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Sponge For Hire
Running Time: 104 minutes
Starring the voices of: Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke, Rodger Bumpass, Carolyn Lawrence
Retail Price: $16.99
Features: Storyboards, Nick Recipies.
Specs: 1.33:1 Full Screen, English Stereo Surround, English Closed Captions, Episode Selections
Released: November 2nd, 2004
I've gone on before on this very website about animation transending barriers. When people used to think of animation, they merely thought of it as a form of entertianment for children. However, in recent years, people have finally realized that animation is not just for kids and put that to use in various adult animated television series, adult animated movies and more. However, there has always been a select group of animated work that appeals to all audiences. During the 1990s, the empire that is Disney did this with their theatrical feature films be it hand drawn or computer animated (while more CGI films are popping up and raking in the dough from other studios and more adult audiences). More recently, however, television has been debuting and featuring cartoons aimed at both children and adults. Shows such as "Samurai Jack" and a lot of the cartoons made for Cartoon Network have been attracting a wider audience. More recently, however, Nickelodeon's own "SpongeBob SquarePants" has been breaking revolutionary barriers as far as demographics and popularity goes.
"SpongeBob Squarepants" was originally aimed for kids, but for some reason, older audiences have tuned in and can't resist its charm (myself included). The show, which debuted during the summer of 1999 on cable's Nick, has been giving its own "Rugrats" a run for its money and is arguably becoming more popular than their decade-old-plus Nicktoon. "SpongeBob" has only seemed to really gain its popularity in the past year or so. Just like "Rugrats," the show had a stable audience at first, but then blew up into something much more as time went on (a "SpongeBob" flick is due in theaters sometime in 2004). More than a third of its audience is made up of adults, even. But what makes "SpongeBob" so popular? What is so appealing about this very cartoon show? Let me try and find out why...
In case you are not familiar with the premise, "SpongeBob SquarePants" follows the adventures of a walking and talking sponge named SpongeBob SquarePants in the ocean area of Bikini Bottom. SpongeBob works as a cook at the Krusty Krab, has a pet snail named Gary and is always cheerful. Like most whimisical cartoon heroes, SpongeBob has good intentions but his intentions backfire. Of course, the backfires cause the comedy. Be it SpongeBob helping the lonely Plankton whereas Plankton is using him to get the secret Krabby Patty recipie or SpongeBob not realizing that jokes can grow old... fast. SpongeBob's compaions are his dimwitted friend Patrick Star who lives right near him, Texan squirrel Sandy and the easily annoyed Squidward, as well as his boss Mr. Krabs. So, adventures usually revolve around them, though Sandy and Mr. Krabs are more supporting characters and don't pop up as often as Squidward or Patrick.
I guess what appeals to me about "SpongeBob SquarePants" is that it's quite a unique show. I can't think of another show in history that was animated and its main star was a living sponge. The characters are well created and fun to watch, while the setting and idea of this weird, imaginary world on the ocean floor is pretty striking and easy to get into. But I think what kids and adults enjoy is the broad, weird and wacky humor the show features. It's more slapstick and crazy, and never tends to go over the top. Or maybe it's the same appeal that I have about the show being something different, and that it doesn't fail in what it creates and extends. It's just highly imaginative, original and entertaining.
For some reason, kids do identify with SpongeBob. However, SpongeBob is an adult. He lives alone, he works at a job and doesn't go to school or anything. Yet in many ways, he is a kid. He has those good intentions, he is playful and likes fun. He has this kid demeanor that I think younger audiences enjoy. He just acts like one big kid, and that's part of the fun I suppose.
The "Sponge For Hire" collection features eight "SpongeBob SquarePants" episodes: "Krusty Krab Training Video" (pretty brilliant), "Can You Spare A Dime?", "Missing Identity," "Krabby Land," "Wet Painters," "New Student Starfish," "Mid-Life Crustacean" and "The Camping Episode." Since it seems Paramount is releasing the show's seasons annually, die hard fans will wants this release.
The cartoons are presented in 1.33:1 full screen, and yet again these are near flawless transfers. Detail is excellent, color saturation is rather vibrant with a vast amount of colors and the overall image is bold and features plenty of depth. Unfortunately though, the filter Paramount puts its animated titles through result in a good deal of noise and a bit of shimmering, and yet again the "SpongeBob" episodes suffer from that problem a bit. It's not too bad though, and these transfers still are great.
There are English Stereo Surround sound tracks for the episodes, and they sound pretty nice despite their channel limits. The sound effects are boisterous and there are a variety of them, the show's theme song still sounds great as do the musical cues in the cartoons and dialogue is very easy to hear and is quite crisp. No disappointments here, as expected. English closed captions are also included.
DVD-ROM users can get some Nick Recipies, and there are Storyboards (rough drawings with voice tracks put together) for half of the episodes on the disc: "Missing Idenity," "Krabby Land," "Wet Painters" and "New Student Starfish."
It's still a bit of a travesty Paramount's retail price is $16.99 on these best-of collections for the show, especially when there aren't much in terms of extra and there used to be ten cartoons on a disc instead of eight. Still, the episodes look and sound nice so if you need a SpongeBob fix then go ahead and knock yourself out.