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Paramount Studios presents
Spongebob Squarepants: The Complete First Season (1999)

"Oh, who lives in a pineapple under the sea?
SpongeBob Squarepants!
Absorbent and yellow and porous is he!
SpongeBob Squarepants!"

- theme song

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: December 07, 2003

Stars: Tom Kenny
Other Stars: Rodger Bumpass, Bill Fagerbakke, Carolyn Lawrence, Clancy Brown, Mr. Lawrence, Ernest Borgnine, Tim Conway, Dee Bradley Baker, Mary Jo Catlett, Sara Paxton
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 07h:30m:00s
Release Date: October 28, 2003
UPC: 097368793040
Genre: animation


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A AB+B+ A-

DVD Review

The phenomenon that is Nickelodeon's animated series, SpongeBob Squarepants, which debuted in 1999, is really evident in the towering mountains of assorted merchandise and clothing that have arose in the subsequent and lucrative marketing frenzy of the show's success. And while the future of the show is somewhat uncertain (creator Stephen Hillenburg has all but said he thinks he's done), it appears that SpongeBob may be rapidly approaching the zenith of its lifespan. In the DVD department, parent company Paramount has been steadily issuing eight to ten episode budget-priced themed compilations over the past year or so, consisting of a combination of Season One, Two and Three installments.

Now the big Kahuna gets unveiled, and while it will probably be the death knell for future single-disc releases, what we have is a lovely three-disc set of all forty Season One episodes. Well nearly all, that is, because for some curious reason, the Help Wanted episode, in which SpongeBob gets his coveted gig at the Krusty Krab, is absent. That may very well be some carrot Paramount will dangle before completists on some upcoming release, but that remains to be seen at this point. Regardless, this three-disc set is nothing to scoff at, and if anything, it will stop me from complaining now that I have my precious Rock Bottom episode.

SpongeBob Squarepants, for you uninitiated folks out there, is a half-hour animated series that airs on Nick, made up of two, eleven-minute episodes. SpongeBob (voiced by Tom Kenny) is a weirdly ageless man/boy/nerd who happens to be a pants-wearing sponge that lives in a pineapple under the sea in the town of Bikini Bottom. He has a pet snail named Gary, who meows like a cat, and SpongeBob's best friends are the thickheaded but well-meaning starfish named Patrick Star (voiced by Coach's Bill Fagerbakke), and a squirrel (outfitted for deep sea diving) from Texas named Sandy Cheeks (voiced by Carolyn Lawrence). His neighbor is a cranky, sarcastic, clarinet-playing squid known as Squidward (voiced by Rodger Bumpass), who is constantly aggravated by the talkative, innocently-annoying SpongeBob. The little sponge is also the lead fry cook at The Krusty Krab, where the money-grubbing Mr. Krabs (voiced by Clancy Brown) rules with an iron fist. To throw in a little evil now and again, pint-sized Plankton (voiced by Mr. Lawrence), the owner of the rival Chum Bucket, is determined either rule the world or get the secret of The Krusty Krab's Krabby Patty, depending on his mood.

Episodes like Ripped Pants (SpongeBob takes a joke too far and then sings!), SB-129 (Squidward wakes up in the future), and Tea at the Treedome (SpongeBob learns that air is not so good) are classics, but in reality there are more great moments in the series than there are weak ones. Moderate one-joke clunkers like Squeaky Boots can be overlooked when terrific stuff like Squidward, The Unfriendly Ghost or Opposite Day abound on this set.

As an adult, watching SpongeBob Squarepants makes me jealous that shows were never this good when I was a kid. Sure, we had the brilliant Tex Avery stuff, but that was already over thirty years old by the time I was born. The caliber of writing and bizarre situations on Spongebob Squarepants has the same funhouse feel to it, with its moments of nonsensical visuals and just plain weird comedy.

There is no in-your-face messages here, and that is no doubt one of the reasons for the success of the show, with its innate ability to appeal not just to children, but to adults as well. The level of humor is very broad and silly, with enough far-fetched gags and surreal moments to give it a boost above most of its contemporaries; another popular series, Fairly Odd Parents, seems in position to give SpongeBob a run for the money, but only time will tell there. It shouldn't be a surprise that Hillenburg also worked on Rocko's Modern Life, a long-gone animated Nick show that also managed to make that leap from simple cartoon to a great all-around comedy.


