work on stuff that I liked and be around creative people. My main goal has always been to make a living in an unconventional way and to use what you’ve got to not do a job that you’re bored with and don’t like. That was my goal at 16 and it’s my goal at 56.

PI: How did your time as a stand-up comedian prepare you for your voice-acting career?
TK: I would say the main thing was by the time I even started doing voice-over, I had been, for years, writing jokes and delivering jokes and doing characters on stage because I was also into sketch comedy as well as stand-up, which is very character-based. I guess that’s kind of the main stuff that stand-up brought to it, and ad-libbing and being able to come up with stuff on the fly, pick stuff up quickly, learn quickly. Not that you really have to memorize a whole lot in animation because it’s there in front of you, but learning songs quickly and stuff like that where they go, “We forgot to mention that we’re recording two songs today, did you get ‘em?” and you’re like, “Yeah, yeah, OK!”

It’s just being ready for anything. There was a certain unpredictability to stand-up that I think was helpful when I started doing animation.

Did you know that Tom Kenny is also the voice of Gary the Snail? [...]

PI: That’s a really interesting perspective, I wouldn’t have thought of it that way.
TK: It was fun. Especially with sketch comedy, so much of it was about inhabiting different characters, and that’s always where I was happiest. … In some ways, I think SpongeBob is a lot like me, or I’m a lot like him, or we’re a lot like each other. I think that’s actually why Steve Hillenburg cast me. I think that definitely helped me get the job in that I was a fair amount like the character in outlook and energy level. Steve really picked up on that and pretty much never really had anyone else in mind for SpongeBob. Luckily for me, he knew me from previous work on Rocko’s Modern Life and said, “Tom is SpongeBob. Tom’s gotta be SpongeBob.” That’s very unusual. Most stuff in this business, no matter how long you’ve been in it, you’ve just got to audition for stuff. … When I’m not recording, which is pretty much every day, I’m auditioning for future work all the time. Everything’s auditioning, and SpongeBob is this freaky outlier on my IMDb [as] the thing I didn’t have to audition for.

PI: What was the process like to come up with the right SpongeBob voice?
TK: It actually came kind of fast, which again, is not always how it goes. Steve wasn’t a voice actor. He wasn’t a wakka wakka, comedy, man of a million characters guy. So, he never really … said, “I want SpongeBob to sound kind of like this,” or “Just do something like this.” … What he did do was really lay out who this guy is. He laid out his whole profile — SpongeBob’s whole psychological personality profile thought out to the nth degree — and explained that to me. …

The graphics were there, the drawings were there, and the drawings were so funny and so charming and so odd. They were kind of classic, familiar, and unfamiliar at the same time. They had a warmth. … It felt like I knew these characters, or knew them from another life. It was really mysterious, but they also did not look like stuff that you’d seen a million times before in other kid shows. I lay that down to him knowing exactly where he was going, knowing exactly what he was doing, knowing exactly what he wanted, and A) explaining it really well, but then B) giving us — the actors, once he hired us — a lot of leeway. One of the great things about Steve was that once he hired you, he trusted you. He did not micromanage you. He’s like, “You know why I hired you. You know SpongeBob. You are SpongeBob.” Bill [Fagerbakke] knows Patrick better than anybody; Rodger Bumpass knows Squidward better than anybody. Steve really let us explore the characters vocally, just bringing our own little oddball filigrees to [them]. He gave us a great foundation to build our little vocal house on.

PI: I feel like the cast has a really special bond with these characters, and it just takes it to the next level.
TK: We do! We really do have a bond with these characters. I know from working with these actors every Wednesday for 20 years, they’re really, like me, very proprietary about these characters. You’re a part of it; it’s this amazing gift that Steve gave us to entrust us with these characters that are really fun to do, are fun to portray, and that people really like. People … think they’re funny and enjoy them, and they have become a part of people’s lives. You can’t help but be a little bit proprietary about that. You feel a sense of ownership to these characters; Steve gave us that. He gave us that pride of ownership.

