The Team Who Wrote the ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ Theme Song

Since 1999, SpongeBob SquarePants has delighted fans of all ages with its colorful cast of aquatic characters. There’s SpongeBob SquarePants, the yellow sponge fish who lives in a pineapple in Bikini Bottom and works at a fast food joint, his best friend Patrick Star, a not-so-bright pink starfish, and SpongeBob’s neighbor, an arrogant octopus named Squidward Tentacles, among other animated sea creatures.

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Created by the late animator Stephen Hillenburg, SpongeBob Squarepants first aired on Nickelodeon on May 1, 1999, and continues to be the longest-running series on the network.

In addition to the underwater escapades in each episode, its earworm theme song, the mastermind of Hillenburg, along with animator Derek Drymon, and songwriters and composers Mark Harrison and Blaise Smith, remains one of the most iconic animated openings.

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Painty and the Kids

The song opens with Painty the pirate, voiced by longtime voice actor Patrick Pinney (Hanna-Barbera, Mighty Mouse) asking “Are ya ready, kids?” and kicking off a back-and-forth sing-along between him and a group of kids before they all chant the chorus of SpongeBob SquarePants together at the end.

Painty: Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?
Kids: SpongeBob SquarePants!
Painty: Absorbent and yellow and porous is he.
Kids: SpongeBob SquarePants!
Painty: If nautical nonsense be something you wish.
Kids: SpongeBob SquarePants!
Painty: Then drop on the deck and flop like a fish.
Kids: SpongeBob SquarePants!

Nautical Notes

To make the music work, Hillenburg pulled together a team to help make his maritime world come alive in song.

Also an early animator at Nickelodeon, Drymon helped co-write the spirited sea shanty for SpongeBob. Drymon first became known for his work on Rocko’s Modern Life (1993-1996), which was directed by Hillenburg, before they both teamed up on SpongeBob. Drymon later went on to produce the Cartoon Network series Adventure Time and joined DreamWorks Animation as a storyboard artist for more than a decade, where he worked on hit features, including Shrek Forever, Puss in Boots, Penguins of Madagascar, and the Kung Fu Panda trilogy.

In 1992, Mark Harrison began producing music for advertising, which he did for a decade before relocating to Los Angeles and eventually co-wrote the SpongeBob SquarePants theme song. Over the years, Harrison has continued to compose music for Nick Jr., Cartoon Network, and Disney, among other networks.

Along with co-writing the SpongeBob theme song, Smith worked as CEO of Music Orange in 2001 and produced commercial music for Google, NFL, Apple, Microsoft, Sony, Apple, Mitsubishi, and a number of other global companies. Smith is working on a major opera inspired by the 18th-century novelist and poet Heinrich von Kleist for release in the fall of 2023.

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Stephen Hillenburg

Fascinated by marine life as a child, Hillenburg started his career educating the public about marine biology and its history at the Orange County Marine Institute in the early 1980s. During this time, he created The Intertidal Zone, a comic series of tide-pool sea animals—those that live closer to the surface like starfish, anemones, barnacles, and various crabs. In 1989, Hillenburg pursued a career in animation and enrolled at the California Institute of the Arts.

By the early ’90s, he started working at Nickelodeon and revisited his Intertidal Zone illustrations, which later evolved into the characters of SpongeBob SquarePants.

Throughout the years, Hillenburg has earned many honors and awards for SpongeBob SquarePants, including two Emmys—Outstanding Special Class Animated Program in 2010 and Outstanding Sound Editing in 2014—since the series aired.

Shortly after revealing his diagnosis of the neurodegenerative disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), in 2017, Hillenburg was the recipient of the Daytime Creative Arts Emmy Award in 2018 for his contribution to the animation and broadcast industry, which was presented to him by Tom Kenny, the voice of Spongebob.

Despite his diagnosis, Hillenburg said he wanted to continue to work on SpongeBob SquarePants for as long as possible. “Anyone who knows me knows that I will continue to work on ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ and my other passions for as long as I am able,” said Hillenburg in 2017.

Hillenburg died on November 26, 2018, at the age of 57.

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Still Under the Sea

Over the years, SpongeBob SquarePants also expanded into three feature films—The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (2004), Sponge Out of Water (2015), and Sponge on the Run (2020), along with two spin-off shows in 2021: The Patrick Star Show and Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years.

Entering its 14th season in 2024, SpongeBob SquarePants is the longest-running animated show on Nickelodeon and the fourth-longest-running animated series in television history.

Photo by Kevin Winter/ImageDirect

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