SpongeBob SquarePants is an American animated television series created by marine biologist and animator Stephen Hillenburg for Nickelodeon. The series chronicles the adventures and endeavors of the title character and his various friends in the fictional underwater city of Bikini Bottom. The series' popularity has made it a media franchise, as well as the highest rated series to ever air on Nickelodeon, and the most distributed property of MTV Networks. As of late 2017, the media franchise has generated $13 billion in merchandising revenue for Nickelodeon.
Many of the ideas for the series originated in an unpublished educational comic book titled The Intertidal Zone, which Hillenburg created in 1989. He began developing SpongeBob SquarePants into a television series in 1996 upon the cancellation of Rocko's Modern Life, and turned to Tom Kenny, who had worked with him on that series, to voice the title character. SpongeBob was originally going to be named SpongeBoy, and the series was to be called SpongeBoy Ahoy!, but both of these were changed, as the name was already trademarked.
Nickelodeon held a preview for the series in the United States on May 1, 1999, following the television airing of the 1999 Kids' Choice Awards. The series officially premiered on July 17, 1999. It has received worldwide critical acclaim since its premiere and gained enormous popularity by its second season. A feature film, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, was released in theaters on November 19, 2004, and a sequel was released on February 6, 2015. In 2017, the series began airing its eleventh season and was renewed for a twelfth season.
The series has won a variety of awards, including six Annie Awards, eight Golden Reel Awards, four Emmy Awards, 12 Kids' Choice Awards, and two BAFTA Children's Awards. Despite its widespread popularity, the series has been involved in several public controversies, including one centered on speculation over SpongeBob's intended sexual orientation. In 2011, a newly described species of fungi, Spongiforma squarepantsii, was named after the cartoon's title character. A Broadway musical based on the series opened in 2017 to critical acclaim
The series predominately takes place in the benthic underwater city of Bikini Bottom, which is located in the Pacific Ocean beneath the real-life coral reef known as Bikini Atoll. In 2015, Tom Kenny confirmed that the fictitious city was named after Bikini Atoll, but denied an Internet fan theory that connected the series' characters to actual nuclear testing that occurred in the atoll. The citizens are mainly multicolored fish who live in buildings made from ship funnels and use "boatmobiles", amalgamations of cars and boats, as a mode of transportation. Recurring locations within Bikini Bottom include the neighboring houses of SpongeBob, Patrick, and Squidward; two competing restaurants, the Krusty Krab and the Chum Bucket; Mrs. Puff's Boating School, which includes a driving course and a sunken lighthouse building; the Treedome, an oxygenated glass enclosure where Sandy lives; Shady Shoals Rest Home; a seagrass meadow called Jellyfish Fields; and Goo Lagoon, a popular beach hangout.
When the crew began production on the pilot, they were tasked with designing the stock locations where "the show would return to again and again, and in which most of the action would take place, such as the Krusty Krab and SpongeBob's pineapple house". The idea for the series was "to keep everything nautical", so the crew used a great amount of rope, wooden planks, ships' wheels, netting, anchors, boilerplates, and rivets in creating the show's setting. Transitions between scenes are marked by bubbles filling up the screen, accompanied by the sound of water rushing.
The series features "sky flowers" as a main setting material. They first appeared in the pilot and have since become a common feature throughout the series. When series background designer Kenny Pittenger was asked what they were, he answered, "They function as clouds in a way, but since the show takes place underwater, they aren't really clouds. Because of the tiki influence on the show, the background painters use a lot of pattern." Pittenger said that the sky flowers were meant to "evoke the look of a flower-print Hawaiian shirt"