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The characters in SpongeBob SquarePants were created by artist, animator and former marine biologist Stephen Hillenburg. In addition to the series’ main cast, various celebrities have voiced roles in SpongeBob SquarePants. Notably, Ernest Borgnine and Tim Conway voice the roles of recurring characters Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy respectively, while others have taken a one off part.

Creation and conception

Creator Stephen Hillenburg initally conceived the characters for SpongeBob SquarePants in 1984, while he was teaching and studying marine biology at what is now the Orange County Ocean Institute. During his period, Hillenburg became fascinated in animation, and wrote a comic book entitled The Intertidal Zone starring various anthropomorphic forms of sea life, many of which would evolve into SpongBob SquarePants characters, including "Bob the Sponge", who was the co-host of the comic and resembled an actual sea sponge as opposed to SpongeBob. In 1987, Hillenburg left the institute to pursue his dream of becoming an animator.

Main Characters

SpongeBob SquarePants

SpongeBob SquarePants (Tom Kenny) is the titular character. He is a friendly and optimistic sea sponge who physically resembles a kitchen sponge, and lives in a pineapple-shaped house. He is often shown in the series working at The Krusty Krab as a fry cook. SpongeBob's hobbies in the show include practicing karate and catching jellyfish. Attending Mrs. Puff's Boating School, SpongeBob failed his boating school test numerous times; his lack of a driver's license is a running joke throughout the series.

SpongeBob was originally named "SpongeBoy" by the series creators, but it was later changed due to trademark issues. Green and purple were early color choices for the character before his classic yellow was chosen.


Patrick Star (Bill Fagerbakke) is a pink sea star who lives under a rock and is SpongeBob's best friend. Patrick's most prominent character trait in the series is his lack of intelligence. Regardless, he still offers SpongeBob advice. Often depicted as a negative influence on SpongeBob, he also encourages dangerous, foolish activities that often get the two into trouble. He has occasional bursts of genius. Patrick's parents, Herb and Margie, are almost never seen in the series.


Squidward Tentacles (Rodger Bumpass) is SpongeBob and Patrick's cranky cephalopod neighbor. His species is ambiguous, and has been referred to as both a squid and an octopus by the series' creators. Squidward lives in a house shaped like an Easter Island Moai statue. He works as a cashier at the Krusty Krab, a job he despises. SpongeBob and Patrick consider Squidward their friend, but the feeling is not mutual. Often depicted as a narcissist and displaying an unjustified air of superiority, Squidward has a large collection of self portraits and is delusional about his talents, such as playing the clarinet, though nobody around him considers him to be very good at these talents.

The series' animators illustrated Squidward with six tentacles, believing that giving him the ten tentacles an actual squid has made him look too burdened.


Sandy Cheeks (Carolyn Lawrence) is a squirrel who is another of SpongeBob's friends. She is the series' only terrestrial character, living in the "Treedome", which is an underwater dome that contains a large oak tree. She is a scientific genius who practices karate with SpongeBob and enjoys extreme sports. She is from the U.S. state of Texasmarker, therefore she is depicted in the series with a Southern accent.

Despite claims that SpongeBob is "somewhat asexual" by the show's creators, several annuals state that SpongeBob holds romantic feelings for Sandy, but none of this is ever mentioned in the show. On November 6, 2009, a one-hour special entitled "Truth or Square" aired to commemorate the series' tenth anniversary. The special featured a hoax marriage between Sandy and SpongeBob.

Mr. Krabs

Eugene H. Krabs (Clancy Brown) is a greedy and selfish red crab. He is the owner and founder of the Krusty Krab., as well as the employer of both SpongeBob and Squidward. Mr. Krabs is often respected by SpongeBob while Squidward tends to loathe him. Mr. Krabs' greed in the series is exaggerated with him often anthropomorphizing money. He will do almost anything to obtain money or not lose it, usually with no regard to the safety or well-being of others or even himself. Mr. Krabs has a daughter, who is a sperm whale, named Pearl.


