Help Wanted (SpongeBob SquarePants)
|SpongeBob SquarePants episode|
Episode 1 (1a)
Alan Smart (animation)|
Stephen Hillenburg (storyboard)
|Narrated by||Tom Kenny|
|Produced by||Larry LeFrancis|
"Livin' in the Sunlight,|
Lovin' in the Moonlight" by Tiny Tim
|Original air date||May 1, 1999|
|Running time||8 minutes|
"Help Wanted" is the pilot episode of the American animated television series SpongeBob SquarePants. It originally aired on Nickelodeon in the United States on May 1, 1999, following the television airing of the 1999 Kids' Choice Awards. The episode follows the protagonist, an anthropomorphic sponge named SpongeBob SquarePants, attempting to get a job at the local restaurant called the Krusty Krab. However, he is tasked to find a seemingly non-existent high-caliber spatula because the owner, Mr. Krabs, considers him unqualified for the position. Eventually, crowds of ravenous anchovies stop by the Krusty Krab and demand meals. SpongeBob SquarePants returns from his errand, having fulfilled the request of Mr. Krabs and found a mechanical spatula. He utilizes the spatula to fulfill the anchovies' hunger. SpongeBob is then welcomed by Mr. Krabs as a Krusty Krab employee.
Series creator Stephen Hillenburg initially conceived the show in 1994 and began to work on it shortly after the cancellation of Rocko's Modern Life in 1996. To voice the character of SpongeBob, Hillenburg approached Tom Kenny, who had worked with him on Rocko's Modern Life. For the series pitch, Hillenburg originally wanted the idea of having SpongeBob and Squidward on a road trip, inspired by the 1989 film Powwow Highway. Hillenburg gave up the idea, and started new with the idea he and Derek Drymon came up for "Help Wanted" based on an experience Hillenburg had in the Boy Scouts.
The episode was written by Hillenburg, Derek Drymon, and Tim Hill, and was directed by Alan Smart. "Help Wanted" features a posthumous musical performance from Tiny Tim singing his song called "Livin' in the Sunlight, Lovin' in the Moonlight". "Help Wanted" was excluded in the series' first season DVD release because Nickelodeon did not want to pay Tiny Tim's estate for the DVD rights. It had since been released as a bonus feature to various series DVDs. "Help Wanted" gained an average of 6.9 million views, receiving positive reviews from media critics.
The episode opens with an introductory glimpse of the aquatic community of Bikini Bottom. The audience is then introduced to SpongeBob SquarePants, an ecstatic, hyperactive, and anxious young sea sponge preparing to fulfill a lifelong dream and passion by applying for a fry cook job at the underwater fast food restaurant, the Krusty Krab, to the annoyance of the restaurant's cashier and SpongeBob's irritable neighbor Squidward Tentacles. Spongebob then gets nervous and almost decides not to get a job at the Krusty Krab until his best friend, Patrick Star the starfish, convinces him otherwise. Humored with SpongeBob's vulnerability, gullibility, and impenetrable enthusiasm and innocence, both Squidward and the restaurant's proprietor, Mr. Eugene Krabs, decide to manipulate SpongeBob, whom they secretly consider unqualified for the position, by sending him on an impossible errand to purchase a seemingly non-existent high-caliber spatula.
Soon after his anxious departure, five buses containing crowds of ravenous tourist anchovies stop at the Krusty Krab, its abundance of passengers furiously demanding meals. Unable to satisfy the anchovies' hunger and alarmed by the mob, Squidward and Mr. Krabs are left to helplessly deal with the unsatisfied crowd. Before long, SpongeBob SquarePants returns from his errand, having fulfilled the request of Mr. Krabs and found a mechanical spatula, which he uses in speedily whipping up bundles of Krabby Patties for the anchovies and satisfying their hunger. After the mob subsides, SpongeBob is welcomed as a Krusty Krab employee, much to Squidward's dismay. After Mr. Krabs leaves, Patrick orders a Krabby Patty and is hurled from the establishment upon a mostly-unseen, and audibly manic, reprise of SpongeBob's cooking feat.