PI: SpongeBob has appealed to a wide audience for 20 years. What do you think is its mark on pop culture?
TK: Twenty years is a long time, but it’s not as long as some animated characters who have been around, such as Disney or Looney Tunes characters. And he’s in that pantheon. The Simpsons would be in there, too. SpongeBob, I think, is in that group, and that’s just amazing to us to be in something like that. I think 20 years is long enough to be multigenerational, and I don’t know what ultimately his mark will be, but I know that people laugh at it, they enjoy it, it makes them happy, it gets them through tough times here and there, and to me, in terms of a personal mark, that’s what I’m really proud of.

For me, it’s that SpongeBob has been able to make a mark in so many areas of pop culture in terms of how many languages he’s in, how many countries he’s in, almost 250 episodes so far — and counting — a couple of feature films, plus one more coming down the pike soon, [and] a Broadway musical.

Nickelodeon kicked off SpongeBob SquarePants’ 20th anniversary with the “Best Year Ever,” a tribute that included an original one-hour special, “SpongeBob’s Birthday Blowout,” which premiered on July 12. [...]

[SpongeBob] just seems to have really permeated a collective conscious. … SpongeBob just seems to enjoy this almost supernatural goodwill still. I see it at comic-cons every year, and that’s where we really see and hear firsthand about what SpongeBob has meant to individual people and what it’s been in their lives. That’s a pretty huge mark to make. The whole SpongeBob thing is just trying to be funny. The mission statement has been the same for 20 years: Just make a funny cartoon; just try to do stuff that makes us laugh. … The storyboard guys, the animators, the music guys, the voice talent — everybody’s just trying to make something as funny as it can be. It’s a great job to be allowed to have.

PI: What’s your favorite SpongeBob SquarePants episode?
TK: It used to be “Band Geeks,” then the Super Bowl happened, and now I’m not sure. It changes.

It’s pretty funny, a lot of times people will come up to you and just ask you to do a line from their favorite episode. People are always reminding me of episodes that I haven’t thought about in a while, and certain lines in certain episodes really connect with different people in different ways. That’s pretty hilarious for somebody to go, “My sister and I are 25 now, and this is still our running joke between us. For the last 20 years, my sister and I have been doing this line to each other to crack each other up, and we still do.” Stuff like that? It’s incredible…

A lot of [my favorites] are more recent episodes, some of them are episodes that haven’t even aired yet. Because you go, “Ah! That was a really fun episode to do, everybody’s laughing in the booth, and we’re yucking it up.”

Original SpongeBob SquarePants sketches. Photo: Nickelodeon.

PI: What are some of your personal favorite fandoms?
TK: I’m a total weirdo. I hardly watch TV, and I hardly go to movies, but I’m a fanatical record collector. So, I would say a lot of my fandoms have to do with music and record collecting. Old soul records and hillbilly records, rock ‘n roll records, garage rock and punk rock and zydeco and cajun and jazz. Those are pretty much the fandoms that I tend to inhabit more than anything. I’ve never watched Game of Thrones. I’ve never seen an episode of The Big Bang Theory. I’m a total cave-dweller. … Also, old animation, classic animation — Looney Tunes, Popeye the Sailor Man, Laurel and Hardy. My wife is a Chicago Cubs fan, so there’s a fandom I got drawn into through marriage.


From the Los Angeles Times:

‘SpongeBob’ actors get tearful remembering creator Stephen Hillenburg at Comic-Con

Nickelodeon’s booth at San Diego Comic-Con 2019 is dedicated to “SpongeBob SquarePants” for the show’s 20th anniversary.(Nickelodeon)

Voice actor Tom Kenny vividly remembers the day he was introduced to the sponge that changed his life.

It was the late 1990s, and he had been invited over to Stephen Hillenburg’s house. They previously worked together on Nickelodeon’s show, “Rocko’s Modern Life” (1993-1996) , for which Kenny voiced Heffer the cow and Hillenburg served as creative director, among other titles.

“We just clicked immediately,” Kenny said of Hillenburg. He spoke with The Times on Thursday inside Nickelodeon’s press room at Comic-Con in San Diego, which continues through Sunday. “And when he pitched his own show, he thought of me.”

