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Why SpongeBob’s Creator Didn’t Want Celebrity Cameos … and How They Happened

SpongeBob SquarePants has counted on the presence of a variety of celebrity guests, but the creator of the show never wanted any to begin with – here’s what happened. Nickelodeon has been home to many beloved TV shows, especially animated ones, and its most successful one to date is SpongeBob SquarePants. Created by Stephen Hillenburg, SpongeBob and friends made their debut on Nickelodeon in 1999 and have been unstoppable ever since, even branching out to other media, most notably film, video games, and a couple of spinoff series, such as the prequel Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years.

SpongeBob SquarePants takes viewers to the underwater city of Bikini Bottom, where they follow the title character and his closest friends and a couple of enemies on different adventures. SpongeBob is often accompanied by his best friends Patrick Star and Sandy Cheeks, his neighbor and coworker Squidward Tentacles, and his greedy boss Mr. Krabs, and together they have met a variety of characters both at the bottom of the sea and by the sand, in the handful of times they have ventured outside the ocean. Most of these characters have been played by celebrity guests, and this actually goes against Hillenburg’s wishes.

It’s not uncommon for cartoon shows to have celebrity guests from time to time, either playing themselves or a character that will mostly not return in future episodes or movies. This has also been the case with SpongeBob SquarePants, which has welcomed various big names to the main show and its movies, but that wasn’t among Hillenburg’s plans when he was overseeing the show. Speaking to EW back in 2002, Hillenburg was asked about celebrity cameos in SpongeBob SquarePants, noting that popular names like Tom Waits and Jennifer Love Hewitt are fans of the show, to which he replied that he “deliberately” tried to avoid that, as he didn’t want the show to be like The Simpsons.

Hillenburg used Springfield’s most famous family as an example of what he didn’t want SpongeBob SquarePants to be, though not as a bad thing. Hillenburg explained that The Simpsons is “a tough act to follow” so he thought it would be best to “not do what they do”, though there were exceptions from the very beginning. SpongeBob SquarePants had Ernest Borgnine and Tom Conway as recurrent guests as they voiced Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy, respectively, Jim Jarmusch played himself as a fisherman in season 1, and season 2 saw John Rhys-Davies and even Pantera taking part in the show. However, as years have passed, SpongeBob SquarePants hasn’t followed Hillenburg’s wishes and the producers have brought a variety of celebrities on board, as are David Bowie, Johnny Depp, Amy Poehler, Scarlett Johnasson, Victoria Beckham, Mark Hamill, and Keanu Reeves, among many others.

Surely, SpongeBob SquarePants hasn’t reached the level of The Simpsons when it comes to the number of celebrities that have been invited over, as the latter has been doing it for so long that fans have complained about the show caring more about what big celebrity they will have over next time than the quality of the stories. Although all this goes against Stephen Hillenburg’s wishes, SpongeBob SquarePants has kept its celebrity “cameos” brief and simple, even having them voice characters that don’t appear often or having them play fun versions of themselves, which helps set the show apart from its supposed biggest competitor.

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