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The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie is a 2004 American live-action/animated comedy film based on the Nickelodeon animated television series SpongeBob SquarePants. The film was co-written, directed, and produced by series creator Stephen Hillenburg, with live-action sequences directed by Mark Osborne, and features the series' cast of Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke, Clancy Brown, Rodger Bumpass and Mr. Lawrence, while also starring Scarlett Johansson, Jeffrey Tambor, Alec Baldwin and David Hasselhoff.  It was produced by Hillenburg's production company United Plankton Pictures, Rough Draft Korea as the animation studio, Nickelodeon Movies and Walt Disney Pictures and released in theaters by Buena Vista Pictures Distribution. The events of the movie take place at the end of the series. It is the first film in the SpongeBob SquarePants film series. In this film, Plankton devises a plan to discredit his business rival Mr. Krabs by stealing King Neptune's crown and framing Mr. Krabs for the crime. SpongeBob and Patrick must retrieve the crown from Shell City to save Mr. Krabs from Neptune's wrath and the oceanic world from Plankton's plan.

Previous offers by Walt Disney Pictures for a film adaptation of SpongeBob SquarePants had been rejected by Stephen Hillenburg, but he eventually accepted one offer in 2002. A writing team consisting of Hillenburg, Paul Tibbitt, Derek Drymon, Aaron Springer, Kent Osborne and Tim Hill was assembled, conceiving the idea of a mythical hero's quest and the search for a stolen crown, which would bring SpongeBob and Patrick to the surface. The film was originally intended as the series finale, but Nickelodeon ordered more episodes of the series as it had become increasingly profitable, so Hillenburg resigned as showrunner with Tibbitt taking his place.

The film was widely promoted by The Walt Disney Company and Nickelodeon, with tie-in promotions made by 7-Eleven, the Cayman Islands and Burger King, which decorated various of its franchises with 9-foot (2.7 m) SpongeBob inflatable figures. The film was a box office success, grossing $140 million worldwide,[3] and received generally positive reviews from critics.

A stand-alone sequel titled The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water was released on February 6, 2015, and a second sequel titled The SpongeBob Movie: It's a Wonderful Sponge is scheduled for a release of July 17, 2020.

Plot

A group of pirates find tickets to The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie in a treasure chest and enter a theater to watch the film.

SpongeBob SquarePants is dreaming about managing the Krusty Krab restaurant and saving the day during a crisis. He wakes up and cheerfully prepares for the opening ceremony for the Krusty Krab 2, expecting his boss, Mr. Krabs, to promote him to manager of the new restaurant. Instead Krabs names Squidward Tentacles as manager, believing SpongeBob is too immature to handle the role, much to SpongeBob's disappointment. Meanwhile, Mr. Krabs' business rival, Plankton, complains about his failures to Karen (his computer wife), being unable to steal the Krabby Patty Secret Formula, and so on; exhausting plans A-Y, Plankton at Karen's correction finds Plan Z, which he begins to enact.

That night, SpongeBob goes to his favorite restaurant, Goofy Goober's Ice Cream Party Boat, where he drowns his sorrows in ice cream with his best friend, Patrick Star. Elsewhere, Plankton steals King Neptune's crown, leaving false evidence to frame Mr. Krabs for the crime, and sends the crown to Shell City, a distant, mysterious land from which no fish has returned. The next morning, Neptune barges into the Krusty Krab 2 and threatens Mr. Krabs for his alleged thievery. SpongeBob later arrives and chastises Krabs under the influence of an ice cream headache, but seeing his boss's life is at risk, he promises Neptune that he will retrieve the crown from Shell City. Neptune is convinced by his sympathetic daughter Mindy to spare Mr. Krabs for the time being and freezes him instead, ordering SpongeBob to return with the crown in six days for him to spare Krabs' life. Mindy gives SpongeBob a Bag of Winds so that they can return from Shell City once they find the crown. SpongeBob and Patrick leave for Shell City in the Patty Wagon, a car shaped like a Krabby Patty.

