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Spongebob and his friends are back in another over the top adventure as they explore the surface in order to save their beloved Bikini Bottom home!

The quest revolves around the ever so popular secret Krabby Patty formula which has disappeared. In order to restore social order to the small under sea town, Spongebob and his team form unlikely friendships and overcome obstacles they have never faced before. We caught with the iconic actors Tom Kenny (who voices Spongebob) and Bill Fagerbakke (who voices Patrick Star) to discus their new film “Sponge Out Of Water” out Friday.

What was it like working with Paul Tibbit?

Tom Kenny: When Steve Hillenberg decided to step away from the show after season three and the first movie and all that, Steve felt like he had to get away from Spongebob for a little bit. Paul was Steve’s choice, he handed the keys to the kingdom over to Paul, the loyal soldier on the show, the super confident guy, talented, funny, got things done. Paul kind of saved the show. It was because of Paul that this show was able to go on. Steve walking away, “Is this the end of Spongebob?” Luckily, Steve felt comfortable enough with Paul taking over his baby, and it lived on.
Bill Fagerbakke: Paul kept the show on track and brought his own feel to it. He’s a completely different king of presence than Steve and they’re very different kinds of guys.
Tom: They’re different temperaments.
Bill: But with Paul, we had an in room production assistant who keeps tracks of takes and stuff, who was Mary-Anne but she wound up marrying Paul, they have a kid, all this stuff has happened over the years.
Tom: Who any of us are are not the same as when we started the show. It’s been on so long, things happened in your life, and kids come along, marriages, babies, weddings, funerals. It’s been largely the same group of people working at this little sponge factory going through all that together with the movie, its a very ambitious movie that Paul directed. He bit off a gigantic job.
Bill: He had to step out of his comfort zone to direct live action, there was this stuff. It was a monumental task.
When you guys first started the show, did you guys ever think that Spongebob would become as iconic as it did?
Bill: I was just happy that there would be another episode, and another opportunity to do the character.
Tom: It’s still is a very exciting ride, it keeps going higher and higher. The roller coaster keeps going higher and higher. It’s been a wonderful ride.
Bill: You can’t anticipate this kind of success. You can hope that something just gets nurtured and handled properly. You don’t have control over anything, time slot, how they do merchandise, what kind of merchandise, what kind of audience. You just hope to get the right kind of handling. Spongebob really didn’t and it just crept along for a couple of years and it wasn’t crushed. I’ve worked on cartoons before in different studios where they like something immediately and they say “We want 50 episodes by March.” It just puts on this kind of pressure and Spongebob didn’t have to go through that. I think it had a nice organic development.
Tom: It was able to develop at it’s own pace and also Steven Hillenberg was very adamant about what he wanted the show to be and what he wanted to do in the show. So when people wanted to change aspects of that, he was strong about digging in his heels and saying “That’s not right for the show, that’s not the show I envisioned.” He fought for the integrity of his ideas and that’s a big element of success of Spongebob.  Just for the show to be on at all, it has to be this harmonic convergence of a zillion different things. It’s so hard to get to that point where you turn on a TV and its on. For it to go that other quantum leap where its on and its really successful for a really long time and it still is, its global.
Bill: We shut down for two and a half years, the TV show to do the movie, and we just started doing new episodes again last month, and a new development is that Tom is our new session director now. Which is great!
What did you guys think of this new adventure of Spongebob and his friends going to land?
Bill: I dug it. It’s fun because in the world of animations, one of the virtues is, that you’re only bound by your imagination, so why not? And to see it happen with CGI and to see what they did with the characters is really incredible.
Tom: Other times, on the TV show, where Spongebob has come out of the water and the first movie from eleven years ago, they came out of the water into our world as well. But there were budget constraints and technology limitations that existed on that. Those bonds are broken now. Way bigger budget, a big studio, Paramount, and you can do so much with CGI and special effects at a relatively low cost than you could eleven years ago. You can put a lot on screen and it’s still semi affordable for a studio.
Were you guys guys surprised that Spongebob and Patrick didn’t become Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy?
Bill: We miss those characters a lot and that was a real loss to the show when Ernest Borgnine passed away.
Tom: From what I’ve heard, there are no plans to recast Mermaid Man and have another guy do it and I was pleased and touched to see that at the end of the movie that the film is dedicated to Ernest Borgnine who was the Oscar and Emmy winning actor who was the voice of Mermaid Man. It was cool to see that dedicated. I loved that. We loved him. They’re retiring his jersey.
Bill: He was part of my childhood.
Tom: He was part of mine too! Terrific old school actor. One of the last links to forties and fifties Hollywood. He’s had a really long career. That guy’s in movies from the forties! It’s amazing, but the guy that does the voice of Barnacle Boy, Tim Conway is the voice of one of the animated seagulls on the pirate ship. So Barnacle Boy’s in there. I thought that was nice. Tim is still very much with us, who also worked on McHale’s Navy in the sixties with Ernest.