The current state of the world is pandemonium. We are not allowed to (and shouldn’t!) go outside. We are surviving off of pasta and rice. The future is unclear. During this trying time, one thing brings me a sense of familiarity that I am sorely missing in my life. That is the sweet, nurturing escapism that comes with cartoons. In the past two weeks, I have consumed more animated television and movies than I have in years. One that I had not watched in quite some time but was happy to revisit was Spongebob Squarepants. I received the opportunity to check out the Complete 11th Season, now on DVD.
I have always loved Spongebob Squarepants. Due to the fact that it premiered when I was only two years old and has stayed insanely relevant since, it has had an enormous impact on my life. It sounds silly to say about a cartoon series but it is true. I remember seeing the first movie in theaters when I was in 2nd grade. I remember staying up all night when Nickelodeon had a 24 hour marathon when I was in 4th grade. So many laughs have been shared among friends by referencing episodes that were in constant rotation when we were kids.
It is a cultural phenomenon unlike any other and all these years later, I still have love for it. Even so, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started the 11th season. Is the show still funny? Will I be rolling my eyes? Will this ruin my cherished memories of a bygone era? By episode two of the season, I felt assured that Spongebob is still funny. Even in this unpredictable world that we are living in, some things remain the same.
“… Spongebob is still funny. Even in this unpredictable world that we are living in, some things remain the same.”
For those, like Patrick Star, who have been living under a rock, Spongebob Squarepants is an enthusiastic yet lovable sea sponge that lives underwater. He works at the Krusty Krab with his boss, Mr. Krabs, and his coworker, Squidward, who also happens to be his neighbor. Joining Spongebob to annoy Squidward daily, is Spongebob’s best friend, Patrick, who lives on the other side of Squidward. The show has an array of recurring under the sea characters – Gary, Spongebob’s pet snail; Plankton, Mr. Krabs’ arch nemesis; Sandy Cheeks, a squirrel who lives in an air controlled dome; and many many more. These characters all live in the town of Bikini Bottom.
Having been on for more than twenty (!) years, it is reasonable to assume that Spongebob has lost its footing. I would concede that I did not laugh nearly as hard or as often as I did as a kid. That’s the thing though – I am no longer a kid. This show was not made for me and my sense of humor. Despite that, I found myself laughing fairly often and at the least, enjoying the show. Getting to spend time with some of my favorite characters is always a treat and doing so while under the threat of a global pandemic makes it all the sweeter.
“Getting to spend time with some of my favorite characters is always a treat…”
The best thing about Spongebob Squarepants is the nostalgia. There is a sense of nostalgia within the show itself. The 11th season features the return of many fan favorite characters. Characters like Doodlebob, an alternate, evil version of Spongebob; Old Man Jenkins, Bikini Bottoms’ resident elder; and Man Ray, a supervillain, who returns in one of the best episodes of the seasons when he rents Squidward’s house as an AirBNB and ends up living next to Spongebob and Patrick. A show that leans into itself and calls back to prior episodes or prior memorable characters can end up appearing a bit self indulgent but with Spongebob, it works. The episodes are so contained that it doesn’t feel like it is just revisiting old storylines. They are new, original ideas that happen to feature some favorite characters from the past. They are a welcome presence throughout the season.
The show does not always cling on to familiarity. This season features several episodes that stand out due to their unique styles. The fifth episode of the season, The Legend of Boo-kini Bottom, is a half hour long Halloween special. What makes it particularly special is that it is stop-motion animated and hearkens back to the Rankin-Bass Christmas specials of the 1960s and ’70s. There is also a sequence in this season that is animated in the groovy ’60s style of Yellow Submarine, the animated movie featuring The Beatles. The last one that stands out is an episode in which Spongebob and Patrick travel to a different dimension, where they can draw anything and make it come to life. The entire episode is done on a plain white background, almost like a sheet of paper. It is a minimalist style that really works for the concept.
“This season features several episodes that stand out due to their unique styles.”
Overall, the 11th season of Spongebob Squarepants does not reach the tip top heights of the earlier seasons of the show. Nonetheless, it is a fun ride and features some memorable episodes, while perfectly leaning into the show’s history. The lack of special features is disappointing but there are more than enough episodes to make this DVD worth buying for any Bikini Bottom fan! And if you want even more Spongebob, check out the two theatrical movies before The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run comes out on August 7th!
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