"Help Wanted" was written by series creator Stephen Hillenburg, Derek Drymon, and Tim Hill, and was directed by Alan Smart. Hillenburg also functioned as storyboard director, and Drymon worked as storyboard artist. Hillenburg initially conceived the show in 1994 and began to work on it shortly after the cancellation of Rocko's Modern Life in 1996.
Hillenburg's original idea for the pitch was that the writers would write a storyboard for a possible episode and pitch it to Nickelodeon. One of the original ideas was to write an episode with SpongeBob and Squidward on a road trip, inspired by the 1989 film Powwow Highway. Eventually, the idea developed while they were working on it but Hillenburg gave up on the storyboard idea for the initial pitch. The crew resurrected the road trip idea during the first season and used a lot of the ideas for an episode called "Pizza Delivery".
Originally the character was to be named SpongeBoy and the show was to be called SpongeBoy Ahoy!. However, the Nickelodeon legal department discovered that the name SpongeBoy was already in use for a mop product. This was discovered after voice acting for the original seven-minute pilot was recorded in 1997. Upon finding this out, Hillenburg decided that the character's given name still had to contain "Sponge" so viewers would not mistake the character for a "Cheese Man." Hillenburg decided to use the name "SpongeBob." He chose "SquarePants" as a family name as it referred to the character's square shape and it had a "nice ring to it".
|"The execs from Nickelodeon flew out to Burbank, and we pitched it to them from the storyboards. We had squeezy toys, wore Hawaiian shirts and used a boom box to play the Tiny Tim song ['Livin' in the Sunlight, Lovin' in the Moonlight'] that comes on in the third act. We really went all out in that pitch because we knew the pilot lived or died by if the execs laughed. When it was over they walked out of the room to discuss it; we figured they would fly back to New York and we'd hear in a few weeks. We were surprised when they came back in what seemed like minutes and said they wanted to make it."|
|— Derek Drymon|
Hillenburg and Derek Drymon had dinner and came up with the idea for "Help Wanted" based on an experience Hillenburg had in the Boy Scouts. Hillenburg and writer Hill worked it into an outline. In 1997, while pitching the cartoon to Nickelodeon executives, Hillenburg donned a Hawaiian shirt, brought along an "underwater terrarium with models of the characters," and Hawaiian music to set the theme. The setup was described by Nickelodeon executive Eric Coleman as "pretty amazing". When given money and two weeks to write the pilot episode, Drymon, Hillenberg and Jennings returned with what Nickelodeon official Albie Hecht described as "a performance [I] wish [I] had on tape". Although described as stressful by executive producer Derek Drymon, the pitch went "very well"; Kevin Kay and Hecht had to step outside because they were "exhausted from laughing," making the cartoonists worried. With a help from Hill and art director Nick Jennings, Hillenburg finished the pitch and sold SpongeBob SquarePants to Nickelodeon. Drymon said "the network approved it—so we were ready to go."
In an interview with Cyma Zarghami, she told "their [Nickelodeon executives'] immediate reaction was to see it again, both because they liked it and it was unlike anything they'd ever seen before." Hillenburg said the character construction in the episode was loose. But the character development was already "pretty strong."
When the crew began production on the episode, they were tasked to design the stock locations where "the show would return to again and again, and in which most of the action would take place, such as the Krusty Krab and SpongeBob's pineapple house." Hillenburg had a "clear vision" of what he wanted the show to look like. The idea was "to keep everything nautical" so the crew used ropes, wooden planks, ships' wheels, netting, anchors, and boilerplate and rivets.
The pilot and the rest of the series features the "sky flowers" as the main background. When series background designer Kenny Pittenger was asked "What are those things?," he answered "They function as clouds in a way, but since the show takes place underwater, they aren't really clouds." Since the show was influenced by tiki, the background painters have to use a lot of pattern. Pittenger said "So really, the sky flowers are mostly a whimsical design element that Steve [Hillenburg] came up with to evoke the look of a flower-print Hawaiian shirt—or something like that. I don't know what they are either."