Sheldon J. "Plankton" (Doug Lawrence) is a small green copepod. He is Mr. Krabs' nemesis and an antagonist in many episodes. He operates a struggling restaurant called the Chum Bucket, located directly across the street from the Krusty Krab. His primary goal in the series is to steal the Krabby Patty recipe and put Mr. Krabs out of business. Plankton succeeds at stealing the recipe in the movie, but his goal of world domination is thwarted by SpongeBob. In the episode "Friend or Foe", it is revealed that Mr. Krabs and Plankton were once best friends, but a dispute over the krabby patty recipe ended their friendship.


Gary (Tom Kenny) is SpongeBob's pet sea snail. In the series —as worms are analogous to dogs and snails to cats— Gary vocalizes like a feline. He does various chores for SpongeBob, such as making his breakfast and paying the electricity bills. He is portrayed having high intelligence, offering advice to Spongebob at times (SpongeBob can understand his meowing) and sometimes solving problems his owner cannot.

Recurring characters

  • Mrs. Puff (Mary Jo Catlett) - A white-spotted puffer with blonde hair and green fins who is the owner and teacher of a boating school (analogous to a driving school, as the "boats" are underwater equivalents to cars). In the Season 3 episode "Krusty Love", it is revealed that she was married at one time, and her husband is now a lamp. She has post-traumatic stress disorder due to countless wrecks while teaching SpongeBob, and often dreads teaching SpongeBob due to his reckless boating.
  • Mermaid Man (Ernest Borgnine) and Barnacle Boy (Tim Conway) - Two elderly actors/superheroes who live in a retirement home (although they aren't retired anymore), whom SpongeBob and Patrick watch on television. Mermaid Man is the older of the two and is the leader, while Barnacle Boy is his sidekick.
  • Pearl Krabs (Lori Alan) - Mr. Krabs' sixteen-year-old whale daughter, who is fairly popular but is sometimes teased about her father's cheapness. She can be very whiny because of her father's cheap attitude, and is sometimes shown to force him into doing things.
  • Larry the Lobster (Doug Lawrence) - A lobster lifeguard of Goo Lagoon, Larry is a bodybuilder and workout fanatic.
  • The Flying Dutchman (Brian Doyle-Murray) - A pirate ghost named after the famous ghost ship, The Flying Dutchman. He lives underwater in a giant ship, and collects souls.
  • Karen (Jill Talley) - Sheldon Plankton's computer WIFE (Wired Integrated Female Electroencephalograph) who often expresses human emotions. Karen alternatively helps Plankton in his schemes to steal the Krabby Patty formula and bickers with him. Karen often tries to suggest effective plans for Plankton to use, but he never heeds them.
  • French Narrator (Tom Kenny) - He speaks at the start of some episodes, and speaks with a French accent. He is seen as a scuba diver with a TV camera, and was once hit by SpongeBob when driving a boat with Mrs. Puff. In another episode, he quit off screen (no joke intended) due to impatience. On the November 16, 2004 episode of the NPR program Fresh Air with Terry Gross, Kenny admitted that Jacques Cousteau was the inspiration for the French narrator, as series creator Stephen Hillenburg considered him an idol.
  • Patchy the Pirate (Tom Kenny) – A live-action character who is a pirate and the president of the SpongeBob fan club. He lives in Encinomarker. The character hosts SpongeBob specials and related major events.
  • Potty the Parrot (Stephen Hillenburg and Paul Tibbitt) - Potty is a character that appears in the live actions segments of special events. It is a crudely made puppet parrot, controlled by very obvious strings. Potty is Patchy the Pirate's mischievous pet parrot who enjoys playing practical jokes on Patchy.
  • Harold SquarePants (Tom Kenny) and Claire SquarePants (Sirena Irwin) - SpongeBob's parents, who more resemble sea sponges rather than SpongeBob's shape as a kitchen sponge.
  • Squilliam Fancyson (Dee Bradley Baker) - Squidward's successful and haughty rival from high school who is constantly showing off his riches.
  • Mrs. Krabs (Paul Tibbitt; Sirena Irwin) - Mr. Krabs's mother.

