Thursday, February 14, 2019

Tom Kenny Describes Filming the Live-Action Scenes for SpongeBob SquarePants' 20th Anniversary Special

Making ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ Doppelganger Birthday Special “Like Having Sex With Lights On” – TCA

Playing live-action versions of their SpongeBob SquarePants characters was a bit unnerving, the animated show’s voice actors admitted at TCA.

“I don’t want to live in a live action world I want to live in the cartoon world,” Tom Kenny, who voices SpongeBob admitted to TV critics of the live action tribute, in which he had to perform in character on a Krusty Krab set with people he’d been in the booth with 20 years, also of whom also were dressed like their characters.

He credited Mr. Krabs voice actor Clancy Brown with best explaining the weirdness. “He put it so perfectly, looked around and said ‘This is like having sex with the lights on’,” Kenny remembered.

The one-hour mixed live-action and animation special to mark the show’s 20 years, will mark the first time the voice talent behind SpongeBob, Patrick, Mr. Krabs, Sandy, Squidward and Plankton play live-action doppelganger version of the characters they voice. The special is set to premiere on Nickelodeon USA on Friday, July 12, 2019.

Doug Lawrence, aka Mr. Lawrence, aka the voice of Plankton, got asked where his character’s iconic “My Eyes” line came from. It was an ad lib, he said as cast mates credited him with being the show’s “buttoner.”

One critic wondered how the series became so much a part of our cultural zeitgeist. The cast informed them “zeitgeist” was their drinking game word for the TCA Q&A.

SpongeBob’s outlook on life is so sunny that even on the couple of occasions when something controversial broke out about the show, “SpongeBob still ends up winning,” unlike the NFL or Maroon 5, Kenny joked.

Though they insist SpongeBob SquarePants is a comedy series that the whole family can watch, they nonetheless have been surprised to discover some of its unabashed fans. Former President Barack Obama, for one, who one said in an interview he loved watching their show – and The Wire.

David Bowie also claimed to be a big fan, and once invited them to be his guests at one of his concerts. Only they had to park “30 miles away” and shuttle to the venue, where they were seated in some nosebleed section.

“When you do cartoons you’re always a little bit in the cartoon ghetto,” Kenny explained.

Original source: Deadline; H/T: Anime Superhero Forum /@kanc; Additional source: Nickandmore!.

Also, via Variety:

Cartoon’s China Anniversary

Nickelodeon is celebrating “SpongeBob SquarePants’s” upcoming 20th anniversary with a special episode that mixes live-action and animation and will feature the long-running series’ voice cast as human versions of the characters. “It was really weird,” Roger Bumpass, who voices Squidward, said of “SpongeBob’s Big Birthday Blowout.” “I had the hardest time explaining to friends what we did in the live-action episode. People just didn’t understand we were playing doppelgangers of our characters.” In the one-hour special, Patrick and SpongeBob journey to the surface world, where they come across a few familiar characters during lunchtime rush at The Trusty Slab restaurant. Meanwhile, the Bikini Bottom residents set up a surprise party for SpongeBob. In addition to this episode, Nickelodeon is also commemorating the series with a new product line by Alpha Group, collaborations with Cynthia Rowley for a SpongeBob wetsuit, the launch of a dedicated YouTube channel and a mobile game.


Also, from USA Today:

'SpongeBob' goes live-action to celebrate 'Best Year Ever' 20th anniversary

PASADENA, Calif. — After years portraying the beloved denizens of Bikini Bottom, the voice actors behind "SpongeBob SquarePants" will be front and center as human versions of their characters as part of a 20th anniversary celebration for the hit series.

How did that feel? "It went from weird to really fun," said Carolyn Lawrence, who portrays Sandy Cheeks, during a Television Critics Association panel Monday.

Nickelodeon will commemorate the 20th anniversary of "SpongeBob," which premiered on July 17, 1999, with what it's calling the "Best Year Ever."

