Bikini Bottom Confessions:

Creative Director, Vince Waller:

Why the show has struck such a chord: ‘I think SpongeBob’s appeal to kids is that he has what they all crave’full autonomy. He is one of their peers, but he lives on his own and makes his own decisions! We also put gags into the shows that many times work on two levels: One that rings funny for a younger audience, and at the same time, rings entirely different comedy bells for an older audience.’

How do people react when they realize you’re the show’s creative director: ‘Kids react with elation and wonder. Adults are either super excited and happy to have met someone from the show and usually have a ton of questions about how we make the show, and there are a few who say, ‘Yeah, my kids watch it all day long!’ Then they crumple to their knees, grabbing me by the ankles and wail, ‘That laugh! That laugh’make it STOP, please! Make it STOP!’ Then I pull their clenched fists off of my pant legs and run away! Just another day in animation!’

Biggest misconception about the show: ‘That it’s all done on a computer. Like there’s a magic button you push and it just forms!’

How they keep the show fresh: ‘Must of the crew keep it fresh by examining their own lives and being inspired by the little everyday things that most people don’t notice’Granted, our writers and cartoonists might be a little quirkier than your average Joe!’

What’s next: ‘I really couldn’t venture a guess about where the future will take the Bikini Bottom Gang, I believe there’s a 30-second piece of CG animation in the works now’but I’m not sure it would be a good idea to do the entire show that way.’

Tips on being successful in the toon biz: ‘My only advice for the up-and-coming folks is to draw, draw, draw, draw, draw, draw, draw! Don’t get caught up in a style of drawing. I can’t tell you how many kids have shown me drawings, and when I point out something that’s wrong with the drawing, they tell me that it’s just their ‘style!’ It’s a mentality that will stifle their growth as an artist. Learn construction from the bottom up and what makes for an appealing drawing. Copy everyone. Then when you’ve mastered everyone else’s styles, your own style will emerge’but it will have a strong base of solid and knowledgeable construction underneath it.’

Head writer Steven Banks:

What sets the show apart:SpongeBob is a storyboard-driven series. The writers come up with an idea and write premises and outlines describing the story, and the storyboarders (who are also writers) write the dialogue while they draw the storyboard panels. Most other shows are script-driven’we don’t write scripts and that has made all the difference!’

How people react when they find out you’re the head writer on the show: ‘They get very excited and give you free tickets to see Tom Jones!’

Biggest challenge: ‘We work hard at coming up with new ideas all the times. It’s getting more difficult not to repeat stories, We’ve done over 270 and we don’t have 20 characters like The Simpsons. But’that’s our job and I don’t think we’ve jumped the shark!’

Biggest misconception about the show: ‘That it’s easy to do!’

Any words of advice on animation biz hopefuls: ‘No! I like my job and I want to keep it!’

Brown Johnson, President, Animation, Nickelodeon/MTVN Kids and Family Group:

How does the show stay so fresh: ‘It’s actually a lot of hard work! Paul Tibbitt, the exec producer, and the rest of the crew set the bar a little higher for themselves with each new episode. They know that SpongeBob fans demand and deserve their creative best and they’re determined to give it to them. It’s the reason the network spends so much money on those milkshakes they love so much!’

Why SpongeBob struck a chord: ‘The show is completely unique. When it premiered, it fit no mold of any animated shows every run on TV. SpongeBob is a character who is loyal, courageous, optimistic, guileless and enthusiastic about making his daily life and the lives of his friends the best they can possibly be. He also happens to be extremely funny and fun to watch!’

How do people react when they realize you’re involved with the show: ‘They usually sing. It’s remarkable how many people know ALL the lyrics to the SpongeBob song!’

Biggest misconception: ‘That the writers put a ‘little something extra’ in their milkshakes to come up with all their strange stories and gags!’

Fave episode: ‘There’s a great new episode that’s part of the celebration which will be aired this fall, in which SpongeBob, Patrick, Mr. Krabs and Squidward get struck in the freezer at the Krusty Krab. As they reminisce about the good times, we get new flashbacks: Footage of SpongeBob as a baby, the first Krusty Krab commercials and lots more. We even made a new open in stop motion that is SO great!’