After SpongeBob and Patrick leave for Shell City, Plankton steals the Krabby Patty formula and uses it to produce and sell Krabby Patties at his restaurant, the Chum Bucket, claiming that Krabs bequeathed the recipe to him before Neptune froze him. He also gives free 'Chum Bucket Helmets' with every Patty. However, the helmets are in fact mind control devices which Plankton activates to control Bikini Bottom's residents and take over the city, after Squidward's failed attempt to report him to King Neptune.

As their journey continues, SpongeBob and Patrick reach a dangerous, monster-filled trench. After coming to the conclusion that they cannot complete their journey due to just being 'kids', they tearfully give up. Meanwhile, Plankton banishes Mindy to the trench, where she will be eaten. Mindy goes there on King Neptune's carriage, arrives at the trench, and helps SpongeBob and Patrick go through the trench. She pretends to use her 'mermaid magic' to turn them into men. With their confidence boosted, they brave the trench but are confronted by Dennis, a hitman hired by Plankton to eliminate them. He prepares to crush them with his spiked boots, but he is in turn stepped on by a hardhat diver they believe to be a Cyclops. The diver grabs SpongeBob and Patrick, and takes them to his beachside store, revealed to be Shell City.

At the store, SpongeBob and Patrick find the crown, but are killed when they are dehydrated by the Cyclops' heat lamp. Their tears short-circuit the lamp's power cord, and its smoke activates the sprinkler system, reviving them and the other dried sea creatures intended to be sold as souvenirs. As the vengeful sea creatures attack and overwhelm the Cyclops, SpongeBob and Patrick take the crown and head for the beach but Patrick inadvertently loses the Bag of Winds while attempting to use it. Fortunately, David Hasselhoff appears and offers them a ride. He swims from the beach to Bikini Bottom carrying them on his back. Dennis catches up to them but is knocked by a catamaran back into the sea. Hasselhoff opens up his rocket launching pecs to shoot SpongeBob and Patrick back to Bikini Bottom with the crown.

At the Krusty Krab 2, King Neptune arrives to execute Mr. Krabs. Mindy returns to the Bikini Bottom and waits impatiently for SpongeBob to come back. SpongeBob and Patrick return with the crown just in time thanks to Hasselhoff launching them through the roof of the Krusty Krab 2. They confront Plankton, who drops a mind-control bucket on Neptune, enslaving him. Before Plankton can direct Neptune to kill them, SpongeBob bursts into song, singing "Goofy Goober Rock" (a parody of Twisted Sister's "I Wanna Rock") and transforming into an electric guitar-wielding wizard. He uses his guitar as if it were a magic wand to destroy the mind-controlling helmets, freeing Neptune, Squidward, Gary, Sandy, Mrs. Puff, and the rest of Bikini Bottom's residents from Plankton's rule. Plankton tries to escape the Krusty Krab, but is stepped on and crushed by other citizens. After that, Plankton is arrested, and Neptune thanks SpongeBob for his bravery, thaws Mr. Krabs, and apologizes for falsely accusing him. Mr. Krabs decides to make SpongeBob manager of the Krusty Krab 2 in gratitude.

Cast

  • Tom Kenny as SpongeBob SquarePants
  • Bill Fagerbakke as Patrick Star
  • Clancy Brown as Mr. Krabs
  • Rodger Bumpass as Squidward Tentacles
  • Mr. Lawrence as Plankton
  • Jeffrey Tambor as King Neptune
  • Scarlett Johansson as Princess Mindy
  • Alec Baldwin as Dennis
  • David Hasselhoff as himself
  • Jill Talley as Karen
  • Carolyn Lawrence as Sandy Cheeks
  • Mary Jo Catlett as Mrs. Puff
  • Lori Alan as Pearl Krabs
  • Dee Bradley Baker as Perch Perkins
  • Carlos Alazraqui as King Neptune's squire
  • Aaron Hendry as the Cyclops
    • Neil Ross (voice)
  • Stephen Hillenburg as the voice of the Parrot
  • Kristopher Logan as Squinty the Pirate
  • D.P. FitzGerald as Bonesy the Pirate
  • Cole McKay as Scruffy the Pirate
  • Dylan Haggerty as Stitches the Pirate
  • Bart McCarthy as Captain Bart the Pirate
  • Henry Kingi as Inky the Pirate
  • Michael Patrick Bell as Fisherman
  • Mageina Tovah as Usher

