review by Zach B.
Running Time: 110 minutes
Starring the voices of: Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke, Rodger Bumpass, Carolyn Lawrence
Retail Price: $19.95
Features: Audio Commentaries, "Mermaidman and Barnacleboy III" Storyboard, Behind The Scenes: Special Delivery, Credits, Previews
Specs: 1.33:1 Full Frame, English Dolby Stereo, English Closed Captions, Episode Selections
Released: July 29th, 2003
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.
"Tide And Seek," the latest in the ever-growing "SpongeBob" DVD line-up includes ten episodes: "Mermaidman and Barnacleboy III," "Big Pink Loser," "Opposite Day," "Squirrel Jokes," "Rock-A-Bye Bivalve," "Dumped," "Bossy Boots," "The Bully," "Sleepy Time" and "Squidsville." Enjoy!
It's getting harder and harder to review these SpongeBob Squarepants DVDs since the quality started out strong and still is. The episodes are in 1.33:1 full screen, and despite some noise and contrast issues that are a little bit distracting, these episodes look fantastic. The colors are incredibly vibrant and are well saturated, and really stick out - they look quite crisp and bold. Detail is also wonderful and the animation looks smooth. Simply excellent.
The English Dolby tracks are pretty great, just like usual. The tracks for the episodes are impressive, even if they do have their limits. Fidelity is pretty high and the dynamic range extends out much farther than you'd probably expect - there are some nice surrounds that bring you further into the episodes and the action. The music sounds nice while the other sounds (like dialogue and the effects) are very clear. It's sharp, and if you're familiar with the sound on other SpongeBob DVD releases, then you know what to expect (that's a good thing). Also included are English closed captions through your TV set.
This latest DVD release has not one but two Audio Commentaries with SpongeBob creator Stephen Hillenburg and the voice of the Sponge himself, Tom Kenny. They've done a track before, and the two get along nicely and make interesting comments on both these tracks ("Dumped" and "Sleepy Time"). Besides Kenny doing his SpongeBob voice, the two offer a fair amount of praise for the cast and crew and offer some inner thoughts on the episodes, which mainly extend to why the show is so successful. If you're a die-hard fan of the show, then the tracks are worth listening to. Hillenburg does much of the talking, and I think kids would find the tracks boring.
"Mermaidman and Barnacleboy III" is the story reel of the episode, complete with rough voice scratch - it's always interesting to see how things are planned out and then how they're animated. Behind The Scenes: Special Delivery is a incredibly short featurette where we meet the guy who works with handling fan mail for the show, and how they got a bucket of lobsters. And that's it. What could have been something more expansive is utterly lame.
Rounding the disc out are Credits for the episodes and Previews for SpongeBob on DVD, "The Wild Thornberrys Movie," the first DVD for "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius," the "Jimmy Neutron" movie trailer and a trailer for the upcoming videogame "Tak and the Power of the JuJu."
If you're a SpongeBob fan or know one, this is well worth picking up - especially if you've picked up the other DVD releases. As usual, there aren't many extras but the presentation of the episodes are nice. The price is right too, so escape the "Tide" and "Seek" this one out (HARHARHARHARRRRR!).