Saturday, August 21, 2010

August 21

Happy Birthday to Stephen Hillenburg, animator; today, we're going to feature his pre-Spongebob work.
His first college degree was in marine biology; in fact, he taught marine biology for several years before he pursued his second life passion, animation. Before he graduated in 1992, he had two short films making the festival circuit. One of those films, "The Green Beret," also appeared on the "Liquid Television" anthology:

His festival shorts caught the notice of animator Joe Murray, who hired Hillenberg as a writer and director for Rocko's Modern Life, which ran for four seasons on Nickelodeon.
The following clip, from "Jet Scream", is one of Murray's favorite episodes in the series:

After Rocko's Modern Life was done, a colleague encourage Hillenberg to pitch the Spongebob character to Nickelodeon. Since his debut in 1999, Spongebob has become Nickelodeon's most successful series; their most recent contract guarantees a ninth season, and enough episodes to make it the longest running series on the network.

I can't offer much insight on post-Spongebob projects: the Spongebob Squarepants theatrical movie, intended as a series finale, was Hillenberg's farewell as an active creator of Spongebob's adventures. Although he heads United Plankton Pictures (which oversees the Spongebob empire), his most prominent activities appear to be on the academic circuit, speaking about his twin loves: marine biology and animation. So, no telling what he'll do once this Spongebob train runs out of steam...

Apologies if this clip still auto-plays: it's still my favorite Spongebob moment, a typically atypical moment that let me know that, within its all-ages confines, anything could happen...

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