Production

Development

The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie was long-planned;[4] Nickelodeon and Walt Disney Pictures had approached series creator Stephen Hillenburg for a film based on the show, but he refused for more than a year.[5] Hillenburg was concerned, after watching The Iron Giant and Toy Story with his son, about the challenge of SpongeBob and Patrick doing something more cinematically-consequential and inspiring without losing what he calls the SpongeBob "cadence".[5] He said, on a break from season-four post-production, "To do a 75-minute movie about SpongeBob wanting to make some jellyfish jelly would be a mistake, I think [...] 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."[5]

I never wanted to do a movie because I didn't think that what we wanted to say needed to be in a movie. I like the short form for animation. Then this story idea came up that lent itself to a longer format. You can't do a road trip adventure in a short form.
— Stephen Hillenburg[6]

In 2002, Hillenburg and the show's staff stopped making episodes to work on the film after the show's third season.[6] The film's plot originally had SpongeBob rescue Patrick from a fisherman in Florida;[6] an obvious reference to the 2003 film, Finding Nemo, this was later said by Tom Kenny (the voice of SpongeBob) to be a "joke" plot to keep fans busy.[6] Hillenburg wrote the film with five other writer-animators from the show (Paul Tibbitt, Derek Drymon, Aaron Springer, Kent Osborne and Tim Hill) over a three-month period in a room of a former Glendale, California bank.[5] Osborne said, "It was hugely fun [...] although it did get kind of gamy in there."[5] At the beginning of the series, Hillenburg screened a number of silent shorts (from Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton) and work by two modern comic actors: Jerry Lewis and Pee-wee Herman, both obvious inspirations for SpongeBob.[7] For the film, the writers created a mythical hero's quest: the search for a stolen crown, which brings SpongeBob and Patrick to the surface.[7] Bill Fagerbakke (the voice of Patrick) said about the plot, "It's just nuts. I'm continually dazzled and delighted with what these guys came up with."[8]

When the film was completed, Hillenburg wanted to end the series "so [it] wouldn't jump the shark". However, Nickelodeon desired more episodes;[9] Hillenburg stated: "Well, there was concern when we did the movie [in 2004] that the show had peaked. There were concerns among executives at Nickelodeon."[10][11] As a result, Hillenburg resigned as the series' showrunner,[12] appointing writer, director, and storyboard artist Paul Tibbitt to succeed him.[13] Tibbitt was one of Hillenburg's favorite crew members:[14] "[I] totally trusted him."[15] Tibbitt would remain showrunner until he was succeeded in 2015 by the show's creative director Vincent Waller and staff writer Marc Ceccarelli. He has also acted as an executive producer since 2008.[13][16] Hillenburg no longer wrote or ran the show on a day-to-day basis, but reviewed each episode and submitted suggestions: "I figure when I'm pretty old I can still paint [...] I don't know about running shows."[12][17] Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke and the crew confirmed that they had completed four episodes for broadcast on Nickelodeon in early 2005,[18][19] and planned to finish a total of about 20 for the fourth season.[18][19] In 2015, Hillenburg returned to the show following the completion of the second movie as an executive producer, now having greater creative input and attending crew meetings.[20][21]

In September 2003, Jules Engel, Hillenburg's mentor when he studied experimental animation at the California Institute of the Arts, died.[22] Hillenburg dedicated the film to him: "He truly was the most influential artistic person in my life. I consider him my 'Art Dad.'"[23][24][25]

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