Minor characters

  • Redbeard Krabs (Dennis Quaid) - Mr. Krabs's grandfather, a pirate.
  • Bubble Bass (Dee Bradley Baker) - A bass who was SpongeBob's archnemesis.
  • Stanley SquarePants (Christopher Guest) - SpongeBob's cousin who has a similar appearance to SpongeBob, but is much taller. Stanley is accident prone and causes destruction wherever he goes.
  • Flatts (Thomas F. Wilson) - A mean green flounder who went to community college with Patrick and bullied SpongeBob at Mrs. Puff's boating school.
  • Grandma SquarePants (Marion Ross) and Grandpa SquarePants (Tom Kenny) - SpongeBob's grandparents.
  • Man Ray (John Rhys-Davies/Bob Joles) and the Dirty Bubble (Charles Nelson Reilly) - Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy's main enemies. Man Ray has a humanoid body with a special mask and helmet, while the Dirty Bubble is capable of encasing enemies inside his body. Charles Nelson Reilly was the primary actor for the Dirty Bubble, but Tom Kenny has portrayed the character in one episode after Reilly's death in 2007. In "Mermaid Man & Barnacle Boy IV" Barnacle Boy turns evil and he and Man Ray and the Dirty Bubble form an alliance called EVIL - Every Villain Is Lemons - with a symbol of a lemon with an evil face and tentacles.
  • Old Man Jenkins (Doug Lawrence and Tom Kenny) - A mean old fish who used to live in the Rusty Krab care home before it became the Krusty Krab restaurant, and currently resides at Shady Shoals. His appearance changes through some episodes. Voiced by Doug Lawrence and Tom Kenny in separate episodes.
  • Painty the Pirate (Patrick Pinney) - A painting of a pirate head who sings the SpongeBob SquarePants theme.*
  • Scooter (Carlos Alazraqui/Clancy Brown) - A lavender-colored fish who enjoys surfing. He died in the second-season episode "Bubble Buddy", but returned in future episodes. He talks like a stereotypical surfer dude and spends most of his time at the Goo Lagoon.
  • King Neptune (Paul Tibbitt; John O'Hurley (series) / Jeffrey Tambor (movie)) - The king of the ocean and Atlantis, King Neptune is a massive magical blue merman with red glowing hair. Neptune also appears as one of the movie's characters, although he instead appears with a different appearance, including a blindingly bald head. He looks slightly different most of his appearances. In the movie, he is also shown to have a daughter named Mindy. His name is also used frequently as a substitute for the word "God" in colloquial phrases (e.g. "Sweet mother of Neptune!").
  • Jack Kahuna Laguna (Johnny Depp) - A surfer who helps SpongeBob, Patrick and Squidward get home by teaching them how to surf. He only appears in the special episode "SpongeBob vs. The Big One".


The characters of SpongeBob SquarePants have been well-received overall. The titular character SpongeBob has become very popular with both children and adults.The character's popularity has spread from Nickelodeon's original demographic of two to eleven year olds, to teenagers and adults, including college campuses and celebrities such as Sigourney Weaver and Bruce Willis. The popularity of SpongeBob translated well into sales figures. In 2002, SpongeBob SquarePants dolls sold at a rate of 75,000 per week, which was faster than Tickle Me Elmo dolls were selling at the time. SpongeBob has gained popularity in Japanmarker, specifically with Japanese women. Nickelodeon's parent company Viacom purposefully targeted marketing at women in the country as a method of building the SpongeBob SquarePants brand. Sceptics initially doubted that SpongeBob could be popular in Japan as the character's design is very different to already popular designs for Hello Kitty and Pikachu. However, the characters have also attracted negative reception, including SpongeBob himself, who was listed as number four on AskMen's Top 10: Irritating '90s Cartoon Characters.

Arthur Brown, author of Everything I Need to Know, I Learned from Cartoons!, has compared Squidward's voice to that of Jack Benny's.

Appearances in other media

The characters of SpongeBob SquarePants have been parodied various times in popular culture. In 2007, the Amsterdammarker-based company Boom Chicago created a SpongeBob parody called "Back to Work!" in which a Chinesemarker Patrick refuses to go to work and advocates freedom of speech and rights of leisure and income. During the same year, production company Camp Chaos created a SpongeBob parody entitled SpongeBong HempPants which features a multitude of the series' characters parodied in the form of various drugs. The series has received mixed reviews from television critics; Adam Finley of TV Squad believed the series sounded "hilarious on paper", but ultimately did not demonstrate its full potential.



  1. Banks, pp. 8-9
  2. Banks, p. 9
  3. Official Boom Chicago "Back to Work!" page

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