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SpongeBob SquarePants is 20!

May 21, 2019

Ooooooooh…who’s celebrating 20 straight years on TV? SpongeBob SquarePants! The incredibly silly Nickelodeon cartoon starring the iconic porous fry cook debuted in May 1999, and hasn’t left TV since. Here are some little known facts about the yellow guy.

SpongeBob SquarePants

Squidward name origins

The name of SpongeBob’s long-suffering neighbor and co-worker, Squidward Tentacles, is a really great and subtle joke for fans of wordplay and sea life. “Squidward” implies that he’s a squid, right? Well, he’s got six tentacles, a clue which points to him being an octopus.

Where did Bikini Bottom come from?

SpongeBob and his friends live in an underwater city called Bikini Bottom. Mildly titillating joke to name it after a skimpy bathing suit? Sure. But the bikini is named after Bikini Atoll, the island area where the U.S. government tested 23 nuclear bombs in the 1940s and 1950s. Bikini Bottom is underneath Bikini Atoll, and all of the talking, bizarre creatures that live there resulted from mutation brought about by all that atomic energy.

“Write what you know”

The experts say to “write what you know,” so Stephen Hillenburg did. The SpongeBob SquarePants creator got his degree in marine resources planning, and once upon a time taught marine biology at an Orange County, California, college. When he’d get bored, he’s work on a comic book about anthropomorphic sea creatures called Intertidial Zone. After he left academia to work in the creative department for the Nickelodeon cartoon Rocko’s Modern Life, animators there encouraged him to develop his old comic into a TV show. (So he did.)

SpongeBoy?

Hillenburg initially named his main character SpongeBoy, with the show to be called SpongeBoy Ahoy! He had to change it because “Sponge Boy” was the trademarked name of a mop.

Patrick’s evolution

SpongeBob’s best friend, a starfish named Patrick Star, evolved, too. At first, he was a guy who ran a roadside bar, and he was really mean to everybody to cover up how he was self-conscious about his pink color.

Spongiforma SquarePantsii

In 2011, scientists discovered a brand new species of fungus. Its sponge-like appearance prompted them to name it Spongiforma SquarePantsii, after the cartoon character, of course.

Guest voices

When the show caught on, network executives pushed SpongeBob SquarePants producers to bring in big celebrities as guest voices. Hillenburg refused to allow that to happen (with the exception of old school actors Ernest Borgnine, and Tim Conway, who showed up to play superheroes Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy). When Hillenburg left the show in 2004, in game a slew of guest stars, everyone from Tina Fey to Johnny Depp to LeBron James.

How old is SpongeBob?

It’s kind of difficult to tell how old SpongeBob is supposed to be. He lives alone and has a job (like an adult), but he’s also immature and still in (boating) school. The truth was revealed when, after SpongeBob finally got his boating license. He holds it up, and it reveals his birthday as July 14, 1986. That means SpongeBob turns 33 this year.

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