No other cartoon in history has had such an impact on both young and old viewers alike as the legendary SpongeBob SquarePants. Created by Stephen Hillenburg, who was a marine biologist by trade, SpongeBob hit the animation entertainment water with a splash when Hillenburg’s 11-minute preliminary clip of a show centered around Bob the Sponge and his undersea adventures, sent waves through Nickelodeon’s executives and spurred the network to fund a pilot show in 1997.
The first episode of SpongeBob SquarePants aired on May 1, 1999, and within a month of its premiere, it overtook Pokémon as the highest-ranked Saturday morning cartoon on television. This comedic animated show found its way into the hearts and minds of not only children but adults as well, as 40 percent of each show’s average of 2.2 million viewers were over the age of 18.
Hillenburg has since passed away, but his legendary contribution to the cartoon world lives on as a $13 billion franchise with over 700 license partners worldwide and has spawned a myriad of themed products in household goods, apparel, toys, and candy.
The SpongeBob icon occupies real estate in Universal Studios as the SpongeBob StorePants retail shop and fills the stockroom of candy retailers like Candy Warehouse with Gummy Crabby Patties, character-themed PEZ dispensers, chocolate bars, lollipops, and candy rings. After 20 years, candy under the SpongeBob name is still going strong, which is not a surprise, as sweet confections often played a starring role in this hit series.
The first addition of sweet treats into the plot occurs in the episode, “Chocolate with Nuts,” when SpongeBob and Patrick go on a chocolate-selling spree to make enough money to live the “fancy life.” The comical pair soon find the life of a chocolate bar salesman is a challenging line of work and revert to “stretching the truth” about their product to unload their inventory.
In another candy themed episode titled, “Life of Crime,” the two misfit characters get into an argument after Patrick’s chocolate bar mysteriously disappears, (he, of course, ate it but didn’t remember,) and he accuses his best friend SpongeBob of eating it behind his back. In the end, Mr. SquarePants has had enough of the pink star’s rants and slowly and meticulously nibbles his chocolate bar in front of a very angry, and hungry Patrick.
For 20 years, we have had the pleasure to laugh, and learn a few life lessons with the inhabitants of this undersea society. Bikini Bottom is where we learned that swear words were just sentence enhancers and squirrels could live underwater. That “cool” was really pronounced “coral,” and FUN took on a whole new meaning. Where the hash-slinging slasher was to be feared, and Pinhead Larry and Dirty Dan became household heroes, right behind Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy. It’s an iconic show for all ages that most likely will endure the test of time, as will the novel candy that was created in its honor.
So, next time you take a bite of a Crabby Patty gummy candy, contemplate the fact that no one, not even Plankton, ever uncovered the mystery of the Crabby Patty secret formula. Perhaps that mystery recipe isn’t a concoction of kelp and chum like we assume it is…maybe the infamous Crabby Patty is really just gummy candy in a great disguise.