review by Zach B.
Running Time: 110 minutes
Starring the voices of: Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke, Rodger Bumpass, Carolyn Lawrence
Retail Price: $19.99
Features: Audio Commentary, Storyboards, Previews
Specs: 1.33:1 Full Frame, English Stereo, Spanish Stereo, Portuguese Stereo, English Closed Captions, Episode Selections
Released: September 30th, 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.
The SpongeBob DVD line keeps growing, and here you'll have a Christmas-themed collection of episodes. Several cartoons are included here just in time for the holidays )even if all aren't Christmas related, you can vaguely make connections): "Christmas Who?" (double-length episode), "Procrastination," "Snowball Effect," "Survival of the Idiots," "Mermaidman and Barnacleboy IV," "Chocolate with Nuts," "As See on TV," "Pizza Delivery" and "Squeaky Boots." Seasons greetings, y'all!
Once again, Paramount delivers another batch of impressive transfer for SpongeBob Squarepants. All the episodes are presented in 1.33:1 full screen and look gorgeous. The only real flaw here is some noise but it's not too bad. Detail is excellent, color saturation is bold and very vibrant. As always, the images stick right out at you and are quite gorgeous. The transfers are very sharp and look very nice - even the live-action segments on the "Christmas Who?" episode - all the same praise can be applied (but then, there's also noise there too). Nonetheless, no real complaints here (I was expecting that).
The English Stereo tracks once again have their way of impressing, despite the range limits. As usual, the dynamics are strong for what they are and fidelity is quite nice. Dialogue is clear and easy to hear, and the music brings a nice touch (I love the Christmas-y bells and tones on the "Christmas Who?" episode). Still, the surround effects really grab your attention and they do bring a nice amount of life into the episodes, making them a bit more enjoyable (gotta love Patchy making some unbaked cookie dough, among other little action-based noises). Good stuff... also included are English closed captions, and stereo tracks in Spanish and Portuguese.
There's an Audio Commentary with creator Stephen Hillenberg and the voice of SpongeBob, Tom Kenny, on the "Christmas Who?" episode. They've paired to do commentaries before and make a good team, and this is another strong commentary. Hillenberg talks about his inspirations for the episode (ones that are sure to go over the heads of kids) and some fun jokes are shared between the two. Kenny cracks some fun comments, but the commentary has some dead space here and there. Nonetheless, it's worth a listen (despite them going off-topic and describing on-screen action at times).
There's also a Storyboard for the episode which is just storyboards tied together (AKA a story reel) with voice-overs (but no music). Nothing amazing, but interesting to see how it all comes together. Rounding the disc out are Credits for the episodes and Previews for "Rugrats Go Wild," other SpongeBob DVDs, a trailer for "The Wild Thornberrys Movie," "Jimmy Neutron" DVDs and a preview for the game "Tak and the Power of the JuJu."
If you like "SpongeBob SquarePants" and have the other DVDs, then you'll give into this one. A good episode selection, two decent extras, strong sound mixes and lovely transfers make another DVD worth buying for fans. Enjoy it!