While Hillenburg, Drymon and Hill were writing the pilot, Hillenburg was also conducting auditions to find voices for the show characters. He had created the character of SpongeBob with Tom Kenny, in which he utilised Kenny's and other people's personalities to help create its personality. Drymon said, "Tom came in a few times so we could pitch him what we were working to help him find the right voice. Tom had already worked on lots of other animated shows, and Steve wanted to find an original sounding voice." The voice of SpongeBob was originally used by Kenny for a very minor female alligator character named Al in Rocko's Modern Life. Kenny forgot the voice initially as he created it only for that single use. Hillenburg, however, remembered it when he was coming up with SpongeBob and used a video clip of the episode to remind Kenny of the voice. Kenny says that SpongeBob's high pitched laugh was specifically aimed at being unique, stating that they wanted an annoying laugh in the tradition of Popeye and Woody Woodpecker.
Kenny also provided the voice of Gary, SpongeBob's meowing sea snail, and the narrator in the episode. According to him, "It was always Steve's intention that the narrator be a nod to his beloved Jacques Cousteau." Kenny described Cousteau's voice as "very dispassionate, very removed, very flatline, even when he’s describing something miraculous and beautiful." At first, they found that the narrator "just sounds bored," so they decided that he "has to sound a little fun and playful." Kenny said, "'Eet ees the most amazing thing I have ever seen I have ever seen in my life.' We found that after a while we had to make the narrator a little more playful than that."
Bill Fagerbakke voiced SpongeBob's best friend, a starfish named Patrick Star in the episode. He auditioned for the role after Kenny had been cast as SpongeBob. Fagerbakke said, "Steve is such a lovely guy, and I had absolutely no feeling for the material whatsoever." He described his experience in the audition, saying "I was just going in for another audition, and I had no idea what was in store there in terms of the remarkable visual wit and really the kind of endearing child-like humanity in the show. I couldn't pick that up from the audition material at all. I was just kind of perfunctorially trying to give the guy what he wanted." For the part of Squidward, Hillenburg originally had Mr. Lawrence in mind for the role. Lawrence worked with Hillenburg and Drymon before on Rocko's Modern Life, so while working on the episode, Hillenburg invited him to audition for all the characters. Drymon said, "We were showing Doug the storyboard, and he started reading back to us in his Tony the Tiger/Gregory Peck voice. It was really funny, and we wound up having SpongeBob use a deep voice when he entered the Krusty Krab for the first time." Hillenburg decided to give Lawrence the part of the series villain, Plankton, instead.
The episode features the song called "Livin' in the Sunlight, Lovin' in the Moonlight" by Tiny Tim. At the point the pilot had already been completed, music editor Nick Carr was asked to retool the existing music on it. Carr said "When I first started on SpongeBob, my duties were mainly music editorial but would quickly thrust me into the composers/supervisor chair." The production team had no budget and no music but they placed the budget on the song called "Livin' in the Sunlight, Lovin' in the Moonlight". Carr said "[It is] a sadly familiar scenario with most cartoons for television. By the time it comes to consider the music, the budget is blown."
The idea of using "Livin' in the Sunlight, Lovin' in the Moonlight" originated when an anonymous sent Hillenburg a tape with "a bunch of music." While the writers were developing the show outside Nickelodeon, Hillenburg played the song for Drymon as an example of the enthusiasm he was looking for. When it came time to write the pilot, they had the idea to use the song in the third act. The crew eventually got the rights to use the song for the pilot, but all they had was "the crummy copy on Steve's old tape." The writers were able to use the music, as one of the women who worked at Nickelodeon at the time "knew somebody somewhere who had access to something," and she brought in a copy of the song on CD. Drymon said "We were totally lucky that she had the contact, otherwise we wouldn't have been able to use it. The sad part was Tiny Tim died right around the time we were writing the pilot, so he never knew we used his song."
