The Bob is coming NEXT WEEK. Yes, the SpongeBob Squarepants Movie opens November 19 and the spigots of publicity are fully open. Even reclusive marine biologist-turned-animator Stephen Hillenburg is talking, at least to the NY Times.
According to the Times, the story is a bit more linear than a typical SpongeBob cartoon:
- Something nefarious is afloat in the depths of Bikini Bottom: King Neptune’s crown has been stolen, and the prime suspect is Mr. Krabs, proprietor of Mr. Krabs Krabby Patties. Despite evidence to the contrary — not to mention having been turned down for a long-awaited promotion at the restaurant — SpongeBob (voice of Tom Kenny) refuses to believe that his boss is responsible and teams up with his best friend, Patrick (voice of Bill Fagerbakke), on a mission to Shell City, where he hopes he can exonerate Mr. Krabs and return the crown to its rightful owner in the process. Of course, this is no easy task; once outside the relative safety of Bikini Bottom, SpongeBob is faced with the overwhelming dangers of the sea, not the least of which being Plankton and a scheming bottom-dweller hell-bent on oceanic domination. Among those who lent their vocal chords to the film include Scarlett Johansson, Jeffrey Tambor, and Alec Baldwin
Grand, epic, herculean!
David Edelstein ponders the ramifications and speaks with Hillenburg:
- ELEVEN minutes: such a piquant unit of time. Shortish, but plenty long enough for SpongeBob SquarePants to bound out of his undersea bed; feed his pet snail, Gary; leave his pineapple house in Bikini Bottom; bid a cheery good morning to his imbecile buddy, Patrick the starfish, emerging from under his rock; and make happy tracks to the Krusty Krab, a fast-food restaurant where SpongeBob loves loves loves serving trademark Krabby Patties, even if the avaricious owner crab and killjoy squid co-worker find his happy-go-lucky enthusiasm for minimum-wage drudgery bizarre and annoying.
….Those 11-minute episodes of Hawaiian-slacker whimsy, set against flower-cloud backdrops inspired by Polynesian fabrics and punctuated by ukulele music and SpongeBob’s dolphin-on-a-sugar-high chortle, have made Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob SquarePants” a phenomenon not only with little kids, but also with big kids, college students, stoners, gays – pretty much everyone who walks on land or shells out, so to speak, for the tie-in merchandise.
Seventy-five minutes: That’s the unit Mr. Hillenburg and his fellow SpongeBobians have been wrestling with for the last two years making “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie”
….”To do a 75-minute movie about SpongeBob wanting to make some jellyfish jelly would be a mistake, I think,” he said, taking a break from his post-production labors here, where he is also working on the fourth season of the television series. “This had to be SpongeBob in a great adventure. That’s where the comedy’s coming from, having these two naïve characters, SpongeBob and Patrick, a doofus and an idiot, on this incredibly dangerous heroic odyssey with all the odds against them.”
….[Hillenburg] looks more like a surfer dude. He has a compact, muscular frame, perfect for long boards, and he’d like to hit the waves again, actually, when the movie is finished and he can take a short break. Described by colleagues as a perfectionist workaholic, Mr. Hillenburg has coped with the explosion of SpongeBob mania by doing his best to wall himself off from it.
….Mr. Hillenburg even resisted pressure from Nickelodeon and Paramount to make a SpongeBob movie, saying no for more than a year until it hit him – while watching “The Iron Giant” and “Toy Story” with his son – that it would be a challenge to give SpongeBob and Patrick something more cinematically consequential and inspiring to do, as long as it could be done without losing what he calls the SpongeBob “cadence.”
Scientist-surfer Hillenburg has problems with fast food tie-ins:
- Mr. Hillenburg said, evenly: “Yeah, well, my take on that is that we shouldn’t do that. In the show, the whole point of the fast food – the fact that SpongeBob loves being part of the fast-food chain, and that being a manager is his ultimate dream: it’s ironic. It’s something that most people don’t think is a great thing to try to achieve. And we didn’t want to suddenly become the people serving up food that’s not that good for you – especially kids. We work with Burger King, and they make toys and watches. But to actually take the step of pushing the food, that’s crossing the line. I don’t want to be the Pied Piper of fast food.”
….To understand “it,” you have to know what “SpongeBob” means to Mr. Hillenburg: “The show is about watching an innocent character in this world that he lives in. And the movie is about embracing innocence. It’s saying that the childlike mind is O.K. It’s saying that dorks can be really important.”
At least animated ones – let the guileless triumph and may all your Bikinis find their Bottoms!