review by Zach B.
Running Time: 110 minutes
Starring the voices of: Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke, Rodger Bumpass, Carolyn Lawrence
Retail Price: $16.99
Features: Storyboards, Previews
Specs: 1.33:1 Full Screen, English Stereo, English Closed Captions, Episode Selections
Released: January 6th, 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.
This DVD of "SpongeBob" has another 10 cartoons, all of which are enjoyable. They are: "The Fry Cook Games," "Bubblestand," "Squid's Day Off," "The Smoking Peanut," "Krab Borg,," "Grandma's Kisses," "Artist Unknown," "Krusty Love," "SpongeBob Meets The Strangler" and "Pranks A Lot." The last two won't be airing on TV until January 2005, so if you need a new SpongeBob fix, this is where to turn (before the film version at least, due in November 2004). And yes, you get the very first "SpongeBob" cartoon ("Bubblestand").
There's not much to say about the episode transfers since they're so consistent in their quality (like usual). The shows are in 1.33:1 full screen and despite some noise, everything is right on. Color satuation is exceptional and really helps make the episodes look even more vibrant and fuller look. Detail is quite good and everything looks quite sharp.
English Stereo tracks again... and they do the job quite well. The dynamics aren't up to snuff when compared to 5.1, but for its limited range, "SpongeBob SquarePants" make good with some incredibly effective sound effects that highlight the action and even some subtle noises (like bubbles). Dialogue is easy to hear and the music sounds nice and brings a nice overall touch. English closed captions are also included on this release.
The only main supplement here are Storyboards for the episode "Grandma's Kisses" - the episode with a rough voice track and a story reel plays out. Nothing major. Oh, and there are some Previews for other kiddie stuff avaiable from Paramount.
The main reason for buying this edition of "SpongeBob" is that it has two cartoons that won't air until January 2005 on Nickelodeon. The transfers and sound are great as usual, but the extras are lacking compared to other "SpongeBob SquarePants" titles. The DVD is a somewhat decent value, but it really depends how die-hard of a fan you are of the show.