When Spongebob Squarepants debuted on Nickelodeon in 1999, few believed that a hyperactive talking sponge and his crazy pals would make it past one season on a cable network.
Even so, “the little show that could” persevered and now has nine successful seasons that have aired over the past sixteen years. In addition to voicing Spongebob, 53-year-old voice actor Tom Kenny is also famous for voicing the Ice King from Adventure Time, Raimundo from Xiaolin Showdown, and many other popular characters from animated shows. We ran into Kenny at Comic Con and asked him about the new Spongebob movie and the show’s upcoming season, on air now.
How do you feel about Spongebob as a character?
In a weird way, he’s like a son, but with all the characters I do, you do feel a proprietary interest in your character. You’re proud of them, proud of how they’re doing in life, that they’re out there and people seem to relate and enjoy them. You also feel that you’re the guardian of this character—a sense of stewardship. You feel responsible for creating the character at least in the vocal sense. That’s my little mustard I put on the bun of the Krabby Patty. You’re part of this team in making this thing that’s important to people.
What do you think about the Spongebob movie that just came out?
Sponge Out of Water blew everyone’s expectations out of the water. Expectations were exceeded. A show that’s been on the air for 16 years isn’t supposed to have a movie do that well because people can get the movie free 20,000 times a day on Hulu or Netflix or Cable or your computer, but the movie came out and killed it in the opening weekend and everyone’s like “Wow there’s still so much life in that old sponge.” That’s pretty mind-blowing.
How was recording for the Spongebob movie different from recording for the television show?
The main difference is that when you’re doing the TV episodes, you have to giddy-up-go a little faster because everything has to get moved down the pipeline. It has to get shipped off to get animated and then we have to do the ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement) and the music and put it on the air in nine months, which sounds like a long time, but it’s kind of a race against time. In the movies, you can be more leisurely.
Now that Spongebob Squarepants has been on the air for 16 years, how do you feel about the show?
You know, when I was sitting in the panel today and my 17-year-old son, who was born in 1997, was sitting there in the audience, I was going like, yeah, my wife was pregnant with him when we did the pilot in 1997. It’s weird just considering how much time has passed and how much your life can change on every conceivable level in seventeen years. It’s hard to get your mind around it—you do your job acting like a kid, having fun, messing around and playing pretend. It’s mind blowing that people have let Spongebob be a part of their lives for so long.
What does the future hold for Spongebob?
We just recorded an episode the other day which was really surreal. Plankton and Mr. Krabs are arguing, and Plankton’s like “if you love money so much, why don’t you just marry it?” And Mr. Krabs is like, “You know, that’s not a bad idea.” So he winds up marrying a bag of money and his new wife is a bag of money. I guess that’s symbolic of anyone who’s married to money.