SpongeBob SquarePants Swims to Land And Now on DVD
Santa Monica Promenade, California – For the uninitiated, "Sponge Bob Square Pants" is not ‘just’some juvenile, Nickelodeon cartoon that parents turn on to baby-sit their little terrors. Or that grade-schoolers love watching and comparing notes about the next day with classmates.
If you’re one of the devotees of the show, (and Nickelodeon claims that 30% of their "Sponge Bob"audience is over fourteen), which allow for "Sponge Bob" to consistently rank in at least five of the Top 10 shows each week on cable television, you already knew that.
What you and others, sans the kiddies, may have known is that Nickelodeon Movies along with their parent company Paramount Pictures were banking on you, the kids, their parents and everyone in between, getting off their comfy couches and marching straight to the local multiplex to see "Sponge Bob" and friends make their first, (and hopefully one of many), perilous journey to land, (braving sea monsters, assassins and the like), where they interact with and cry for help to former "Baywatch" hunk, David Hasslehoff. Suffice it to say, Paramount's gamble, that being releasing a 2-D, animated movie to theaters while the show is still on T.V., paid off to the tune of $85 million. And it is now on DVD and already, before its release, March 1, a best seller on .com
In the movie, unlike their adventures on T.V., Sponge Bob and friends are on a mission to save Bikini Bottom from destruction.
I had a chance to sit with Sponge Bob and his bestfriend, Patrick the starfish, on the beach in Santa Monica on a Sunday morning a couple of weeks before the film premiered in theaters.. It was only their second time on land. (This time, they traveled in style, via submarine, on the studio’s dime.) The sky was overcast and spitting, but that was perfect since the sea creatures prefer the dampness, opposed to the bright California sunlight. "We wouldn’t want to dry out again," they say to me, cringing, referring to a scene in the movie where they are left for dead, drying under a heat lamp, at the hands of an evil diver who catches them and adds them to his souvenir shop collection.
"But it wasn’t easy, our trip from Bikini Bottom to land," says Sponge Bob, Patrick at his side, licking a chocolate ice cream cone, his favorite food in the whole entire world.
"While you humans think that our show on TV and this movie is work for us or entertainment for you, let m etell you something," says Sponge Bob. "This is ou rreal life. What you see on TV or at the movies is really what is happening to us. We are not actors. We don’t get paid. Yes, the movie studio has set up this interview and has paid for us to come to land to promote their so-called movie. But, we live in the sea and it just so happens that Nickelodeon and Paramount have planted cameras in Bikini Bottom so that they can capture our every move. Kind of like those shows on TV that are popular in Bikini Bottom, ‘The Real World: Coral Reef’ and ‘Survivor: Shark Park,’" he continues.
"We are just ourselves," says Patrick. "We could never be actors or anything like that. We could never move to Hollywood beaches either. We love Bikini Bottom too much." Where Bikini Bottom actually is, well, is a closely guarded secret.
"Sponge Bob Square Pants" is not as orphaned as you may think. He does have a parent. A creator. And his name is Stephen Hillenberg. It was Stephen Hillenberg who dreamed up the life of "Sponge Bob" and the community of Bikini Bottom.
"They never really stop to think too much," say's Hillenberg, a very good-looking, brown wavy-haired thirty-something, referring to the inhabitants of Bikini Bottom. "It’s kind of like ‘The Truman Show.’ They are real but don’t yet know the whole story."
Getting back to the story of the "Sponge Bob" movie. It has something for everyone. The kids in the audience, or in front of the television, will go crazy the second the lights go down. And again, many times before they go back up. The adults, though, will also be pleasantly surprised and entertained. "While there is no real script," says Hillenberg, (how could there be, with the players not knowing they are actors?), we find enough in the many hours of film we capture to appeal to everyone. Thereis a really funny scene in the movie where we spy onPatrick in a bar dressed in drag. He’s at that experimental age. And although they don’t have alcoho lin Bikini Bottom they do have ice cream, and we captured a near ice-cream O.D. in one of the ice-cream bars that Sponge Bob and Patrick frequent."
The challenge the studio had was to sell the movie to the millions of fans who watch it everyday on TV, for free.
"I don’t think it will be hard to get seats intheaters filled," says Hillenberg, confidently. "The story, unlike all of the Sponge Bob episodes on TV, which are only eleven minutes each, is much longer, seventy minutes.We follow the boys on a journey. To the surface. Where they meet humans for the first time. Where they narrowly escape death. It’s quite a ride."
And he’s not kidding. The ride from land back to Bikini Bottom on the back of David Hasslehoff has to be one of the scariest rides in movie history.
Photo credit: Sponge Bob Sqaure Pants & Patrick the Starfish in SPONGE BOB SQUARE PANTS: THE MOVIE. Paramount Pictures.