Monday, Dec. 17, 2001
In America, if you want to be successful, you go to college, study hard and pack your head full of arcane knowledge. Then you head for Hollywood and learn to tell plankton jokes. That, anyway, was the route to fame and fortune for Stephen Hillenburg, an avid surfer, scuba diver and marine-biology teacher fascinated with tide-pool life. After he later went to art school and became an animator, he decided to base his debut cartoon, loosely, on the creatures that he had made his life's study. Very loosely. His star: a talking sponge who wears a tie, flips Krabbie Patties at a submarine fast-food joint and resembles a slice of Swiss cheese more than his real-water counterparts.
Hail SpongeBob SquarePants: delightfully biologically incorrect and the new invertebrate king of children's television. Launched in 1999, his sweet, surrealistic, self-titled Nickelodeon cartoon recently unseated the long-reigning Rugrats as the most popular kids' show on TV, attracting an average of 10 million kids ages 2 to 11 (and more than 5 million adults) each week.