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Stephen Hillenberg: Rememberance

Stephen Hillenberg the creator of Spongebob
RIP Stephen Hillenberg, 1951-2018 #GoofyGoober4Life

My fellow goofy goobers, nickelodeoneans, and millennials: yesterday Nickelodeon announced on social media that Stephen Hillenberg, creator of the legendary show Spongebob Squarepants, had passed away from ALS.

You may now commence with the crying.

 I’m crying too, by the way. But not just out of sadness. I’m crying tears of joy, laughter, and gratitude. Growing up, Spongebob was probably my favorite cartoon to watch on TV, not counting Avatar: The Last Airbender. I loved watching Spongebob and his friends in their adventures through Bikini Bottom. I played the video games, I saw the original movie, and read the comics. For a time, my parents even banned me from watching the show because it was making me too silly. That just made me love it more 😉

Spongebob was a massive part of my childhood, and I’m taking the creator’s passing pretty hard. As hard as I took Stan Lee’s passing. But after I wipe the tears off my face, I just started remembering all the good memories Spongebob gave me. And then I wanted to just start laughing. Now, I just want to talk about a few of my favorite episodes and moments in Spongebob in honor of the man who gave us so many laughs. In no particular order, by the way.

Pranks a Lot

Pranks a Lot, one of my favorite Spongebob episodes. Classic Stephen

I remember this one very well. It came out on video before it ever aired on TV, so I got my parents to haul me to the Library to check it out first chance I got. Spongebob and Patrick bought that can of invisible spray from a jokes shop and decide to use to prank everyone in Bikini Bottom. So they strip down and go around scaring the whole town into thinking they’re ghosts. But when they try and scare Mr. Krabs, he turns the tables on them and exposes them.

The whole plot of the episode is funny enough as it, watching everyone freak out over the “ghosts.” But the real clincher is how Mr. Krabs gets payback on the duo. Instead of getting mad, he pretends to laugh it off. But as soon as the two leave the bathrooms in the Krusty Krab, this happens:

ROFLMAOOL!! That’s for trying to burn Mr. Krab’s dollar

I don’t remember if I laughed at this or just sat there smiling, but I can imagine that I was laughing myself to death on the inside. The way Mr. Krabs sets up the prank by fooling Spongebob and Patrick and then timing it just as the episode ends is comedic gold. Now THAT is what I call comedic gold.

I Had an Accident

This was a weird episode, but Stephen did good. Spongebob busted his butt in an accident.

I think this episode aired right before the Kid’s Choice Awards in 2003. Spongebob breaks his butt in a sand-sledding accident and then gets too scared to leave his house. Then a gorilla attacks Sandy and Patrick and he has to go outside and save them.

I liked this episode as a whole, but the really funny came at the end, with this:

To this very day, I have no idea what it was that I had witnessed. Like, no idea at all. I think that that was the point, though: to get people to laugh at the sheer absurdity of what had happened. That or the staff couldn’t come up with an ending. Either way, Stephen Hillenberg did good.

Goofy Goober Rock!

This song was my jam as a kid

loved this movie as a kid! I was one of the first people in line to go see The Spongebob Squarepants Movie. Not to mention I read the junior novel and played the video game. But this was my favorite scene by far because it has to do with the underlying message of the film: it’s alright to be yourself.

Spongebob spends the whole movie trying to prove to everyone that he’s not a kid, but by the film’s climax, he learns to accept that he is very much a kid in a man’s body. And he’s fine with that because he still managed to do everything a “kid” shouldn’t do. Then he proceeds to jam out to one of the coolest songs I had heard in my childhood. 

The message rings true even today now that I’m grown up. With everything negative that comes with being an adult, it’s easy to end up being a Squidward. I’d rather be an optimistic goofball like Spongebob and enjoy my life than spend it being a Squidward! #GoofyGoober4Life

Help Wanted. Stephen’s Legend Begins

The beginning of a legend.  Stephen Hillenberg

This was the episode that started it all: Help Wanted. Spongebob goes to get his dream job as a fry cook at the Krusty Krab (not something most people would want, but Spongebob made it look cool). Mr. Krabs and Squidward sent him on that wild goose chase, and then the infamous scene happens:

I wish I had a video of what happens next, but YouTube seems deadset on not letting that happen. But it was one of the coolest things I had ever seen in my life.

Band Geeks

Did Stephen Hillenberg predict meme culture?

For nearly every fan of Spongebob out there, this is considered to be the best episode of the entire show. The finest moment of Stephen Hillenberg. It gave us so many jokes and funny moments: from the “dying animal” joke at the start, to the “kicking” incident, and of course, Patrick’s words of wisdom up above. Also, eager face:

Spongebob's eager dance. Stephen Hillenberg
Me when I hear the Kingdom Hearts III release date

But that’s not why it’s the best. It’s the ending. It wouldn’t be a stretch to call it one of the greatest moments in cartoon history. IT’S THAT GOOD! I actually call it “Squidward’s Finest Hour”, because it is one of the few times that Squidward, or any of the other cast members, is able to be this successful. I read a tweet on Twitter yesterday from another fan, saying that they felt this moment perfectly encapsulates Spongebob’s rise to success: it was nervous and unsure of itself, but once it got going, everybody loved it, and everyone loved Stephen Hillenburg for giving it to us. Just look at how much love the clip of it got when someone posted it on Twitter. It’s clear that Spongebob meant a lot to my generation, and that a lot of us will miss Stephen Hillenburg and thank him for what he gave us.

What Stephen Hillenburg and so many others created nearly twenty years ago has become one of the greatest cartoons of all time, with a cast that’s right up there with the gods of cartoons like Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, and the Simpsons. Decades from now when it’s all over, the fans of today are probably going to be sharing this with their grandchildren and scholars are gonna study it as an example of what cartoons can do for our culture. So, I’m only going to say this once: Stephen Hillenberg, THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING!!!!!

Click here to see my other writings about animation

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