As “The Best Year Ever” for SpongeBob SquarePants nears it end, the cast and crew of the Nickelodeon show including Tom Kenny (SpongeBob), Bill Fagerbakke (Patrick), Clancy Brown (Mr. Krabs) and Carolyn Lawrence (Sandy), along with co-executive producers Vincent Waller and Marc Ceccarelli assembled in the Hammerstein Ballroom during NYCC at a panel moderated by Tara Bennett of SyFy Wire.
The SpongeBob panel began with the panelists answering 20 questions in honor of 20 years of the show that involved testing their knowledge of obscure show trivia such as the names of Sandy’s monkey bosses or how many times Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy have appeared (19 in case you were wondering).
Additionally, questions pertained to highlights of working on the cartoon. When asked about favorite gags, Waller is fond of a moment in the episode “Texas” episode when Sandy lassos Patrick and a mushroom cloud bursts in the background. Fagerbakke remembered delivering the line, “The inner machinations of my mind are an enigma,” and we see a carton of milk spilling.
When it comes to other actors in SpongeBob, Kenny praised Mary Jo Catlett, the voice of SpongeBob’s driving teacher Mrs. Puff, who just turned 81 and still an amazing performer at her age. Though younger fans are probably not well acquainted with the classic ’60s sitcom McHale’s Navy, they are probably more familiar with the show’s two leads Ernest Borgnine and Tim Conway who voiced superhero parody characters Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy in the world of SpongeBob. Sadly, both comedic actors have passed away but Kenny fondly recalled how Conway and Borgnine remained friends since the end of McHale’s Navy and their camaraderie was present in every recording session.
SpongeBob’s “Best Year Ever” has been somewhat bittersweet with the passing of the cartoon’s creator Stephen Hillenburg. Ceccarelli actually attended CalArts with him and admitted that Hillenburg’s student short was without a doubt the best one in the class. Lawrence noted his quiet confidence and missed seeing his sweet smile whenever she saw him at Nickelodeon. A humble man, Hillenburg didn’t care about money both when he did and didn’t have it.
Asked about celebrities they wish could sing any SpongeBob song, Kenny envisioned Johnny Cash singing “Best Day Ever.” As for what episodes they would put in a time capsule for future generations to discover, Waller would choose “Mimic Madness.” If it was possible, Kenny would put the entire panel.
After a live reading of the episode “Suds” an upcoming half-hour special, SpongeBob Appreciation Day: Patchy’s Beach Bash!, was announced. Debuting next year, the special will see SpongeBob’s biggest fans wash up on the island above Bikini Bottom to celebrate SpongeBob Appreciation Day! Hosted by Patchy the Pirate (Tom Kenny), this beach bash features appearances by pop star Meghan Trainor, cult movie star Jon Heder and actor Rob Riggle, and counts down some of the greatest fan-voted SpongeBob moments ever.
During the fan Q&A, someone inquired if SpongeBob would ever get his boating license to which the panelists answered if that ever happened, the show would have officially jumped the shark.
Ask about their involvement in the SpongeBob Musical, Ceccarelli and Waller were the only ones on the panel who had any involvement and admitted up until dress rehearsal even Hillenburg had doubts. Tom Kenny however did co-write the song “Best Day Ever” with Andy Paley that was included in the musical and felt a tremendous honor. Waller and Fagerbakke said they actually cried during the musical with Kenny describing the SpongeBob Musical as a harmonic convergence of the human experience encapsulating laughter, tears, and the human endeavor.
The SpongeBob panel came to a close with a giant Patrick Star brought out in honor of Bill Fagerbakke’s birthday and everyone in the audience singing a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” to the voice of everyone’s favorite starfish.