Disc One episodes:
Reef Blower
Tea at the Treedome
Bubblestand
Ripped Pants
Jellyfishing
Plankton!
Naughty Nautical Neighbors
Boating School
Pizza Delivery
Home Sweet Pineapple
Mermaidman and Barnacleboy
Pickles
Hall Monitor
Jellyfish Jam
Sandy's Rocket
Squeaky Boots

Disc Two episodes:
Nature Pants
Opposite Day
Culture Shock
F.U.N.
MuscleBob BuffPants
Squidward, the Unfriendly Ghost
The Chaperone
Employee of the Month
Scaredy Pants
I Was a Teenage Gary
SB-129
Karate Choppers
Sleepy Time
Suds
Valentine's Day
The Paper

Disc Three episodes:
Arrgh!
Rock Bottom
Texas
Walking Small
Fools in April
Neptune's Spatula
Hooky
Mermaidman and Barnacleboy II


Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: As with all previous SpongeBob titles, this first season set is presented in its original 1.33:1 fullframe aspect ratio. Paramount has done a mighty fine job with their treatment of SpongeBob and his pals by rendering the colors handsomely, though it seems that some of the episodes don't seem quite as bright as they do in some later season. Black levels are solid, as overall image detail is outstanding.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The audio transfer is nothing splashy, consisting of a front-heavy 2.0 surround track that is more than adequate for the subject matter. Dialogue is mixed clearly, with character voices always remaining clear and upfront above the music and sound effects. Left and right channel cues fill out the presentation slightly, adding a bit of depth to the sound stage.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 40 cues and remote access
1 TV Spots/Teasers
3 Featurette(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Tom Kenny, Rodger Bumpass, Bill Fagerbakke, Carolyn Lawrence, Clancy Brown, Mr. Lawrence
Packaging: custom cardboard cover with sl
Picture Disc
3 Discs
3-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. The Bikini Bottom's Up Tour
  2. In The Key of Sea Karaoke
  3. Music videos
Extras Review: Thankfully the majority of the extras included here are new ones, and not just rehashes of previous releases, so there is at least something new for those of us who have all of the earlier themed discs already.

One of the things that was so disappointing about the commentary tracks in the past from creator Stephen Hillenburg and SpongeBob voice Tom Kenny was how achingly dry they were, considering how funny the finished product was. This time around, the entire pool of primary voice talent (Kenny, Rodger Bumpass, Bill Fagerbakke, Carolyn Lawrence, Clancy Brown, Mr. Lawrence) offer commentary on two episodes (Plankton! and Karate Choppers), and their input puts the Hillenburg/Kenny collaborations to shame. The mood is light, the participants are funny, and hearing them drift in and out of their character voices was a treat. Oddball trivia (such as each character was created to represent one of the seven deadly sins) and chuckling at the overtly sexual overtones of the Karate Choppers episode cast all of them in an entirely new light. Too bad there were only two of these commentary tracks, as they were wonderfully fun listens.

Disc Three is where the remainder of the extras are housed, with The Origins of SpongeBob (10m:05s) giving Stephen Hillenburg, with his deeply serious tone, the chance to give a quick history on the origins of the show, from his days writing the Intertidal Zone comic to snippets of his animation thesis film, Wormholes to getting a glimpse of the pitch bible used to sell the show. This segment is dry as a bone, but provides a fact-filled background on where Bikini Bottom came from. Recollections From The First Season Crew (05m:50s) features the production staff reminiscing about the early days of SpongeBob, and is highlighted by an always appreciated appearance by writer Mr. Lawrence, who also does the voice of Plankton. As you might deduce, Everybody's Talking: The Voices Behind SpongeBob (14m:31s) puts a face to all the primary character voices, including the voice talent who do all of the incidental characters, as well. The chance to see Clancy Brown do his Mr. Krabs chuckle on camera, or to see the inordinately perky Carolyn Lawrence talk about how her character of Sandy speaks through her teeth makes this worth a viewing. Drawing the Goo Lagoon (02m:01s) is a quickie that showed up on the Tales From The Deep disc, and in it background artist John Sycamore briefly narrates how he creates the background world of Bikini Bottom.

The rest of the extras verge more on being more kid-oriented filler, with The Bikini Bottom's Up Tour featuring Tom Kenny's Patchy The Pirate hosting a tour of key locales. Word on the street from my twelve-year-old daughter Sammi was that it required too much clicking and waiting, and despite her love of Patchy, it just wasn't that entertaining. In the Key of Sea is a karaoke section, allowing stout-hearted souls the chance to sing-a-long to the theme song, the F.U.N. song, Ripped Pants, or Doing The Sponge, with or without an accompanying vocal track. And in case you forget the words, a bouncing Mr. Krabs is there to help with all your sing-a-long needs.

A handful of Nickelodeon bumpers include SpongeBob's Life Strategies (02m:20s), which offers seven rules for "more absorbent living", the Violent Femmes singing the theme song (:38s), the SpongeBob Scaredy Pants music video (01m:00s) and the always funny SpongeBob Dancing Pants music video (01m:00s).

There are previews for the assorted SpongeBob DVD and VHS titles, and each individual eleven-minute episode is made up of one chapter.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

Paramount may have muddied the waters slightly by previously releasing a batch of eight-episode, themed samplers, but this three-disc set of all Season One episodes is a "must own" for SpongeBob-aholics. This is the kind of nutty laugh-out-loud humor that appeals to children and adults, and it is nearly impossible not to get sucked in to watch just one more episode.

Highly recommended.

 


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