‘Sponge on the Run’ Cast Tells Us Why ‘SpongeBob’ Has Lasted Two Decades

Here's what everybody had to say about why this show still matters.

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There’s just no keeping a good sponge down. SpongeBob SquarePants debuted in 1999 on Nickelodeon and it’s never gone away. The animated adventures of a sweet, loud, and goofy sponge who lives in a pineapple beneath the sea, hangs out with a doofus starfish, a squirrel, and a pet snail, and flips burgers at a local eatery, have spawned 13 seasons and nearly 300 episodes, countless pieces of merchandise, a Broadway musical and three feature films, the third of which, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run, premiered March 4, helping launch the evolution of CBS All Access into Paramount+. The franchise has even survived the death of its creator, Stephen Hillenburg, who succumbed to ALS in 2018 at just 57 years old.

So… What keeps SpongeBob relevant and popular with fans – and now the children of fans — when so many other cartoon characters and shows faded away? Fatherly recently posed that exact question to several of SpongeBob’s iconic voice stars. Here are their thoughts:Carolyn Lawrence (Sandy Cheeks)


“I don’t know. Amazing writers. Writers that are big kids. I don’t know.”

Bill Fagerbakke (Patrick)


“It all gets back to the nature of Steve, which was to be innocent and clever simultaneously, which is really hard. It’s really hard to keep that value dynamic. And that’s to me what the show is built on.”

Clancy Brown (Mr. Krabs)


“There’s probably academic papers written on it. I think Bill and Caroline both hit it on the head. It was Steve’s particular sense of humor, and he always followed his own sense of humor and it was always very pure and innocent, but it was also very adult. I mean, X adult. He enjoyed what was clever. He enjoyed wordplay. He enjoyed playing with the words and playing with the expressions and playing with pauses and playing with visuals. It was all Steve’s alchemy. And I think (executive producers) Vince (Waller) and Marc (Ceccarelli) and Jennie (Monica Hammond) have taken up the torch and are very familiar with that whole process of it. And I wouldn’t entrust it to anybody else than those three. I think they’re carrying on quite well.”

Tom Kenny (SpongeBob)


“One thing I try to keep in mind when I’m acting in the show and directing it is that someone is always dipping into SpongeBob for the first time today. Like, their on-ramp to SpongeBob, the SpongeBob-iverse, is happening. Maybe this episode we’re recording 22 years after we recorded the pilot is the first episode somebody sees. So, every episode is make-or-break. You want to really go to the mat as voice actors and just really bring it and go full SpongeBob and full Squidward and full everything. It’s not like, ‘Oh, I’m so tired of this character. I’ve played James Bond 100 times.’”

Roger Bumpass (Squidward)


“As far as the audience goes, there’s a passage that I’ve recognized in fans. When you’re a kid, of course, you watch it. It’s cartoons. As you get a little older, you see different jokes in it. Then, when you get to be mid-teenage, you tell yourself, ‘I can’t watch this anymore. It’s a cartoon. I’m getting older now.’ Then, when they get to be adults and maybe have their own kids, they remember their childhood. Now, it’s something they want to go back to and introduce their kids to. So, there’s a little bit of a cycle there. I always tell young teenagers at comic-cons who say, ‘Well, I don’t really watch it much anymore.’ I say (in Squidward voice), ‘You will!’”

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run is streaming now on Paramount+

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