But before the formal presentation to executives, Hillenburg gave Kenny a personal preview. He unlocked his home desk drawer and revealed a mock up of, what was at the time, SpongeBoy.

“It was one of the few times I’ve looked at a character and said, ‘If I don’t play this character, I’ll be really sad,’ ” Kenny recalled. “It was like, ‘If I don’t marry this person, I’ll regret this for the rest of my life.’ “

Adding to the pressure, Kenny’s wife was pregnant at the time, so he “really needed the gig!”

The pitch? A sponge that works in a fast-food restaurant under the sea, in a town called Bikini Bottom. His dim best friend Patrick Star, his crabby co-worker Squidward Tentacles, and his greedy boss Mr. Krabs would color the neighborhood. (The idea came from Hillenburg’s background as a marine biology instructor and his work as a teenager in a seafood restaurant.)

It’s safe to say the pitch went well. This week marks the 20th anniversary since the sea creature, now dubbed “SpongeBob Squarepants,” made his debut. It’s become the longest-running Nickelodeon series and the fifth longest-running animated show on U.S. television since premiering July 17, 1999.

Some of your favorite Bikini Bottom residents — SpongeBob (Kenny), Squidward (Rodger Bumpass), Patrick Star (Bill Fagerbakke), Mr. Krabs (Clancy Brown), Plankton (Mr. Lawrence) and Sandy Cheeks (Carolyn Lawrence) — came to Comic-Con to celebrate this week.

“We never see an audience or fans when we do our work, so this is where it’s icing on the cake to see how they love our show,” Bumpass said inside Nickelodeon’s 1,800 square-foot Comic-Con booth.

This year’s SDCC setup is dedicated to the series, featuring supersized re-creations of the Krusty Krab restaurant, Plankton’s Chum Bucket and Mrs. Puff’s boating school, which drew hundreds of nostalgic fans Thursday for a cast autograph signing session.

Kenny called the celebration “bittersweet,” since the man who started it all with a sketch on a cocktail napkin was notably absent; Hillenburg died in November 2018 at age 57, after a battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

“Bittersweet’s the word. Mostly sweet at this point. You try to find the sweet. That’s what SpongeBob would do,” Kenny said. “He gave us this gift. Steve changed all of our lives ... I’ve got a house ‘cause of that guy.”

Kenny, Bumpass and Carolyn Lawrence spoke with The Times further about Hillenburg, memorable fan moments and their favorite catchphrases. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

A fan poses with the character Mr. Krabs at Comic-Con in San Diego(Nickelodeon)

What fan interactions stick out to you over the course of two decades?

Bumpass (Squidward): I had one in New Zealand where they had a tattoo booth at the convention, and some guy had all our characters tattooed across his back. He wanted me to sign it to then get it inked. So he took his shirt off, and it was the ugliest, [most] disgusting back you’d ever want to see! All oily, hairy and moley. I had to wash my hands afterwards. That was about the weirdest one I’ve had.

Kenny (SpongeBob): Just a couple of weeks ago, my buddy Bill Fagerbakke, [who plays] Patrick, and I were at the Prince’s Palace of Monaco to meet Prince Andrew and his children. I’m going, “We’re in a royal palace ‘cause we do [voices SpongeBob’s giggle]. Like, this is so weird.”

Lawrence (Sandy): When we were in Montreal, it was early on and the fans were just insane. We had no idea. When we had to leave, we couldn’t get around them, so they snuck us out the back door. But the fans saw us leaving, and we got rushed like the Beatles! We had to run to our van to get away.

Kenny (SpongeBob): With the times we’re living in, in particular, people tell me, wow, I need “SpongeBob” more than ever with what’s going on in the country and the world. It’s nice to be the delivery system of that particular buzz that people need more than ever right now.

And I’ve heard many times, “I was really depressed. I was going to do something drastic, and I watched a ‘SpongeBob’ episode, and it made me laugh and I pulled back.” It’s heavy. It makes you cry. Or, “My childhood was not good and people weren’t there for me, but ‘SpongeBob’ was there for me.” Heavy, heavy stuff.

How does it feel to be celebrating Year 20?

Kenny (SpongeBob): You’re always going, “This is too good to last.” I’ve been thinking that for at least 15 years.

