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SpongeBob SquarePants Was Actually Created by a Marine Biologist

And the original SpongeBob looked much more anatomically correct.

It may not be scientifically accurate to have a sponge live in a pineapple under the sea — but did you know that "SpongeBob SquarePants" was actually created by a marine biologist?

Stephen Hillenburg started his career not in animation, but at the Orange County Marine Institute (now known as the Ocean Institute) teaching children about the sea, according to the New York Times.

Marine biology wasn't just a day job for him either. Hillenburg told the Washington Post that he'd always been "an ocean freak."

According to the Guardian, it was the world of Jacques Cousteau that first enthralled him. Later, he began diving himself. "[I] started scuba-diving around 14, which blew my mind. It was all color, another world," he said.

As an adult, he lectured about this other world, teaching his young students about tide pools. Eventually he created an educational resource in "The Intertidal Zone," a comic book designed to illustrate the world of tide pools and all its creatures.

The main character was a sponge.

spongebob creator Screenshot/Nick Animation

It was here that SpongeBob was first born, with the also-animation-obsessed Hillenburg later taking this comic book idea and pitching it as a show.

"It finally dawned on me that if I was going to do my own show, all those things I lectured about and obsessed about would make for an interesting world," he told the NYT.

Along the way, his anatomically correct blobby sponge became square, Squidward the octopus was given only six legs, and a pet snail was voiced by a cat — it's a TV show, after all.

"At first I drew a few natural sponges," Hillenburg told the Washington Post. "Which was the correct thing to do biologically as a marine science teacher. Then I drew a square sponge and it looked so funny."

Although, when eventually introduced, SpongeBob's parents were drawn as natural sponges.

spongebob creator Nickelodeon

Going outside the box (by making a round sponge more boxy) clearly resonated, and people still love and adore "SpongeBob SquarePants" today. But marine biologist Hillenburg still snuck some real facts in there.

As reported by Prezi, in one scene from the cartoon, SpongeBob decides the world is too scary and he'll just live in his house. Sandy questions how he'll eat if he never goes outside, and SpongeBob answers simply:

"I'm a sponge; I'll just filter feed."

spongebob creator


In the movie, there's a scene where Patrick and SpongeBob are tricked by a frogfish's lure — a deadly hunting method in the real world, too.

Although in the real world the lure isn't an old woman selling ice cream, but it's the scientific thought that counts.

spongebob creator Giphy

Basically, you can take the marine biologist out of the Ocean Institute, but you can't take the marine biologist out of the man.

In fact, Hillenburg's SpongeBob coworker told the NYT in another article how concerned Hillenburg was when SpongeBob products began being produced.

"He said, 'My biggest nightmare is that I'm going to be at the beach one day, and one of these dolls is going to wash up on the shore like garbage.' Being a marine biologist who also surfs, he doesn't want to be responsible for bringing a glut of garbage into the world."

The show isn't 100 percent accurate, but it does have someone really passionate about the sea behind the scenes.

So, you never know, you could actually learn something while you laugh.


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