Jeff Hutchins was with Hillenburg in Rocko's Modern Life working on animation sound. Hutchins was approached by Hillenburg to do music for the show. He was asked for "20 things, like an ocean liner horn," and Hutchins knew he had the music Hillenburg was looking for. Hutchins said "I offered him options and, in some cases, multiple choices. We agreed to meet at the Warner Bros. gate near the water tower in 20 minutes." He recorded the sound to a tape and met Hillenburg by the gate. Hutchins said "He was about as happy as you could imagine, and off he went. Next thing you know, I am working on the show." Hutchins became the regular series sound designer.
SpongeBob SquarePants aired its first episode, "Help Wanted", along with sister episodes "Reef Blower" and "Tea at the Treedome", on May 1, 1999, following the television airing of the 1999 Kids' Choice Awards. The series later made its "official" debut on July 17, 1999 with the second episode "Bubblestand" and "Ripped Pants".
"Help Wanted" was excluded in the SpongeBob SquarePants: The Complete 1st Season DVD, featuring the rest of the first season episodes, since its release on October 28, 2003. It was not included because Nickelodeon did not want to pay Tiny Tim's estate for the DVD rights, because the music in the episode was copyrighted. Drymon said "'Help Wanted' had to be left off[...]" "Help Wanted" was later released on the SpongeBob SquarePants: The Complete 3rd Season DVD as a bonus feature on September 27, 2005. It was also released on the SpongeBob SquarePants: The First 100 Episodes DVD, alongside all the episodes of seasons one through five. The DVD included a featurette called "Help Wanted" the Seven Seas Edition that featured "Help Wanted" in numerous languages. The episode was also a bonus feature in the series DVD called SpongeBob SquarePants: 10 Happiest Moments that was released on September 14, 2010. On April 29, 2014, "Help Wanted" was released on the "SpongeBob, You're Fired!" episode compilation DVD.
In 2013, the series main cast members, including Tom Kenny, Clancy Brown, Rodger Bumpass and Bill Fagerbakke, performed a live read-through of the episode during the SpongeBob event called "SpongeBob Fan Shellabration". The read-through took place on a sound effects stage at the Universal Studios Hollywood on September 7–8. The event also hosted the screening of the winning videos from the inaugural SpongeBob SquareShorts: Original Fan Tributes competition.
Upon its release, "Help Wanted" scored a 6.3 Nielsen rating, or 6.9 million total viewers, including 3.6 million children aged 2–11. Furthermore, the episode received generally favorable reviews from media critics. Michael Cavna of The Washington Post ranked "Help Wanted" at No. 3 at his The Top Five SpongeBob Episodes: We Pick 'Em list. Other episodes in the list are "Band Geeks", "Ripped Pants", "Just One Bite" and "Idiot Box". Cavna rewatched the episode in 2009 and said "so much of the style and polish are already in place." Nancy Basile of the About.com said "[The] humor and optimistic essence of SpongeBob is evident even in this first episode." Maxie Zeus of Toon Zone said the episode is a "winner". In an Associated Press article, Frazier Moore lauded the featured song in the episode called "Livin' in the Sunlight, Lovin' in the Moonlight" calling it the "kookie part."
Kent Osborne, a member of the SpongeBob SquarePants writing crew, considers the episode "really good." Eric Coleman, vice president of animation development and production at Nickelodeon, lauded the episode and calling it "one of the best pilots" because "it conveys a strong personality."
In a DVD review of the first season, Jason Bovberg of the DVD Talk was disappointed on the set, saying "Where is it? This is perhaps the only disappointment of the set. I was a little aggravated by the loooong animated menus that introduce all the characters, one by one, but it's really that missing episode that has me upset." Bovberg described the set as "annoying" for missing the episode. Bill Treadway of the DVD Verdict, on the exclusion of the episode on the DVD, said "It's a small flaw in an otherwise top notch package." In a DVD review of the third season, Bryan Pope of the DVD Verdict, on the episode as a bonus feature, said "The most intriguing extra is the series' pilot episode, 'Help Wanted'." He asked in his review "Why release it now instead of in its natural spot with the first season?" At the end, he said "Regardless, SpongeBob completists will cherish its inclusion here."
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