The road trip that started 20 years ago is still going on, but instead of sitting in the backseat going, “Are we there yet? When are we gonna get there?” You’re going, “Let’s keep driving. Let’s see where this goes.”

I’m sure Stephen Hillenburg is on your minds this week as we celebrate the show’s anniversary.

Bumpass (Squidward): We’ve lost a friend. We have that pain of separation. But we are carrying on his vision in this project. And that makes us feel good that we are keeping him with us. And he is with us.

Kenny (SpongeBob): We knew about his ALS quite a while before they made a public statement. Now, I feel like we’re dealing with a death in the family and life after Steve.

And Steve knew he was sick for a couple years, so he left a trail of bread crumbs for us. There’s a map that we’re following. That guy was coming into sessions right up until his medical dean told him he couldn’t anymore. It was getting physically impossible for him.

Lawrence (Sandy): He had put a lot of thought into everything. I liken it to birthing us. I mean, he was our parent, right? He gave life to all of us. It’s his baby.

Kenny (SpongeBob): It really hit us when we all knew it was his last session. Wow. Look at me. [His eyes watered.] It was really tough. Now, I feel like we’re moving into a sweet spot where we got these bread crumbs, this trail, and we’re just trying not to mess it up.

Lawrence (Sandy): If I think about it too much, I’ll cry. Here I go. [She began tearing up.] Yeah, I can’t.

What’s it like looking back at some of those early episodes?

Kenny (SpongeBob): I feel critical of myself 24/7 no matter what I’m doing — not just the old episodes. I guess that’s just irritating actor stuff, where you just go, “Oh, I wish I had done that better or put the emphasis on that line.” Or it’s like, “Oh, I had a cold that day. I can hear it in the voice.” And you go, “Argh! That’s around forever.” It drives me crazy.

Lawrence (Sandy): I was totally intimidated. ‘Cause I had been auditioning forever and doing on-camera work. I started off as a dancer, and I didn’t even know voice actor work was a career. I had been trying so long to get into the game, and “SpongeBob” was my first series regular. I was completely intimidated because they were all so experienced and I came in like [imitating a voice crack], “Hi.”

Fans crowd the Nickelodeon booth at Comic-Con in San Diego (Nickelodeon)

What are some of your favorite catchphrases of your characters?

Kenny (SpongeBob): “I’m ready” is a nice mantra.

Bumpass (Squidward): “Let me explain how it is: I order the food. You cook the food. I deliver the food. We do that for 40 years, then we die.”

Kenny (SpongeBob): “You do like Krabby patties, don’t you, Squidward?”

Lawrence (Sandy): I always like the song. “Wish I was back in Texas. The ocean’s no place for a squirrel.”

Kenny (SpongeBob): The French narrator I really like, because that’s a direct link to Steve where he’s sort of based on Jacques Cousteau. Very soft spoken. Very unflappable. “2 hours later, we’re still in the Krusty Krab.” I love him. He’s a very soothing character. He’s kind of the opposite of SpongeBob’s hyper kineticism.

Bumpass (Squidward): “If I had a dollar for every brain you don’t have, I’d have a dollar.”

Kenny (SpongeBob): “This is going to be the best day ever.”


The SpongeBob SquarePants Cast Celebrates 20 Years At SDCC 2019 | Den of Geek

In celebration with its 20th anniversary, SpongeBob SquarePants released a special live-action animated hybrid episode in which the cast appears as themselves! We spoke to Tom Kenny, Rodger Bumpass, and Clancy Brown about the special and more!

'SpongeBob SquarePants' Cast Talk The Show's Legacy And More | EXTENDED | ET Canada

Voice actors Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke and Rodger Bumpass reflect on the legacy of "SpongeBob Squarepants" as they celebrate the beloved cartoon's 20th anniversary while teasing what's to come, including the show's upcoming third feature film.

More Nick: Nickelodeon Brings SpongeBob SquarePants' Bikini Bottom to Life at Comic-Con International: San Diego 2019!

Originally published: Thursday, July 18, 2019 at 23:27 BST.

Original source: SYFY WIRE.
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