SpongeBob SqaurePants is the titular character and protagonist of the SpongeBob SquarePants television series and franchise. SpongeBob is portrayed as living in the fictional town of Bikini Bottom, working as an expert fry cook at the Krusty Krab, a fast food restaurant known for its signature dish, the Krabby Patty. He is characterized by his optimism and childlike attitude, and influenced by other comedic characters, including Stan Laurel and Pee-Wee Herman. He is voiced by actor and comedian Tom Kenny
The character was created and designed by marine biologist Stephen Hillenburg, who came up with the idea for the television series after producing a comic titled The Intertidal Zone, which featured an early version of SpongeBob known as "Bob the Sponge". The television series premiered on May 1st, 1999, episodes premiered in July 17th 1999, and continues to air new episodes as of 2021.
SpongeBob SquarePants has garnered a positive response from media critics and achieved popularity with both children and adults and is frequently named as one of the greatest cartoon characters of all time.
History with the Macy's Parade
At the peak of the cartoon's popularity, the titular SpongeBob SquarePants would make his Parade debut in 2004 through the form of a giant balloon, in order to promote his first theatrical movie, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, which premiered a couple of weeks prior to the Parade on November 19th. The balloon was designed to show the absorbent and yellow optimist with his arms outstretched, flying down the streets of Manhattan. At 62 feet tall, 38 feet long and 28 feet long, the SpongeBob balloon weighed in at 785 pounds and soaked up 62,000 cubic feet of helium to reach fine-flying form.
The first SpongeBob balloon is notable as being the first square balloon in the Parade's (at the time) 78 years of existence, requiring more than 600 internal tie-ins to retain the shape that has become synonymous with the character. As former Macy's Parade Vice President John Piper would put it, SpongeBob was a "touch-and-go" balloon, meaning it took a lot of work to keep the balloon in its proper shape.
After making three appearances, the balloon was initially retired after 2006, and was left out of the 2007 Parade. Fortunately, the balloon returned in 2008 shortly after its absence, and would be recognized as a huge crowd-pleaser.
As expected, a balloon of such complexity would come with its difficulties, and the SpongeBob balloon would prove to be a victim of this. As the balloon continued to be flown, it would become increasingly more unstable. By the 2012 Parade, it was frail to the point of not being capable of holding large amounts of helium, thus making the balloon appear wrinkly during that year's line of march. 2012 would mark the final appearance of the original SpongeBob SquarePants balloon, as the balloon's age made it was too problematic to stay in the Parade.
However, the balloon has been confirmed to still exist as late as 2016, spotted on a whiteboard at Macy's Parade Studio showcasing balloons that were still in circulation up to that point.
With the previous balloon retired, Nickelodeon and Macy's were tasked with making an all-new SpongeBob SquarePants balloon the following year. This new take on the character would be more unique and festive than previously, showcasing SpongeBob, now in a modernized look better resembling his then-current animated appearance. In addition, the balloon would now have a Christmas theme to it, depicting SpongeBob jumping in the air as he clutches a Santa hat on his head. Designed by Harry Moore, the balloon's dimensions were 44 feet tall, 41 feet long, and 34 feet wide.
Amy Kule, a former Parade Director, would be quoted saying "It's not very often that the term 'square' and 'balloon' are used together, but for nearly a decade the SpongeBob SquarePants balloon has been one of the many highlights of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. With his animated persona and super-sized Santa hat, this second iteration of this irascible character will float down the Parade route to the continued delight of the millions of fans lining the streets of New York and the many millions more watching on television across the country. This Thanksgiving, SpongeBob once again takes his rightful position squarely in the sky."
The balloon would make its first flight in the 2013 Parade, and would make several appearances within the early-to-late 2010s.
In 2014, SpongeBob would become the final balloon in the Parade, and was named Macy's Holiday Ambassador of that year. Therefore, SpongeBob plushies in festive outfits would begin to hit shelves at participating Macy's stores, and accompanying him would be finger puppets of Plankton and Patrick were also included at certain Macy's stores. A specialty cold-air inflatable was also perched outside of Macy's flagship department store, greeting the holiday shoppers throughout the 2014 Holiday season. After that, the inflatable would be used as a decoration at Universal Orlando Resort during performances of the Macy's Holiday Parade from 2015-2016.
The franchise would reach another high note during the 2017 Parade, when the cast of SpongeBob SquarePants: the Musical would perform the song "Bikini Bottom Day" as one of many song numbers before the Parade reached Herald Square. Cast members included Ethan Slater as SpongeBob, Danny Skinner as his best friend Patrick Star, and Gavin Lee as their grouchy next-door neighbor Squidward Tentacles.
The second SpongeBob would continue to spread positivity to the spectacle until making its final appearance in 2018, with its most recent sighting in the Macy's Parade Studio's balloon studio in late 2019.
The third and current balloon of SpongeBob would splash onto the scene in 2019, as means to celebrate the show's twentieth anniversary, nicknamed the Best Year Ever promotional event. This balloon is notable as it now makes SpongeBob a multi-character balloon, as he now lounges with his pet snail Gary hitching a ride on his back. At 44 feet high, 46 feet long, and 36 feet wide, the inseparable duo requires 18,000 cubic feet of helium to be inflated. Of note, SpongeBob and Gary are labelled the heaviest known balloon in the Parade's history, at a whopping 896 pounds. As with its former variants, SpongeBob uses 800 internal tie-ins to keep the squareness of the character intact.
With the 2019 Parade around the corner, the New York City Police Department were concerned about the affects of high winds on that year's Parade, saying that if gusts got too extreme, SpongeBob and Gary would've been the first balloon outed from the line of march. "Some of our balloons are larger than others," said Rodney Harrison, the chief of the NYPD, as he was interviewed by reporters the day before the 2019 Parade.
Harrison would also note that SpongeBob and Gary, alongside fellow Nickelodeon star Chase from PAW Patrol, were the largest in terms of how much helium they used in that year's Parade, with the Power Rangers Mighty Morphin Red Ranger taking the spot of third place.
Continuing, Harrison explained "there are certain areas where they will be more of a struggle," adding that officials could move a larger balloon from the route and take it to a side street to deflate it "if need be."
Despite the wind scares, they didn't prove fatal enough to ground the balloons, meaning that SpongeBob and Gary were allowed to fly successfully on their debut.
The following year, SpongeBob and Gary were set to be included as one of the twelve balloons that would show up in the re-imagined 2020 Parade, using a framework of five utility vehicles assigned to guide it down the Parade route as opposed to balloon handlers. While this was supposed to be the solution to keep the balloons in the lineup due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the rapid increase of the virus throughout the fall of 2020 caused the balloon to be removed shortly before the Parade began filming.
With SpongeBob's removal from the Parade, videotape from the balloon's previous appearance in 2019 would be utilized in place of live footage, making for a total of sixteen Parades as of 2020.