The celebration kicks off July 12 with "SpongeBob's Big Birthday Blowout," a new special mixing live action and animation and featuring the cartoon's voice cast playing human versions of SpongeBob, Patrick, Mr. Krabs, Sandy, Squidward and others.

Tom Kenny, right, who voices SpongeBob SquarePants, attends Daytime Emmy ceremony with the Nickelodeon cartoon's creator, Stephen Hillenburg. Hillenburg died last year. Photo: David Livingston

(Another feature film, "The SpongeBob Movie: It's a Wonderful Sponge" is due in theaters in 2020.)

In the special, Patrick Star (Bill Fagerbakke) takes the characters to the surface world to distract them while birthday party plans are being made in Bikini Bottom. There, the voice actors portray slightly different versions of their characters, not with sponge or starfish costumes, but by wearing clothing and acting as human versions of their underwater doppelgangers.

They end up at a restaurant called the Trusty Slab, which sounds much like their watery hangout, the Krusty Krab. A brief clip showed Tom Kenny flipping burgers at a frenetic pace, much like his character, SpongeBob.

"It was like the most meta of meta moments ever," Kenny said, "walking into a place that looks quite a bit like the Krusty Krab and with people you've been in the (recording) booth with for 20 years, and they're all kind of dressed like their characters."

The terrestrial characters have slightly different names from their submerged counterparts, which was an adjustment for the actors.

Clancy Brown, who plays the cranky Mr. Krabs, "couldn't not call Rodger (Bumpass) Squidward," Fagerbakke said. "He's been calling him Squidward for 20 years."

Bumpass said he's had "the hardest time" explaining the live-action element to friends who are fans of the cartoon. "They didn't understand we were doing doppelgangers of our characters."

Kenny, however, doesn't find the sea/land transition that much of a shock.

"People were like, 'What's it like to be a live-action SpongeBob?' And I think I always have been. I think that's how I got the gig in the first place," he said. Creator Stephen Hilllenburg, who died last year, told him, "'You're talking like that guy. You want the job?'"


Also, from SYFY Wire:


It’s hard to believe that yellow, porous sponge in the tighty-whities (and all of Bikini Bottom, for that matter) turns 20 this year, but he remains just as popular as ever.

While there's no doubt that the animated Nickelodeon series helped "raise" an entire generation of kids since it first debuted in the late '90s, SpongeBob SquarePants is not just a property for young people. While appearing at the TCA winter tour, a good chunk of the principal voice cast dished on some of their most unexpected fans, like David Bowie (who lent his voice to the 2007 TV special, SpongeBob's Atlantis SquarePantis) and President Barack Obama.

"[Obama] was like, I love SpongeBob and The Wire. Pretty much everyone has a soft spot for SpongeBob," said Tom Kenny, who voices the happy-go-lucky short-order fry cook living in a pineapple under the sea.

Switching over to Bowie, Kenny added: "In the early days of the show, when it was just starting to pop, Bowie’s people got in touch with the show and [creator] Stephen [Hillenburg]. He was doing a show in Orange County and asked for us to be his guests. Our parking was like 30 miles away, and the seats were way far away. We never got backstage, and I looked at Stephen and was like, 'We have really made it.' When you do cartoons, you are always a bit in the celebrity ghetto."

Of course, youths around the globe flock to SpongeBob, who has made his way to 200 countries and been translated into 50 languages. That's nothing to shake a stick (or piece of coral) at.

"For kids, he has the job he loves and is a child at heart," explained the show's co-producer, Marc Ceccarelli.

"[I'd] pick up my daughters [and] there was a John Lennon buzz around the playground," said Bill Fagerbakke, voice of SpongeBob's best friend and slow-witted neighbor, Patrick Star.

"Neighborhood kids [would] start to call me Sandy," offered Carolyn Lawrence, who plays Sandy Cheeks, a land squirrel from Texas living in a bio-dome underwater.

"I was recognized by my dentist," finished Roger Bumpass, voice of SpongeBob and Patrick's irritable neighbor and co-worker, Squidward Tentacles.

And if you've ever wondered where the show's often-used exclamation of "My leg!" came from, Mr. Lawrence (voice of Plankton) had a definitive answer: "It was an ad-lib. [The scene called for] everyone writhing in pain, and I said it and I kept saying it. Fans started talking about it and named him Fred. He has his own episode."

To celebrate the world of recently departed creator Stephen Hillenburg, Nickelodeon announced today at the Viacom TCA 2019 Winter tour that the SpongeBob “Best Year Ever” event will start on July 12 with SpongeBob’s Big Birthday Blowout special and culminate with the theatrical release of The SpongeBob Movie: It’s a Wonderful Sponge in the summer of 2020.

Fans can also look for a global mobile game that lets fans step into SpongeBob’s role as a fry cook at The Krusty Crab, pop-up experiences across the U.S., and a slew of new toys and collectibles, including the “Masterpiece Meme” line that reproduces the viral memes like Surprised Patrick, Handsome Squidward, and Mocking SpongeBob.

The one-hour launch special, SpongeBob’s Big Birthday Blowout, will be timed to "Help Wanted" (the debut episode from 1999) and feature a mix of live action and traditional animation as SpongeBob and Patrick travel to the surface world, where they will, for the very first time, encounter the real-life voice talent of the iconic characters in The Trusty Slab restaurant, the human version of the Krusty Krab.

The rest of the year will feature many celebratory initiatives, including the roll-out of the official SpongeBob SquarePants YouTube channel that will house classic bits from the last two decades and the new short-form series, Bikini Bottom Mysteries.

So, while Bikini Bottom fans didn’t get their full Super Bowl performance of “Sweet Victory” this year, Nickelodeon is making up for it with a victory lap.

"SpongeBob still ends up winning and on top," Kenny said. "They don’t hate on SpongeBob, they hate on Maroon 5."


Also, from Rotten Tomatoes:


SpongeBob SquarePants celebrates its 20th birthday this summer. Like other beloved animated series (including The Simpsons and Family Guy), the series has managed to remain in the zeitgeist for multiple decades (though SpongeBob is a show both kids and adults can enjoy together). How, exactly, has the Nickelodeon series managed to remain so topical?

“Man, that’s the million-dollar question,” said Bill Fagerbakke, who voices SpongeBob’s pal Patrick Star. “I don’t know if there’s a formula. There’s something mercurial and enigmatic about it. And I’ve come to think it’s a magical combination of shapes, colors, and sounds. We don’t know!”

Rodger Bumpass, who voices SpongeBob’s frenemy Squidward, likens the series to Looney Tunes.

“They’re both short cartoons, but different ages of people and viewers get different things. Little kids get something out of it ’cause it’s colorful and it’s animated. And then the little older guys get a little bit more stuff out of it, and adults get something out of it too. And funny is funny, so I think that’s one of the reasons it has struck a chord,” Bumpass said.

SpongeBob himself, a.k.a. Tom Kenny, thinks some of the magic of his character comes from the fact that everyone wants to root for him and he’s avoided any type of controversy.

“SpongeBob really does seem to have this charmed life and this magic power where people, you know, they didn’t just like it a little bit. They started to really like it and love it, and it found its way into the fabric of people’s lives, and it kept finding new life in new ways like memes and things like that,” Kenny said. “And even on the couple of occasions where there’s been something a little controversial that’s happened, SpongeBob still winds up winning. SpongeBob still winds up on top.”

For example, the latest Super Bowl halftime show was a tad controversial, but people didn’t take any umbrage with the fact that SpongeBob made an appearance.

Said Kenny, “People get mad at the NFL. They don’t get mad at SpongeBob. You know what I mean? They don’t hate on SpongeBob. They hate on Maroon 5.”


More Nick: Nickelodeon Marks 20 Years of "SpongeBob SquarePants" with the "Best Year Ever"!

Originally published: Tuesday, February 12, 2019.
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